Why can’t they stay dead, again?


Things are heating up under that tight leather and mask everyone seems to be wearing in Batman: Battle for the Cowl #2.  The Wheel of Destiny is spinning and someone is bound to walk away with the title of Batman.  With a lot of animosity between the Wayne underlings, someone’s gonna get it right in the chest… perhaps even two somebodies. Yes, there are some spoilers ahead, but you’ll have to pick them out from my rantings.

Batman_Battle_for_the_Cowl_2.jpgAfter the Blackest Night storyline, everyone at DC needs to sit down and have a long discussion about death.  And more importantly, why the company needs to make the decision that the next time characters bite the big one, they stay dead – forever.  Now that doesn’t mean time travel, flashback stories and the like can’t be told, but if DC decides to kill someone on panel, that person, or being, is gone for good; never to be heard from again. If DC (or any company) wants to create edgy, dark stories that are ripped from the headlines, or whatever nonsense the story is borrowed from, then characters just can’t die and then return in a couple of months.  It takes away from the seriousness of the story, and makes the company look like a liar and a joke when The Leader proclaims this is the end, as readers are wise to these cash grab moves. Be it Jason Todd, Black Mask, or Batman, from now on DC, if you kill someone keep them dead.  I don’t want to see anymore dead people coming back to life thanks to some miraculous Tom Welling Prime Punch – KRAK-A-DOOOOOM!

That being said, there have been some very good swerves as of late, including the “death” of Stephanie Brown, that make sense in hind-sight and brings the feeling of afternoon soap opera to the storytelling.  However, if a character is shot point blank in the face by Catwoman, he shouldn’t be walking around terrorizing Gotham City.  That is unless Black Mask, really isn’t Black Mask…hmmmm.  But come on, this is DC we’re talking about, and any chance to resurrect a character to force a story plot point seems to be the preferred method as of late.    Likewise, the return of Jason Todd never sat well with me, and to see him going all gangsta on Gotham, killing and shooting willy-nilly with the intent on making people fear Batman again, cheapens that whole 1988 event.

On the plus side, Jason’s justification for killing does make sense. Batman had almost become that happy Silver Aged hero that walks openly in the sunlight ready to whip out a Bat-popsicle for the crying child.  That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but criminals have figured out Batman isn’t going to kill, so the threat of death removes the fear from the criminal, thus creating the problems Gotham City currently faces.  With jAzbats killing here and there, it does reinstate that fear, and thus makes Batman a more imposing figure for the superstitious and cowardly lot that shuffle through the underground of Gotham.

Which brings up another gripe – the concept of destroying Gotham City is getting quite old.  It was a great story telling tool for the earthquake arc, but how many more times will the city burn to the ground before no one returns to live there? I think inhabitants of the DCU would be more comfortable moving back to Coast City, than sticking around in Gotham.

However, because readers of the series have no control over continuity (t-shirts for sale!), we have to work with the cards we are dealt, and to see Tim and Dick attempting to take down Jason does make for some tense moments.  I like the aspect of the rouge hero going to extremes and stepping over the line, forcing his teammates to stop his rampage.  I like the spirit of the fight that is present, and I’ll play along a while longer, especially when Jason’s actions serve as a means for Dick to finally admit he may have to become Batman.

Those actions by Jason include shooting Damian Wayne clean in the chest – a mortal wound for most, but thanks to field dressing training, it looks like the little bugger is going to pull through.  Kudos go to Tony Daniel for attempting to rid the DCU of the worst new character of the decade. Although it is an interesting juxtaposition that the most hated Batman character of the 1980s tried to kill the most hated Batman character of the 2000s, the shooting and then recovery is just not believable in the bigger picture.

The same is true for the ending of the issue, where a character featured prominently on the cover (hint, he’s in the middle), gets a batarang through the chest.  It does come as a bit of surprise, but should readers be worried?  Hell, no.  If the bastard son can escape a mortal gunshot wound, then there’s no sleep lost on worrying if the hero bites it or not.    DC could of course prove me wrong by next issue, which means this character will certainly return during Blackest Night, but seriously, by the end of the day, the return to the status quo is all that matters.

