Penguin: Pain and Prejudice #1 (of 5) review

What is this?
Penguin has his own book now?! Not really. Calm down. This is not the ongoing Cobblepot Adventures, but it is a 5 part mini-series exploring Penguin’s origin.

Wah wah wah.
Penguin’s always been sort of a joke to mainstream audiences. It wasn’t until his dark, mutated portrayal in Batman Returns that the public took the character seriously and even that has been forgotten. And if anything, that depiction just made comic fans even more frustrated because now everyone who doesn’t think Penguin is a worthless umbrella loving villain thinks he lives in the sewer and has flipper hands. This is a shame because Penguin is one of the best gangsters in the Batman mythology.

October is a great month to be a Batman fan. New comics every Wednesday, Arkham City comes out on the 18th, new episodes of Brave & the Bold are airing, and Batman: Year One is coming to DVD. And of all the Batman rogues on the scene this month, it’s the Penguin who is finally getting the respect he deserves in both video games and comics.

It’s often said that monsters are not born, they are made. They are made through years of abuse. All of that hatred is internalized until their last shred of humanity suffocates and dies. Gregg Hurwitz’s Oswald Cobblepot is that monster. Taking a page from “Batman Returns”, Oswald is born a hideous child with a beak-like nose. No flippers, though. Just that iconic nose that Penguin has always had. His father is immediately disgusted by this frail, unattractive child, but his mother still loves him. And the relationship Oswald forms with his mother becomes his only source of solace in a cruel world. He’s shunned by his father, picked on by his siblings, and assaulted by bullies both in and out of the classroom. We only see his childhood years in this book, but with 4 issues left to go, I really hope to see how Oswald rose to power in the Gotham underworld. I want to know how this weak child became one of the most feared gangsters in the worst city in the world.

There is no shortage of ruthlessness in this book. The harsh bullying we see in his childhood years created a man who is the very definition of cold heartedness and wrath. He isn’t shunned anymore. What Penguin wants, Penguin gets and no one dares cross him. You don’t disappoint him. You don’t disobey him. You don’t speak unless spoken to. In fact, it’s best not to even make eye contact with Oswald Cobblepot. All the power and money is at his disposal and he will bring God’s terrible thunder down on anyone who offends him in the slightest. He destroys lives without so much as lifting a finger. So, Oswald is a practically a god in his everyday life, but even though I said nobody screws with Penguin, Batman is not just anybody. He’s Batman. And to Oswald, he’s the last bully.

Gregg Hurwitz has written a fine book here that could lead to a stellar mini-series. He does a great job showing how Penguin can carry a story on his own. If you don’t know anything about Penguin, then pick this up and educate yourself! He’s a hell of a villain. And as far as art goes: it’s beautiful. If this is what Szymon Kudranski’s work looks like on Spawn all the time, then I want to check that out now, too. The page layouts are just right and pace the story well and—the coloring! The coloring is made up of these muted tones that are as cold as Penguin’s heart.

This is a buy.

SCORE: 10/10