The GeeksversePenguin: Pain And Prejudice

Penguin: Pain And Prejudice
Published on Tuesday, November 22, 2011 by

The Penguin will have all he desires.

There has been much made about the status quo in the New 52 reboot; Batman and his plethora of Robins, Superman and his attitude, Wonder Woman’s amazingly disappearing pants. In all the hype one book has stayed below the radar and the subject of the miniseries would love that.

Penguin: Pain and Prejudice is a miniseries offering the world view and personal history of Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot. The second issue having been released two weeks ago and missing out on reviewing the first issue outside of normal forums I decided to review the series as it stands.

The Penguin has a unique place in the Rogue’s Gallery of the Dark Knight. Pre-Crisis the only reason he was memorable was due more to the talent of Burgess Meredith than anything. Post Crisis they started taking Oswald away from his traditional super villain roots and put him more in as a mastermind black marketer. However, for the most part The Penguin has been a glorified guest star, only rarely does he factor into a story.

Well now, The Penguin is front and center. Gregg Hurwitz has crafted a well thought out look into the history of the diminutive villain. Every look back into his past concerning his family paints the portrait of a character that could have gone in the other direction had he not been an outcast by everyone in his family except his mother.

In issue #1 we are treated to the early beginnings of the man who would rule the smuggling trade of Gotham. A childhood of hatred and neglect with his mother’s love his only refuge. Artist Szymon Kudranski does a great job of using color to underscore the bleak dark world in which an adult Cobblepot lives and making the edges hazy when remembering a particularly painful childhood moment. It’s only when thinking of his times with his mother does Szymon begins using warm browns and tans that are just as  hazy around the edges for the conjuring up the feeling that these are the only moments of warmth and love from his mother.

In issue #2 the reader gets a unique experience; we get to see a confrontation with Batman through the Penguins eyes. Szymon’s drawing a child Cobblepot in one panel gives the reader all he needs to understand just how The Bat makes him feel. A lone look in the bathroom mirror informs the reader how Cobblepot sees himself as and the sad bitterness that reality does not match up to the image in the mirror.

At the heart of this are the motivations that drive this squat man. Disrespect is an offense punishable by the most horrendous of acts. In issue 1, we see exactly why The Penguin is a man you do not want to cross, even accidentally. We see his cold and utterly ruthless way of being as he dismantles a man’s entire life within the space of two pages. He utterly destroys a man without so much as raising his umbrella; a brilliant scene finely crafted and executed. This is juxtaposed nicely with one of the final moments in issue #1, just before the Batman shows up to kick off the action, where The Penguin is alone with his ailing mother and doting on her as a good son would. A stolen present to show her how he loves his mother is a nice touch in that it shows that not all of his criminal schemes are purely for self gain. Selfish reasons definitely, but not for the sake of turning a profit.

There are times in this book that you can feel sympathy for this little bird like man. However, he is never shown as redeemable. His demons drive him, but the choices are his own.

In issue #2 we get the groundwork laid for his inevitable showdown with the Bat in the upcoming issues all the while delving deeper into young Oswald’s home life. Needless to say, happiness was hard to find. While the present day tale twists and winds showing further how ruthless Cobblepot can be in achieving his desires, his past tale further cements how dangerous this fellow truly is. Highlighting Penguin’s patience and cunning use of strategy, Hurwitz brings the danger back to the bird. The reveal of his actions toward his family, excluding his mother, as an adolescent is easy to spot coming but the scenarios that Oswald sets up and pulls off makes it absolutely satisfying. Hurwitz is making sure everyone knows exactly why Penguin has remained on top of the black market and underworld for so very long without getting caught.

If there is one thing that I did not care for, it’s the implication of Oswald’s affection towards his mother may be more than just a child’s love for his parent. It’s an unnecessary addition that makes The Penguin a little creepy in the wrong way. Luckily, it is only in passing and hopefully will not be touched upon in the coming issues.

All in all, Penguin: Pain and Prejudice is one of the best DC stories on the shelf and I believe it will go down as THE Definitive Penguin tale. The story is engaging and the artwork creates an entire atmosphere of what it must be like in the Penguin’s world everyday.

Recommendation: A MUST BUY!

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