Published on October 20th, 2012 | by Cosmic Comix and Toys0
Penguin: Pain and Prejudice
Last week I read Mircleman #1-9 which was one of Alan Moore’s greatest books. But, I’d had enough of digging through the back issue bin. I needed to get back to modern stuff again! Since I was reading superheroes I decided to stick with what was working, so this week I read Penguin: Pain and Prejudice, written by Gregg Hurwitz and illustrated by Szymon Kudranski, published by DC Comics.
If you’re like me, you’ve never thought of the Penguin as a grade-A villain. He’s always been kind of a joke. Well, in the hands of Gregg Hurwitz, Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin, has transformed into one of the deadliest psychotics in a rogue’s gallery full of psychotics. The structure is similar to The Killing Joke, in that it takes place in current world of Gotham juxtaposed against flashbacks of Penguin’s life growing up. In the modern story, Penguin manages to meet a girl, take care of his ailing mother, all the while planning something sinister for Batman and Gotham.
For reference, the original series was published in December 2011 while DC’s new 52 started in November 2011. So, is this new DC cannon or not? I don’t know but I can tell it’s one great story. Hurwitz does something that no other writer has been able to do: make the Penguin interesting. He presents Penguin as a tortured soul who wasn’t always as bad as he currently is. The flashbacks really make Penguin a sympathetic character up until the point that he starts killing people. At the same time, the modern tale is very much a story of a man who demands respect and will punish anyone mercilessly if he believes he is slighted. Hurwitz really amps up the emotional content as you learn that while the Penguin is brutal and vicious, some of those he has harmed aren’t nearly as innocent as they seem. By playing with our expectations, Hurwitz makes the story really shine.
Included in the book was the Penguin one shot from 2008, Joker’s Asylum: Penguin (one shot) written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by Jason Pearson. This story may have been the basis for Hurwitz’s story. I can’t tell but it’s in the same theme and the characterization is exactly the same. It fits in this collection perfectly and doesn’t feel like filler.
The art throughout the series is just fantastic. Jason Person needs no recommendation, but the work by Kudranski is spectacular. His work is dark and moody and fits the story. Kudranski manages to really capture the Penguin’s inner pain and anger in the facial expressions that he draws. It’s this ability to illustrate facial expression that makes it so interesting.
Penguin: Pain and Prejudice is the perfect study of a truly depraved villain. But what makes it so good is the fact that the story humanizes the Penguin. It lets you into his broken psyche and you can’t help but be entertained. If you are looking for a great character study of evil, then this is the book for you.
- David Lee