Review: Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1


Woot!  Woot?  (chirp)


Rev up your excitement meter, because the biggest Bat event of the season is here, as anyone and everyone is stepping up to fill the boots of the man that saved Gotham City more times than that other guy.  Wow!  This is going to be the bestest thing in the world, right?  Yeah… about that…

cowl1cover.jpgWhile Battle for the Cowl could be DC’s biggest event of the Spring, it unfortunately falls flat from the very beginning.  It’s not that the reader already knows Batman isn’t dead, although that is part of it, but it has to do with how suddenly Gotham City has gone to crap following Batman’s “disappearance”.

One of the things (aaahhhhh… Matthewzptlk I’ll see you in 60 days…yes, that is an in joke for those who listen to the Major Spoilers Podcast) that keeps the ne’er-do-wells at bay isn’t that Batman is or isn’t there, but the thought that he might be watching, ready to pounce at any minute.  If anything, the simple act of turning on of the Bat-signal should be enough to frighten the superstitious and cowardly lot into thinking Gordon has summoned the Dark Knight.

There is also no mention of the events of Final Crisis, which should have caused the city to fall to crap, but then again, it seems Final Crisis is being bypassed at every chance.  Instead, Tony Daniel reveals the cause of all the chaos is a turf war brought on by Two-Face and Penguin, who are trying to gain control of the city (shades of Batman: No Man’s Land anyone?).  Granted, neither one of them appear in the issue, so we have to take the word of Robin, who narrates the entire issue.

To add a little fuel to the fire is the sudden reappearance of Black Mask who blows up Arkham Asylum, which has had the time to clean and repaint following the Black Glove’s shenanigans.  He is also able to free a horde of Batman’s rogues gallery (Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, Scarecrow, hot girl who takes off her clothes on panel, guy who gets his face melted by Black Mask, Killer Moth, and anyone else who needs to be involved in this little story twist).  Black Mask has a very Task Force X method of controlling those who would rather rip his head off, but he does give them free reign to kill and maim however they see fit.

It sounds like a great set up to an epic story, which it very well may be, but considering how we got here, and how insane readers have been over the Batman R.I.P. and Final Crisis debacle, I can’t help but feeling we’re seeing a train wreck in slow motion.

What’s good about the issue?  It contains nearly every Bat-Family member ever.  EVER!  Wanna see Wildcat bring a can of whoop-ass to a dandy fight?  It’s there.  Wanna see the Birds of Prey reunited cause it feels so good?  It’s there.  Wanna see Batwoman stand around showing her ass to the readers, simply because she can? It’s in there.  Batgirl making a single panel cameo?  Sure.  Knight and Squire?  There.  Riddler?  Bingo. Catwoman? Yup.  Damian Wayne?  Yeah, that punk is there, and Tony Daniel does the right thing by making him out to be less than heroic at the right time.  Azrael?  Perhaps.

The crux of the issue is not that Gotham City is falling apart.  It’s not that Dick continues to tell all the heroes involved that no one will replace Batman, but rather the mystery of the person who has donned the cape and cowl and is striking terror in the few pockets of Gotham City that haven’t been torn apart by Black Mask, Two-Face, and the Penguin’s little fight for control.  Since we never discovered what happened to Jean Paul Valley’s body, and since the impostor Batman is as hardcore as Az-Bats, and since no one ever stays dead in the DCU – my money is on the blonde haired crime fighter. It’s either him or someone from the Order of Saint Dumas, as there was a panel or two from another Bat-title that featured the Order.

Update:  I just read the most recent Previews that does confirm Jason Todd as the gun totting Batman.  My bad for not paying attention to tiny details.

For the most part Tony Daniel’s writing is good; the story moves at a fast pace, and while the major reveals ask the reader to suspend disbelief, Daniel is able to work with what he has given, as there’s only so much you can cram into a 22-page issue.  Sandu Florea also steps up to the plate to deliver art that is good, as he is also able to cram a heck of a lot of action into the limited space.

Will Battle for the Cowl end in a way that gets readers excited about Batman again?  I hope so, but realistically it is nothing more than the a way station on the journey to the six to eight new titles being dumped in readers’ laps in the coming months.  I’m giving points to Daniel and Florea for handling the story as best they can, but it’s the overall forced nature of the story that has me giving this issue 2.5 out of 5 Stars.