Saturday, 28 September 2013

Batman: Battle for the Cowl

Batman: Battle for the Cowl

Writer and artist: Tony S. Daniel

Nononononononono... BATMAN!

Background Information:

This book may be obselete now. With DC's revamped New 52 universe, a lot of the old continuity has been stripped away. The events in this book, however, have been referenced in the New 52's Nightwing #1. DC hasn't made it clear on whether this exact book is still relevent to the new universe or not (they have so far replaced some previously canon stories, like Batman's Year One), but lacking any evidence to the contrary, we can assume that this story still happened.


I really wanted to love Battle for the Cowl: it’s a big moment in the old DCU that collects all of the major robins and has them play off each other quite well. But those good things, unfortunately, don’t refute the problems that abound in this trade.

The book’s premise is captivating enough: with Batman presumed dead, Gotham’s criminal types are rising to the occasion; redrawing gang turf maps, and raising hell wherever possible.  In response, Nightwing and Oracle have called together a group of allies known as “The Network”. It’s a semi-successful strategy, but even the combined power of Nightwing, Robin, Knight, Squire, The Birds of Prey, Wildcat , and others are no substitute for the sheer symbolic power of Batman’s presence. Even the presence of a gun-toting crazy Batman isn’t quite the same. So the question that is filled out over three issues is pretty simple: Who should be Batman?

If some of you were scratching your heads earlier, let me assure you, that wasn’t a mistake: the main story of this trade is only three issues long. That wouldn’t be so bad in most cases, but the result is that Battle for the Cowl honestly feels too rushed.  In the process, the story actually loses a large amount of depth. This isn’t helped by the fact that the story’s superb prologue isn’t even included in the trade (you’ll need to buy Long Shadows for that). What rubs salt in the wound is the absolutely boring Gotham Gazette supplement that makes up the last two chapters. Exactly who thought this was a good idea is not for me to say- especially since there were a whole bunch of tie-in issues to Battle for the Cowl that would have made a lot more sense.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not poorly written. This collection has been written with big, dramatic action in mind. The problem is that there were so many loose ends throughout the series. I understand that comics require a little bit of uncertainty throughout their stories (particularly in the case of Batman), but I would have liked to see more people trying to claim the mantle of Batman and less fat guys in pig masks.

So how does a story that sees a new Batman emerge read so poorly? My theory is that it all has to do with the creative team that went into it. See, Tony S. Daniel is the guy behind both the artwork and the story. That, to me, spells trouble. The only outcome of this can be:

a)      Either the story or the art somehow loses out, or

b)      both suffer tremendously.

Thankfully option A occurred. Yes, the story lacked the depth and breadth that Battle for the Cowl really should have had, but the artwork was spot on- perfectly portraying a Gotham that had fallen into anarchy for lack of a caped crusader. The action is bloody and portrays a real sense of pain, and the colours are dark and mysterious.

It’s hard to recommend Battle for the Cowl to anyone but those who loved the Batman: Reborn stories. That said, though you’re probably better off reading those if you really want to see what a different Batman is like. Battle for the Cowl gets 3 ½ out of five fat guys in pig masks.

*** ½

+ Decently written.

+ Dramatic art.

-Way too short.

-Supplemented by the awful Gotham Gazette.

-Too many unanswered questions; even for a comic.

Alternate Pick: Batman: Long Shadows

Actually tells a similar story, but does a much better job at doing so.

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