These days, when you think of Batman’s rogue gallery of villains, 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 evil doers 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 his life has 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 that was supposed to care about him not only treated him like dirt but also 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 of things and paints him to be the victim of a cruel world. Even though it’s clear that Penguin is doing the 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.
The tone and style of 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 that can be found even in the darkest of places as Batman lurks in the shadows. The coloring of John Kalisz presents a dark and dingy world which I like to believe is the mental depiction of Penguin’s state of mind. Kudranski perfectly captures the emotion displayed by the characters makes great use of shadows that eerily depicts how gloomy of a place Gotham can be.
If you passed on this series when it was released in individual issues then please, buy the 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 The Penguin knows this better than most.