Review: Penguin: Pain and Prejudice #2

Gone is the comedy version of Oswald Cobblepot.  In its place is an extremely chilling, yet distressingly understandable villain.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Penguin: Pain and Prejudice #2

The first issue of Gregg Hurwitz and Szymon Kudranski's miniseries Penguin: Pain and Prejudice was absolutely amazing in crafting the delicate yet terrifying aura of fear and dread that Oswald Cobblepot has cultivated around his criminal enterprises.  We saw how any sense of hope and compassion was systematically driven from him throughout his childhood, and that he had become determined to be as cold to the world as it was to him.

Now, in the second issue, we see when he hit that tipping point in remembrances prompted by the Batman rubbing his rugged virility in his face, in complete disregard to that aura of power, undercutting it severely.  We see more of the heartbreakingly cruel emotional abuse heaped on him by his father and three brothers, including killing his only friends – the birds he would tend to.  And we see what was heavily implied in the first issue – just how the despised young Oswald methodically went about the task of eliminating the rest of his family, so he could be alone with his mother, the only person who loved him.

The relentlessly dark and ominous mood crafted around Hurwitz's story by Kudranski and colorist John Kalisz is so solidly done that we can almost hear somber, foreboding music being played over each new turn of the tale.  The anguish and desperation of Oswald Cobblepot is palpable, from his childhood horrors to watching his infirm mother in the modern day moving ever closer to death.  Despite the young boy's sinister visage, we completely understand why he was driven to do what he did, how completely devoid of nurturing and care his life has been, and exactly why he responds to the world the way he does.  Making him the best kind of villain there is.

This book is brilliantly dark and surprisingly emotional, bringing the Penguin up to the upper echelon of Batvillains who have a deeply compelling tale of how they came to be the monsters they are.  It's the kind of thing he's needed for a long time, and as much as we'll miss the wackier aspects of the character as traditionally portrayed, the version of the Penguin Hurwitz is forging is closing in on the level of masterpiece.