I picked up issue #2 completely skeptical of anyone's ability to hold my attention long enough for five issues of a Penguin origin story, boy was I wrong. After reading issue #1, I was spellbound by Szymon Kurdanski's art and Gregg Hurwitz's clear grasp of the human condition. It's very often we see in superhero stories the very black and white nature of good vs. evil, but it's never quite so simple. The most gruesome of Gotham's killers and thieves have a nefarious wanderlust that always seem to bring us to the same place we ended in the last issue, the good guy prevailing, while the bad guy is dragged off in chains to whatever prison cell is strong enough to hold him. Which brings us to the question, how are villains made? Is it nature or nurture. Maybe a little of both. Many a boy has been picked on ruthlessly by children that are too insecure or cowardly to stand up for what is right and they still are able to come out clean on the other side. Some bullied children find their way by discovering qualities hidden deep inside of themselves that allows them to shine right through the cruel treatment that they receive by others. Yet, what about someone like Oswald Cobblepot? A boy despised by his father, berated and tortured by his brothers and loved unconditionally by his mother, is one woman's love enough to rise him above the ashes?
I sincerely love the dynamic that Hurwitz and Kudranski have created. When the Batman storms in with his towering resolve and stares down the Penguin in his own club, I felt what I've never felt before when Batman comes to save the day, I felt skeptical of his right to be there. I know, I know. Penguin is a DIRT bag, but it's panels like these:
where you really understand that villains are damaged goods; Batman's very presence instills a sense of existential anguish that transforms the seemingly unbreakable Penguin into a little cowering boy. The reality is that something truly horrible has happened to these sort of characters, so that they can only be stopped by another emotionally broken person, Batman of course. A man like penguin finds solace in doing to others what has been done to him and that truly is a perversion of the Golden Rule. Yet the solidness of this story is understanding how free will allows everyone to shape the outcome of their lives; Bruce Wayne's parents were tragically ripped from his life, while Oswald Cobblepot tragically ripped others from his life. That's what makes a villain and a hero, they are opposites and ethically opposed, both presented with a sorrowful path and a fork in the road lead them to opposition, which always creates a great Gotham story.
Five out of five. Pick this up. You won't regret it. I'll also be buying this in trade.