Without a change in the status quo, characters can’t grow and develop, and writers aren’t pushed to find new ways of telling their stories.  And that hurts the franchise in the long run.

Unfortunately, there are also some jarring jumps in action from location and characters, which throw the pacing of the story off.  Suddenly, the better than average paced story from the first issue has devolved into a series of burning buildings, explosions and fight scenes that by themselves work in a Michael Bay film, but don’t fit in telling a good edge of your seat story.  It feels like pages were removed from the story late in the game to satisfy the bean counter’s page counts, and to ensure the seven page Power Girl preview story could fit in.  Still, 30 pages of “Batman” and seven pages of Power Girl does make it easier to swallow the $3.99 cover price.

Battle for the Cowl continues the fast paced cage match infighting between the good guys and bad guys, but this series feels a lot like those realistic wrestling matches on the boob tube with the mantle of the Bat the grand prize.  I’m giving points for lots of popcorn action, fantastic art by Sandu Florea, and Black Masking playing all the sides against each other, but deducting points for everything else, which earns Batman: Battle for the Cowl #2 3 out of 5 Stars, which is a slight step up from the first issue.  I don’t hate this issue at all, it just isn’t living up to some of the better Batman event stories I’ve read over the last 20 years.


The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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  1. duckface
    April 13, 2009 at 11:39 pm — Reply

    I also don’t like how making Damien likable in anticipation for ‘Batman and Robin’ is equated to making him useless in a fight. Didn’t he, like, almost kill Tim in “Batman & Son”? So how is he swatted away like a fly by Jason (who beats Tim here)?

    I hope Tim isn’t a goner, as seeing Jason and Damien alive while pretty much everyone’s favorite (or close 2nd favorite) Robin is tossed in a grave will surely not yield pleasant results for DC. Granted, the Red Robin #1 solicit pretty much guarantees RR is Tim, but I do worry…

    I’m still hoping DC is not good at keeping secrets and Dick does indeed become Batman, because I’ve heard rumblings about Jim Gordon, and that sound like an AWFUL idea.

  2. Rowan
    April 14, 2009 at 12:11 am — Reply

    Batman with a fat white mustache though……. and big ol Glasses…..

  3. shamon
    April 14, 2009 at 2:08 am — Reply

    Recently in the current timeline (as it occured during the gang war after Batman disappeared from Gotham) Jason after acting like an idiot as usual was shot in the knee.
    That’s not the kind of wound allowing you to be as acrobatic as gun totting fake Batman has been, considering this event is -very- recent in the light of what happen in BotC.

    But in the same time, i wonder if Tony Daniels have read the issue in which Jason was shot in the knee ?

    And frankly despite being more and more characterised as a simple moronic character, i can’t just imagine Jason Todd shooting a kid in the chest at nearly point blank.

    Additionally, at no point of his internal dialogue, gun totting fake Batman made a precise memory of how Jason was along Bruce.
    In fact all that had been stated there, Jean Paul Valley could have said the same as none of the comment gave in his real identity, even the “he took me so i would not end as his enemy can apply perfectly to Jean Paul as well as Jason).

    there is the cryptic comment in DC Nation about the Red Robin cover, like if there was some truth not revealed in what we see in this cover with Tim on a side and Red Robin on the other.
    …and Jason had been Red Robin in the pastAbout the possible Jason Todd = “gun totting bat” red herrings, what about Black Mask ?
    Last we saw of him, he was shot dead. And strangely he is back ?

    What if under the mask it was none else than … Jason Todd ?
    Gotham appears to be divided between 2 main criminal mastermind : Penguin and Two Faces.

    And what is occuring because of the action of Black Mask : Penguin and Two Faces seems to be extremely willing to kill each other gang, while the escaped criminals from Arkham are all under control (with the “explosive” necklace).

    Wasn’t it the original plan of Jason Todd to climb up the whole criminal hierarchy and get the criminal to kill each other ?
    Because it seems that Black Mask is actually pushing into that direction.

