These days, when you think of Batman’s rogue gallery, names such as Ra’s al Ghul, Bane, and The Joker come to mind. Catwoman flip-flops back and forth from good to bad, but there is a cornucopia of evildoers that have been lost in the shuffle over the last ten years. One who comes to mind is The Penguin, and the creative minds of Gregg Hurwitz and Szymon Kudranski have put the spotlight back on this criminal genius.
Pain and Prejudice is a character study of Oswald Cobblepot that shows it takes a blind person to see the beauty inside of the monster. If love is a battlefield, then the Penguin’s love life is a theater of war because the violence and hatred that consumes him have the capability to take a backseat.
Crime and mayhem aside, the softer side of this iconic villain is more complex than someone with mommy issues. It takes a special kind of love to infiltrate the heart of an individual who grew up with an immense amount of hatred and torment.
The examination of his childhood shows that besides his mother, everyone who was supposed to care about him treated him like dirt and turned a blind eye when he needed things that children require, like food or medicine. Being treated as a monstrosity 24 hours a day will do crazy things to a person’s mind.
Penguin controls a vast criminal empire where his image is just as important as the results of his criminal activity. Respect was never an option, so fear is the catalyst he rules with. In the past, Penguin is barking orders until Batman comes in and demands information, and Penguin begrudgingly gives it to him. We learn Oswald has a lot more going on in his head when the Dark Knight appears as he is disquieted and envious of him.
The story is told from Oswald’s perspective and paints him as the victim of a cruel world. Even though it’s clear that Penguin is doing bad deeds, Batman is almost painted as the villain. The true nature of Oswald’s vindictive side is revealed when he is arrested and humiliated in front of his blind girlfriend, Cassandra.
Throughout the book, Gregg Hurwitz’s writing makes you feel sorry for Oswald. I mean, how could you hate someone who was beaten and severely tormented as a child and would do anything for his mother and girlfriend? Eventually, Hurwitz flips the switch as he reveals the one thing Penguin loves the most, and it makes you so mad that you will be kicking yourself for having any sympathy for him.
Szymon Kudranski’s art accomplishes two important things: it compliments Gotham’s seedy underbelly along with the dark side of Penguin’s ruthless aggression and depicts the light found even in the darkest of places as Batman lurks in the shadows.
John Kalisz’s coloring presents a dark and dingy world that I like to believe is the mental depiction of Penguin’s state of mind. Kudranski perfectly captures the emotion displayed by the characters and makes great use of shadows to eerily depict a gloomy Gotham.
If you passed on this series when released in individual issues, please buy this graphic novel. The series did not receive a lot of press, but I promise you it will be the hidden gem of your collection. The world is a cold place, and Penguin knows this better than most.