Comic reviews- Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1

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battleforthecowl1

I had planned on waiting until Battle for the Cowl was collected in trade and skip straight to Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin series in June. Yet when I saw it had been added into my pull list box, I thought I should at least give the first issue a shot to see if I wanted to pick up the whole thing. After reading issue 1, I think I may not tradewait Battle for the Cowl after all. Tony Daniel crafts a solid story of what Gotham might be like without a Batman and without any solid replacement.

Batman is dead. Or so the world seems to believe. While the Dark Knight has disappeared before, this time it looks like he’s not coming back. Without Batman’s presence to keep them at bay, Gotham City’s criminal underworld has driven the city to chaos. Commissioner Gordon struggles to maintain some semblance of order with a rapidly shrinking police while a ravenous public demands that he step down. To help control the madness, Nightwing has created the Network, a group of familiar crimefighting allies, but even they struggle to fill the void left by Batman’s absence. To make things worse, a new villain with a familiar name has banded several of Gotham’s most dangerous rogues together in a bid to take control of the city, which is currently split down the middle between two of Batman’s most famous foes.

As far as Tim Drake, a.k.a. Robin, is concerned, Gotham needs a Batman. Nightwing has other ideas. Either way, a new vigilante has emerged and has started brutally taking down villains, leaving behind slips of paper inscribed with a daring declaration:

“I am Batman.”

Hopefully I didn’t spoil too much with that little teaser. Suffice to say, the issue definitely draws you in. Just about every current Gotham and Batman-related hero show up in this issue (including a certain Dynamic Duo seen in Grant Morrison’s Batman and JLA Classified work), although the focus is squarely on Batman’s surrogate sons: Robin and Nightwing. Even Damian Al Ghul, Batman’s possible biological son, shows up and plays a big role near the end. Damian is actually portrayed a little more sympathetically than he’s been in the past: he’s still a brat, but in a comedic way. Alfred gets a brief, yet memorable scene, and there are as many familiar Batman villains running around as there are heroes (there’s a brief, but strong scene between the Riddler and Gordon– I know the Riddler’s good now, but still!). Fans of the Battle for the Cowl teaser poster DC released a few months ago will be happy to hear that not one, but TWO of the Batmen in that photo appear this issue. One of them has their identity revealed to us right away: the other doesn’t, although the clues don’t make it hard to guess who it might be.

Tony Daniel not only wrote this issue, but drew it, as well. Not surprising, seeing as he was the regular Batman penciller for the later part of Grant Morrison’s run. Daniel’s art is pretty solid: it won’t blow you away, but it definitely gets the job done. You can tell writing the series gives Daniel a little more freedom in how he wants to convey his story, as seen in the some of the creative layout choices he makes when Robin’s zooming through Gotham on his motorcycle and when Gordon’s making his way through an assemblage of reporters.

As intrigued as I am to see how things pan out when the new Batman’s in place, the road to the new Batman is proving to be interesting in itself. This may be the last time you see certain characters in certain roles, like Dick Grayson as Nightwing and Tim Drake as Robin: someone’s got to put on the Bat Jammies, after all. So give Battle for the Cowl a shot, either in single issues or in TPB.

BONUS: Project Rooftop recently held a contest to see who could come up with the best costume for Dick Grayson if he became the next Batman. Here are the winners!

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2 Responses to “Comic reviews- Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1”

  1. spiffyithaca Says:

    Hey Goki, sorry I haven’t responded yet, but I was waiting to finally read the issue, which I just did. I agree with you, it’s an interesting issue.

    For my part, Daniel’s art suffers upon taking writing chores. Aside from the last page and some great stuff with the villains and the new one in particular, I remember his work on Morrison’s Batman as much more lush and awesome. That said, it’s not like he’s bad writing or drawing here.

    I like Tim’s involvement the most, but I have to disagree about Damian. I know little to nothing about him, but he still makes me want to vomit in the scene with him in it. I really like the conflict between Tim and Dick, and look forward to see how that progresses. I also want more Catwoman, and can’t wait to find out who this supposed Batman is, even if I have a guess.

    Great review Goki. Sorry I didn’t get to comment on it sooner. I’ll be reading #2 a lot sooner than I did #1, I can guarantee you that.

  2. gokitalo Says:

    Awesome. You’ll probably beat me to it!

    I can say that Daniel definitely lays his pages out very differently than he did working under Morrison. I did notice the coloring seemed a little different sometimes.

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