This issue is a little more jumpy than the previous two, but it matches the mindset and general uneasiness circling the title character.
Oswald Cobblepot suffers an immeasurable personal loss and flails about, trying to comprehend the loss, fighting to continue swimming, and, oddly enough, struggling to find a surrogate to fill the freshly minted void in his life.
This leads Penguin to a bit of personal time at the zoo, where he happens across a young, blind lady named Cassandra. The two make a connection and Cobblepot is smitten with her. He sets her up in a place in his life and returns to the empire he has worked so hard to build. Gregg Hurwitz showcases the dichotomy of the Penguin extensively through juxtaposed discussions with a paramedic and a hospice worker. Both were on the scene of Cobblepot’s loss. Both are destined to receive an imprint from Cobblepot upon their own lives. One receives unwavering terror, the other boundless generosity.
Cobblepot’s machinations are disturbing and compelling. Over thirteen panels spread between two pages, Szymon Kudranski tells the story with heavily shadowed artwork. The conversations between Cobblepot and the other two are backroom deals. There are no eyewitnesses, no outside influences, just the ravings of a madman out to apply justice as he sees fit. John Kalisz’s coloring is topnotch for this story. Kalisz gravitates towards more earthy tones in his work, which plays well for the shady dealings of the Penguin and the warm residue of nostalgic memories the Penguin is steeped in throughout. Parts of this issue are filled with nearly tangible aggression, while panels filled with tension are steeped in red, like blood boiling under the skin of the comic page. While this book features one of the most unattractive characters in comics, the artwork is hauntingly beautiful.
Throughout this issue, Batman lurks in the shadows. He’s watching Cobblepot and the Penguin’s goons. Cobblepot doesn’t seem to care. He continues with his business as though he’ll never get caught. There’s an arrogance to the character that he plays off as regality. The harsh reality of it all is that the Penguin is a thug on every level. That, combined with great art and a well-handled story, makes this book a must-read and a top of the stack title for me.