SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #58 by Tom King, Mikel Janin, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
Tom King and Mikel Janin’s Batman #58 sees the return of Oswald Cobblepot, the Penguin, for the first time since last year’s “The War of Jokes and Riddles.” However, the longtime Batman villain was only a bit player in that story. He’s now been catapulted to the center stage, and he comes bearing a massive secret -- it even says so right on the cover.
As the issue begins, we learn that someone by the name of Penny has been killed. It’s not quite clear who she is, but judging by the way Penguin forcefully shoves his cigarette into the holder as his thugs break the news, it stands to reason that she was someone close to him.
Fast-forward one pummeling by Batman and one stint in Arkham Asylum later, and we see that Penguin’s first act as a free man is to arrange a funeral for Penny.
“You… you want me to invite her family?” One of Penguin’s henchmen asks. “Her father’s been causing some problems here at the bar.”
Penguin declines, though, noting that only those “who understood how special she was” should be in attendance.
When we finally arrive at the funeral scene, we witness a somber Penguin standing over Penny’s grave, with a second plot for himself right beside hers. The headstones read “Oswald Cobblepot” and “Penny Cobblepot” respectively -- one, a beloved son and husband, the other, a beloved daughter and wife. Additionally, each stone is inscribed with a portion of a verse from William Shakespeare’s The Phoenix and the Turtle -- a poem depicting the death of ideal love between a phoenix and a turtledove (both of which are birds, of course).
That being said, are we to believe that Penny Cobblepot, a women apparently 28 years Penguin’s junior, was his secret wife? We know that Penguin fathered a son named Ethan, but his mother was named Crystie. There’s also Veronica Vreeland, whom Penguin was shown to be infatuated with in DC’s Beach Blanket Bad Guys Summer Special, but she didn’t reciprocate his feelings.
There's also the fact that one of Penguin's men tells him Penny's father has been looking for her, not realizing she's dead. While this seems to indicate, on the surface, that it would be Oswald's wife in the coffin, considering his past as a criminal, it's just as likely he fathered a child who never realized he was her parent and was raised by someone else.
If we read between the lines, and want to get really weird in our theories, there’s also the possibility that King’s use of Shakespeare’s The Phoenix and the Turtle is a clue that Penny, the Penguin’s love, was an actual penguin. While the average lifespan of an Emperor Penguin is 20 years, some can live as long as 50.
It’s a stretch, for sure, but until King and Janin pick up on this story thread in Batman #59, speculation is all we have.