REVIEW: ‘Pennyworth,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Pennyworth #1 - But Why Tho

Pennyworth #1 is published by DC Comics. The writer is Scott Bryan Wilson and the art is by Juan Gedeon. Colours by John Rauch and the letterer is DC Hopkins. 

This series delves deep into the past of Batman’s most trusted ally. Alfred Pennyworth wasn’t always a masterful butler and vigilante helper. He used to be a spy for MI:5, and a great one at that. This issue begins one of those adventures, where he is sent far north into the freezing Arctic Circle. With a fellow agent, he is charged with investigating a secret Russian facility. But that isn’t the only place where he will find trouble, for both his childhood and present-day are rife with danger.

The plot unfolds over three timelines, and the way these are balanced is fantastic. The primary story is during Alfred’s adventure as an agent. There are multiple layers to just this part of the story, as what begins as a tale of espionage quickly evolves into a sci-fi action story. Wilson laces each of the plotlines within Pennyworth #1 with excitement and drama. The other two timelines are on opposite sides of Alfred’s life: growing up as a young man and his modern lifestyle. There are huge mysteries within both of these, and surprises littering the second half of the comic.

Alfred is a fascinating character to have star in his own comic. So much of the power from this issue comes from the surprise of what he has had to go through before the Waynes even became part of his life. The sci-fi elements aren’t too overpowering, but were unexpected. What is clear about Pennyworth is that he is intelligent. His strategic knowledge is vast and improved upon following his association with Bruce Wayne. There is also remarkable bravery and unwavering resilience in the face of danger. There are also important aspects within his formative years that prove useful in the later parts of his life, presented within the pages of this comic. 

Something that should be highlighted about Pennyworth #1 is the lack of Batman. Whilst Master Wayne is mentioned in the captions, the Dark Knight remains absent in this first issue. It is unknown whether this will continue through the series, but it personally feels like a good move by Wilson. Batman by design instantly captures the attention, but sometimes too much. This is Alfred’s comic, and if Bruce was to appear then it may remove the spotlight from who the series is really about. 

The art is fantastic. The style of Gedeon works brilliantly with the opening scenes of the issue. The design of young Alfred instinctively makes him resemble Bond. In this timeline, the lines are thick and clean, the detail spectacular. The intricacies of certain facial expressions are almost comical in their depiction. Many of the gags involved in this comic are visual, relying on reactions and emotion. In his childhood scenes, the grandiosity of Alfred’s life is presented proudly, the pomp of upper-class England drawn with splendour. The sci-fi element is also designed well, resembling a twisted Cold War movie instead of a technological superhero adventure. The modern-day and early life segments appear to feature more shadows, insinuating more mysterious moments in time. 

The colours are beautifully fitting for this comic. The shades on the characters are blended in a fascinating fashion, adding such dynamism to the costumes. The opening part of the issue is set in Paris, and Rauch brings a gorgeous palette to the city of love. The late afternoon sky of blue and light orange creates a bronze tone that lands on most of the costumes and buildings. This colour is soothing and relaxing, instead of overly dark or intensely bright.

The lettering is superb and contains ingenious techniques. In the opening sequence, the thought captions actually overlap the word balloons. This is clever as it insinuates that the reader should really be paying attention to the narration as opposed to the dialogue. It’s one of the best examples of talking over someone being translated into comics. There are also these direction boxes that explain spycraft tactics Alfred is using to avoid detection. Not only is it an interesting feature but it quickly leads to some terrific jokes.

Pennyworth #1 is a tremendous opener to this action/thriller. Full of numerous genres, fans may be forgiven for thinking that the comic containing Batman’s butler wouldn’t be one of the most action-packed books in this week’s DC lineup. But it is more than that, as three mysteries are being explored at the same time. Wilson doesn’t dwell solely on the past, as Alfred is also in danger in the modern-day. And we are desperate to find out what happens next.

Pennyworth #1 is available where comics are sold.

Pennyworth #1
5

TL;DR

Pennyworth #1 is a tremendous opener to this action/thriller. Full of numerous genres, fans may be forgiven for thinking that the comic containing Batman’s butler wouldn’t be one of the most action-packed books in this week’s DC lineup. But it is more than that, as three mysteries are being explored at the same time. Wilson doesn’t dwell solely on the past, as Alfred is also in danger in the modern-day. And we are desperate to find out what happens next.