Bruce Wayne has a bit of a warped sense of morality. Donate to dentistry and orthopedic foundations, break some teeth and bones later that night as Batman... it's kind of fucked up when you think about it, but nevertheless, no time for that, as Bruce needs to get to a dedication ceremony, naming a new wing of a community center in his mother's name. Little does Bruce know, a hit has been placed on his, and there are a number of highly skilled Chinese assassins spread through out Gotham waiting for him... but who placed the hit?! ...oh, wait, it's on the cover. Yeah, Penguin did it.
See, Penguin is a lot of things, feared, respected, etc, but not loved. On the contrary, Bruce Wayne, a man of similar lineage (in that his family helped Gotham) is, and Penguin is going to do something about that... kill him. So, in order to do so, Penguin has hired a group known as the Ghost Dragons.
With Bruce flying to the dedication ceremony (and Alfred constantly reminding him that he's going to be late) he notices a series of alarms going off through the city, and gets Nightwing to help investigate. Turns out, many of the same security systems had been set off by petty thugs. Bruce comes to the conclusion that someone is trying to distract Batman, but has no idea who.
Elsewhere, prior to the dedication, Penguin manages to weasel his way into the festivities by bribing (see: threatening) the community center head to name the wing after him, after doubling the contribution Bruce made.
Unable to figure out who was trying to distract him, Bruce ends up making his way to the roof opposite of the dedication ceremony, where he spots one of the assassins waiting for Bruce Wayne to appear. He takes the assassin out, and makes it to the dedication barely in time, still wondering who could have set him up. As he walks in, he sees the announcement that the wing will now be named after the Cobblepot name, and it all clicks with Bruce.
After the ceremony, Penguin tells his right hand man to call off the hit on Wayne, as it would look too suspicious, and he's rather enjoying the dick move he just pulled off... only problem, the Ghost Dragons don't except failure, and will kill their target at any cost... even in the middle of a public event, whoops.
First of all, I loved the humor in the first page. If that's the kind of stuff Layman brings each issue, sign me up long term. As for the title as a whole, comparatively speaking, this issue was amazing. Well written, tight, and entertaining. There are distinctive detective elements, rather than random scientific rambling, as seen in the last arc. If anything, this just feels what Detective Comics should feel like.
On the artistic side, Jason Fabok is fantastic. Just a great choice. He drew a good JLI Annual, but he just draws Batman that much better. He's got a big, bold style, much like David Finch's (he trained under him, afterall), but it looks a lot smoother and cleaner, which may be due to the fact he draws digitally.
The back up story had an interesting story about two crooks, one an old Gotham pro, and the other new to the city, and what it takes to make it in Gotham. Had some interesting logical points, like not killing a guard, as it'll just put you higher on Batman's list. Andy Clarke drew the backup, and did a pretty good job.
Honestly? Not a whole lot. Like I said, comparatively speaking, this issue was leaps and bounds better than the title has been. There was a little bit that I couldn't help nitpick, and that was using names like "Alfred" and "Martha Wayne" out loud after having beaten up a bunch of thugs. Yeah, they're probably knocked out, but I just started the slippery slope of real world logic of "yeah, but what if they weren't?"
While I liked the back up, I also kind of wish that one of the two back up having Batman books sort of did what Justice League does with Shazam, and tell a separate story with a different character... it would be one way to get certain other characters people have been clamoring for, just saying. Then again, it's really no fault of Layman and company though.
The Bottom Line:
For the third time, comparatively speaking, this issue was amazing. But on it's own merits, it was a damn good issue. It was a very, very strong start for the new team, and after this initial issue, I hope they stick around.