REVIEW: ‘Pennyworth,’ Issue #3

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Pennyworth #3

Pennyworth #3 is a comic published by DC Comics, written by Scott Bryan Wilson with art by Juan Gedeon. John Rauch is the colourist and the letters are by DC Hopkins.

This is a story detailing three different eras of Alfred’s life. His childhood, solely based on him learning how to be both a butler and an elite spy. The present-day, where he has been beaten and captured in an unknown facility by an assailant. And a point in the middle, where Pennyworth is a fantastic spy for MI:5. He found himself in Siberia with his ally, best friend, and lover Shirley. They are investigating a Russian laboratory, discovering gruesome and dangerous experiments. On their own and getting deeper into their target, the couple separate to search for more answers. But Alfred discovers something disturbing: their enemy knows they are there.

This issue continues straight after the last one, with Alfred and Shirley reuniting. Realizing they are trapped, Now close to getting the answers to this serum that turns people into monsters, they decide to continue with their mission. Entering a freezing lab, they see two dormant versions of the incredibly powerful beasts. In the modern time period, Alfred’s captor makes his first appearance. And his formative years as a student are unveiled.

Mystery remains a key aspect of this series. The three plotlines of the comic are intersecting more now, parts of the early story providing foreshadowing for the events that are now crucial to what is happening in the main plot. The younger Alfred stories have a fast pace and draw the reader in through investing storytelling. But in what is the only real-time part of Pennyworth, the protagonist is still stuck in the same room as he has been for three issues. With the shortest amount of page time, the revelation comes at the end of Pennyworth #3, but it lacks particular weight. In contrast, the twist inside the Russian storyline is a complete shock and has been beautifully built up. 

The small cast of this run may have a positive and negative effect on the reader. On the one hand, the relationship that has been constructed between he and Shirley has been brilliantly crafted by Wilson. The affection between the duo is evident, helpfully boosted by her presence in both his younger life and his espionage career. This shows the length of time they have known each other, which may have been amiss had this comic only featured the escapade in Russia. It is strange for fans of Batman to see this ordinarily stoic and mature figure be flirtatious, like seeing an uncle dance at a wedding. 

Aside from that, the other characters in Pennyworth have been brief, switch small glimpses here and there. This has maintained intimacy, but perhaps the series would benefit from additions that will provide more energy. 

The art has been stellar throughout the run. This continues here as Gedeon does a great job highlighting the difference between the three points in time. Alfred’s physical changes are the most apparent demonstration, his transformation from a young boy to a middle-aged man fascinating to see throughout single issues. In the Russian storyline, there is a superb suggestion of speed and movement. Shirley and Alfred move in tandem together, whether it be in combat or when scaling obstacles. The changes in line weights are also fantastic for the artist. It alternates from thick shadows in the current timeline to pulsating veins for the monsters in Russia to fine, intricate lines for his youthful period. 

But facing similar problems to the story and characters, a lack of difference is beginning to seep into the art. The locations do change slightly, but not enough to be dynamic. Alfred is still in a cell or the Russian facility, and this repetitive nature could become tiring if not adjusted.

The colours are another victim of the lack of evolution inside the comic. There are flashes of excellence, such as this pulsating red that fills the panel whenever the giant monsters appear; staying in one place has resulted in the colours used for these scenes being the same as the previous issue. Dark brown tones in Alfred’s cell and grey shades in the Russian lab litter the panels, leaving some dull imagery in places. 

The lettering is easy to read. Hopkins brings back the directional word balloons, with arrows pointing out important clues within a panel. These are often humorous quips that indicate Alfred’s intelligence and intuition. The balloons aren’t frequent, but they add more character to the comic.

Pennyworth #3 is a comic on a dangerous precipice. It features some excellent character work and the best twist of the series so far. But this is possibly the last issue in which these locations can be utilised. The novelty of the situations is wearing off, and the art and characters need rejuvenating. There are signs that changes are afoot, with the revelations showing superb new directions for Alfred to be taken in. This is welcome, and therefore the book is worth sticking with for now.

Pennyworth #3 is available now wherever comics are sold.


Pennyworth #3
3.5

TL;DR

Pennyworth #3 is a comic on a dangerous precipice. It features some excellent character work and the best twist of the series so far. But this is possibly the last issue in which these locations can be utilised. The novelty of the situations is wearing off, and the art and characters need rejuvenating. There are signs that changes are afoot, with the revelations showing superb new directions for Alfred to be taken in. This is welcome, and therefore the book is worth sticking with for now.