Layman. I haven’t had the pleasure of reading any DC or Marvel book with his name attached. Oh, I’ve been reading Chew, written by him with art by Rob Guillory. And I’ve been enjoying every issue of it. But there is a certain sense of humor that is going on over at Chew that I don’t think Layman could translate to with a Batman comic. Can I be proven wrong?
Layman opens up his first issue with a story about the Penguin, and I immediately think “UGH” in my head. What is he doing? Doesn’t he know that Penguin is one of the most useless villains ever? Seriously, I can’t stand Penguin. Penguin is nothing but a joke character to me, and the only time I’ve respected him was when he was used in No Man’s Land as a businessman and acquirer of goods. But this is a new DC Universe, and this is Layman, so maybe the two could meet and form something interesting.
News flash: this isn’t an “UGH” book. No, this is good stuff. Layman is making this Penguin a serious contender in the New 52. Instead of going after Batman, Penguin goes after Bruce Wayne. See, Bruce has made a sizable donation to build a new children’s wing to the Neville Community Center, which is then going to be named after his mother. Penguin, wanting to attack Wayne on a business front, “persuades” the center to instead name it after his own mother. It is a more ruthless businessman approach to Penguin’s character and very similar to the character type that I enjoyed in the No Man’s Land storyline, and I am downright enjoying it here.
Also packing in a good punch is the backup strip. Written by Layman with art by Andy Clarke, the story focuses on Penguin’s main henchman, Ogilvy, dealing with a minor subplot from the first story and crafting a brilliant read from it. The story is about how you can be a criminal in Gotham and stay off Batman’s radar. Since this is coming from Penguin’s right hand man, I’m going with the idea that he knows what he is doing. It is, in part, Ogilvy’s origin story, and tells me that something will become of this character in the future.
One way that you know you are dealing with a good artist who can tell a story in a comic book is just by flipping through the book. Can you, without knowing the story, flip through the book and have a rough knowledge of what the story is about? Is it just talking heads or straight action? Or does the artist look at the details with what they can fit into the panels, how a character’s body language could be drawn, and how your eyes flow across the page in a direction that guides you without little arrows pointing the way? If you are shaking your head “yes” to the latter sentence, then you know when you have a good artist on your hand. This book happened to have two of those in Clarke and Jason Fabok, and both did a wonderful job in that regard.
I thought this was a great start for Layman on this book. Layman’s sense of humor over at Chew definitely transfers over to this book as well. I am very much looking forward to the next issue.