The Penguin #1 Review

Writer: Tom King

Art: Rafael De Latorre, Marcelo Maiolo, Stefano Gaudiano, Scorpio Steele, and Clayton Cowles

Publisher: DC Comics


Release Date: August 22nd, 2023

After retiring to Metropolis following his “death,” Oswald Cobblepot finds himself forced back into the unpredictable and violent Gotham City underworld as a pawn of the United States intelligence community! Gotham’s criminal element has been evolving since he was last in the city, with his bastard twin children ruling the Iceberg Lounge. And what of the man he framed for his death—Batman? Is the Penguin walking into a death sentence?  Let’s dive into The Penguin #1 by Tom King and find out!

If you’re interested in this comic, series, related trades, or any of the others mentioned, then simply click on the title/link to snag a copy through Amazon as you read The Penguin #1 Review.


Tom King kicks off his run with The Penguin designed at making this retired crime boss feel like a terrifying, wild dog ready to let loose on anyone and anything around him. So much so in fact, that undercover agents set on following the Penguin can somehow verbally confront him but pee themselves in the process (no joke). And my only remark to King’s setup is, really… Oswald… Now, is he psychotic? Sure, I guess. But, was he ever someone to be feared like the Joker or even Bane? I don’t think so. Yet, that’s what King is trying to ship readers as The Penguin #1 begins.

Additionally, King continues to ship this romantic side of the Penguin with this incredibly happy life and happy wife/fiancé. Again, I’m trying to see how these puzzle pieces all fit together. How did Oswald build all of this so quickly? And why does this new love interest have an attraction towards The Penguin? Again, I’m having a hard time believing any of this.

So, why does King focus on how these trained men won’t even approach The Penguin? It just seems almost preposterous. The point is: this reinvention of The Penguin from King just wasn’t hitting the mark this week. Will it eventually? Maybe.. but I’d need to see more of this side of The Penguin that King describes on these actually pages instead of hearing the character’s reactions.

Moreover, the word balloons were also confusing. Not the look of them but actually who was speaking in them lacked clarity. The ambiguity and vagueness setup by King just makes The Penguin #1 more confusing and more unbelievable. Additionally, it’s hard to dive into the comic. The disjointed word balloons triggered this reviewer to jump in and out of the story on the first read-through.


Next, King takes an old statement such as “rule of thumb” and ties it to an old English folklore story about “beating a wife” and makes it the title of the issue. The problem I have with this is that the way it’s stated in The Penguin #1 is as if it’s truth… when it’s not. And this is a problem in our culture at large today that even though we have so much information at our fingertips, people don’t take the time to look things up on their own.

Therefore, readers are going to distinguish this tidbit from King as fact and will forever remember it that way, which is problematic. Is this King’s fault? Partly. He could have worded it differently but the character “read it in his kid’s book” which implies accuracy and reliability. Now, should readers look on their own to see the phrase’s validity? Yes, which is where they should be held responsible. Moreover, this isn’t the first time King has pulled at music and culture in this way before in order to come across as more involved and thorough. However, it’s always at the expense of reality.


Rafael De Latorre and Marcelo Maiolo capture the style well. Readers get a mildly graphic comic with a realistic tone. The panel progression and play-by-play of events easily escort the reader through The Penguin #1 with ease. Sure, the word balloons were again confusing BUT not due to placement or design. Merely due to not understanding immediately who is talking and why. That’s not Cowles fault… that’s King’s. Additionally, the expression on the character’s faces, and the lack thereof from Oswald, helped affirm the technique King was shooting for. Heck, even the color choices on the intimidating scenes fit perfectly.


King’s mission with The Penguin #1 is simple: the underestimation of Oswald Cobblepot. And truthfully, I can get behind that concept. However, I need more setups other than words and phrases from word balloons in order to feel that this mission statement is actually true. King tries to quickly get fans to see the Penguin as a monster, however, without actual supporting images, narrative beats, and data I just can’t buy it. All we get is hearsay. Moreover, the unbelievability of who is with the Penguin, as well as his actions, made The Penguin #1 hard to sink my teeth into.

Nevertheless, even with this unbelievability, I still felt drawn to the issue. Why? Well, it’s because of the one thing King always does well. And that’s the overall concept. He always does a fabulous job creating a premise for an anecdote that gets readers intrigued with the story. Additionally, King has a knack for aligning himself with fantastic artists that make up for story deficiencies. And King does that again in spades. Sure, he has some problems to overcome but for the time being, I’m still in. I’m curious to see how the Penguin does as the front-runner of a series. And therefore, for the time being, I’ll give it a shot. Let me know what you’re thinking, have a great week, and God Bless!


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