For whatever reason, whether it was due to Burgess Meredith’s portrayal of him, or his direct visual connection to the flightless fowl of the same name, I find the Penguin to be a fascinating and entertaining foe. While fellow readers and more specialized Batfans might favor the Joker, Two-Face, Riddler, or Catwoman, I gravitate towards the adventures of Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot. Sure, Penguin’s not the most intimidating opponent based solely on appearance, but then again, neither was Napoleon.
Over the past decade or more, DC Comics has chosen a different tack with Cobblepot, presenting him more as a crimelord than a petty criminal. Sure, he is still motivated by a need for pretty baubles, but he is less prone to waddling around using trick umbrellas to accomplish his dirty work. Make no mistake, though, he does still waddle.
Gregg Hurwitz is given significant latitude in the form of a five-issue mini series to elaborate on the origins and inner machinations of the Penguin, and he begins in splendid fashion with this first issue. Hurwitz presents Cobblepot as much more of a sinister character than sympathetic one. Hurwitz provides peeks into the formative years, and tempers that with Cobblepot’s modern-day escapades, further illustrating that Penguin is much more cruel than worthy of concern.
Hurwitz is joined on this issue by Szymon Kudranski, an artist I am unfamiliar with. Honestly, that doesn’t matter much at all as Kudranski’s work is filled with details, emotion, and style. The close-up cover unapologetically puts Cobblepot in your face, and Kudranski fills this book with unapologetic, but impressive imagery. His work in spots reminds me of Tony Harris and at other times of Brian Bolland. The subject matter may not always be idyllic, but the imagery is always compelling and worthy of study. There’s a great deal of story going on here from Hurwitz, but there are layers heaped upon it from Kudranski.
John Kalisz, whose colors I always associate with Hawkman, soaks this comic book in the dingy grays and dusky tones of the underworld crime scene within Gotham City. The moments where a brighter color – red or yellow for instance - - are employed are striking, harsh, and impactful, punctuating the events that set meaningful impressions upon the life of Cobblepot or upon those around him.
This series is not unlike the Greg Pak-written “Red Skull: Incarnate” in that you are shown why the character is the way he is, you’re given evidence of his evil activities, but you’re also presented with a compelling story that is escalating in intensity and intrigue, exactly as the very best comic book stories should. I’m all in for this series, and I honestly hope there is room for more so long as Hurwitz makes them as interesting as this one. If you’re looking for a break from the relaunched DCU and just want to read a good story about an iconic villain, redirect your cash this way. Mr. Cobblepot will certainly give you a reason or two to come back for more, and you won’t even need to concern yourself with continuity, reboots, or the appearance of some hooded woman. This is a story about the Penguin, and it pulls no punches.