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Oswald Cobblepot has always been one of those villains I
never gave much thought. He was always just sort of there. Clearly the Penguin
is one of the iconic villains in Batman’s rogues gallery, though I never bought
much stock in the character. Maybe it’s because I always think about Danny
DeVito portraying the character in Batman Returns. If not the main reason, that
memory certainly doesn’t help. Whatever the cause of my disinterest, apparently
I was wrong. In Penguin: Pain and Prejudice, Gregg Hurwitz and Szymon Kudranski
have presented a side of the crime lord I had never seen before. Sympathetic,
loving, tortured, heartless – Oswald is all of these things at once, and
Hurwitz balances these aspects perfectly.
The issue starts with Cobblepot’s birth. Disfigured and
frail, his father is horrified, dropping the newborn to the floor. This becomes
the theme of Oswald’s life – rejection and loathing from others. He begins to
feed off the hate of others, and uses it to his advantage. The flash backs are
coupled with the Penguin we know today. He’s still disfigured, and he’s still
frail, though everyone in the room fears and respects him as their superior.
Penguin bumps into a man who then calls him a fat ass, not realizing the man he
just insulted was Mr. Cobblepot. Though Penguin tells him not to worry, the
following pages show otherwise, and the feeling of sympathy the flashbacks give
the reader immediately vanish.
That’s what is so great about Hurwitz’s writing. I became
sympathetic towards Cobblepot, but a few pages later and I was reminded that I’m
reading about a heartless villain. This emotional ambiguity persists throughout
the comic, with Kudranski’s art matching the mood perfectly.
Penguin: Pain and Prejudice #1 is a great start, and really
pulls you into a character you may not have been interested in before. Though a
little slow moving and lacking action, the pace is precise and the comic demands your
attention the entire issue. And then the last page hits, and you’ll be wishing
that this wasn’t just a five issue mini-series.