This really isn't what you could call "good." Mr. Layman (whose credentials are immediate grounds for trepidancy) does at least wrap up the earlier storyline before branching out on his own, but his wrap-up to the lengthyish "Emperor Penguin" story is basically "Batman fought him and lost then fought him and won." Obviously that was going to happen, since that's the typical formula, but Layman doesn't exactly make it engaging. There is a potential for cleverness, sure, with Penguin helping Batman, but that twist fizzles out almost immediately, with Penguin almost stereotypically devolving from being "Gotham's Friend Penguin" to "Gotham's Secret Enemy Penguin." Could have been more, but clearly Layman wanted to get on with his storylines. I don't begrudge him this, but it is also allowable to react correctly to a displeasing situation as a reader and fan.
Approximately four seconds into Layman's main storyline for his tenure in this series we grasp everything that he wants to do, and then painfully wade through three or four issues and dozens of ploddingly-obvious panels until we are finally relieved from the tedium of this "story." Again, as with so many of the New 52 Creative Teams, a potentially enjoyable idea is squandered, eviscerated, and underdeveloped (and a whole lot of other negative-sounding words). A competitor for Wayne Enterprises? A wealthy man with lots of training and a mysterious past? A costumed vigilante wreaking havoc? The GCPD duped into accepting bad gifts? Stop me if you've heard this one. At least Layman, at the conclusion of the TPB, is man enough to admit his character (totally-cleverly called "The Wrath") has the exact same origin as both the Emperor Penguin guy, Bruce Wayne, and about 3,000 other DC characters (and 2,330 Marvel characters): "dad was killed by the police or someone, now I'm wreaking vengeance and/or taking his place." Layman even goes out of his way to highlight the similarity of "The Wrath"'s origin to so many other characters. Why, then, are we to care? Why are we to find this engaging, new, fresh, meaningful, worthwhile? Fun?
Somewhere in this mess is a sub-plot of a weird skinface old lady who can mimic any character and somehow turns herself into Bullock while she has him tied up and watching "himself" on the news, as she does his job even better than he ever did. She also gets some psychiatrist lady to fall in love with "him," which is a bit strange but never discussed (possibly as to avoid offending anyone except people who want quality stories and characterizations) other than once it's all straightened out the psychiatrist lady never wants to see the real Harvey. It's a bit of a mess, since the "twists and turns" have been done to death on every procedural show and sci-fi show ever (like the pilot movie of Babylon 5 and the second episode of Stargate SG-1, and the fifteen others you could think of if I gave you only 10 seconds to think about it). Blah.
And, lastly and leastly, we have the other B-story, sub-plot, time-filler, life-wasting pile of cow flubdubbery having to do with Man-Bat (I think). It all begins with this suspense-generating "What is the 900?" question ... and the answer is "it's the address of an apartment where bad things happened!" Oh my. How ... totally uninteresting. Not "the 900 citizens returned by aliens" (yes, I know that's been done, too) or "the 900 complaints filed against Batman by concerned citizens" or "the 900 minutes Batman has to save Nightwing from Mr. Freeze's ice poisoning." Nope, nothing exciting at all. An address. And then it gets worse. Everyone in Gotham is turning into Man-Bats and Batman has to stop them. Typical Thursday night in Gotham City. For some reason I don't understand (and, of course, the Editor Team refuses to print any footnote cross-references so the reader can understand what is happening), all of Batman's associates are angry with him and won't answer his calls. Are they still angry about the Joker Death of the Family thing? That's just stupid if it's that. If it's some other issue/storyline I missed, why not tell me? Are you, DC TPB New 52 Editor Team, punishing me for not buying every individual issue and only reading the TPBs? This sort of pettiness certainly isn't going to encourage me to starting buying individual issues, let me tell you. And no, I'm not digressing, this is all relevant commentary on this TPB.
So Batman is alone, doing his detective thing, and instead of saving the day, the real Man-Bat scientist guy drinks a magic potion, turns into Man-Bat, then Bob's your Uncle and the day is solved. Instantly. Apparently his musk turned the air into No Other Man-Bats air. We still aren't at the worst part. Man-Bat, despite being an intelligent Scientist, cannot resist the taste of Magic Man-Bat Potion, and keeps drinking it, turning into Dr. Man-Bat Hyde every night, going on killing sprees. His faithful wife, loving her man, realizes the only way to save him is by taking Magic Potion herself, to save him on his level. This is presented as a loving, heroic thing. And then Layman pummels us with Metal Sticks of Antagonism for trusting in this act of love. Soon, she becomes a Vampire Bat-Queen and starts loving going out as a killer Woman-BAt herself. Still not the worst part, though it's close. The worst part is the big "reveal" about how his faithful wife is actually a spy for The Wrath, and instead of really loving him she just was undercover and blah blah blah. Utter shash. The "act of love" was all part of her master's plan. Then she decides to turn on her real boss and just stay a Vampire Bat-Queen and we have totally lost interest in all of this, having been so horribly used by Layman during this entire sub-plot-thread. If you are upset with me for "spoiling" this for you, I suppose you would also be upset with me for pushing you out of the way of a falling flowerpot, "spoiling" for you the surprising sensation of a concussion. You're welcome.
Why 2 stars, then, not just 1? Well, Layman does at least have the decency of creating some semi-recurring police characters who actually like Batman. Sure, he does give us some more "we are GCPD and we hate Batman" cops, which is one of the most inane, tiresome, ludicrous things in the history of Art (seriously, no GCPD cop should ever dislike Batman - EVER), but he does have them change their tune by the end and the new cops are mildly interesting. Such high praise, I know.