    And Morrison said, i quote again :
    Yeah, we’ll see a couple of them. I want to do a Batman/Batwoman team-up. That’s something I’ve been wanting for a long time. And also, we’ll being seeing Jason Todd in a different role than we’ve seen him before. But it’s a continuation of the “Battle for the Cowl” story, so all of the guys will be part of this again in some way

    So my current bet is :
    Gun totting bat is Jean Paul Valley as crazy as usual
    Black Mask is Jason Todd (i even wonder if it is not what Bruce requested from him in his last message when Jason went visiting in the Batcave)
    Bruce Wayne is Catwoman

  4. Ricco
    April 14, 2009 at 8:20 am — Reply

    As bad as the Gordon special and the Man-bat as Hulk were, this is worse. I almost threw my copy at the wall when Tim was about to cave-in Jason’s head with a crowbar, they just turned Tim, one of my all time favorite character, into the freaking Joker!

    Jason Todd as a bypolar vigilante is getting old, very old…

    I could buy Jason as Black Mask(my guess is the new Anarky), but in Azrael Jean Paul is still dead so who is Gun-Bat?

    P.S. – whatever happened to the clown prince of crime? He must be so depressed right now.

  5. Rob
    April 14, 2009 at 10:41 am — Reply

    Not to belabor the whole continuity thing, but wasn’t the back half of Tim’s head fried to a crisp (all Two-face style) in his own book, causing him to don the Red Robin getup in the first place, and then suddenly he has a fully healed head of hair?

    The whole crispy-head thing was the reason I picked up the book, thinking (erroneously, obviously) that this was a game changing event and would set a new course for the character. Maybe leading to the Future Titans storyline, etc. Guess not.

    That one still pisses me off.

  6. Brent
    April 14, 2009 at 11:52 am — Reply

    Continuing with Shamon’s line of reasoning…there are two different guys on the Red Robin #1 split cover. I’m not saying for sure that Tim won’t be the RR eventually, but if both of those guys on the cover are supposed to be Tim (drawn by the same artist), then why are their jawlines and musculature so different? If RR really is Tim, it would not be portrayed so blatantly as a split cover with the same fighting pose.

    If RR is NOT Tim, the story will be a little more interesting for me. But if Tim does become Red Robin while Dick becomes the new Batman…meh, that’s kinda predictable.

  7. duckface
    April 14, 2009 at 12:42 pm — Reply

    Brent – I wonder if Dick is Red Robin? After all, he was the ‘original’ RR so to speak. I highly doubt it would be Jason.

    Other RR related question, why is Tim fighting Spoiler??

  8. Graciela
    April 14, 2009 at 1:22 pm — Reply

    Maybe I’m missing out by not reading all of the other books that go along with BFTC but so far, these 2 issues have been soooooo predictable and sooooooo overplayed. I am actually close to missing Grant Morrison for keeping me confused and in the dark. Yep. I mean c’mon, who didn’t know that was Jason Todd? Why the whole 20 questions with Dick if I figured it out before he did?

    This really could’ve been an interesting story and a chance to do things differently and not play off of the same old song and dance of Jason Todd is a crazy guy and the bat brothers have to prove whose more of a Wayne. But that’s exactly what we’re getting. They should’ve left Jason dead if they didn’t know what to do with the character or give him a chance to evolve here. And Bruce shouldn’t have died if DC couldn’t deliver a strong enough story to go with his death. This is all filler material and here I thought it was DC’s big meat hook.

  9. Ricco
    April 14, 2009 at 1:46 pm — Reply

    @Duckface: Stéphanie aided/used criminals to increase the chaos in Gotham (During the “Search for s Hero” story in Robin) to fulfill the request of Batman to make Tim a better hero. After, even thou he undestands why she did it, he ordered her to stop wearing the Spoiler costume and give up fighting crime or he’ll have to arrest her.

  10. duckface
    April 14, 2009 at 1:54 pm — Reply

    Thanks Ricco!

  11. ~wyntermute~
    April 14, 2009 at 1:57 pm — Reply

    This is totally small-fry stuff, but it happens to be one of my pet peeves (and I only have a couple, so like, anyway). It’s “ROGUE” not “rouge”. The latter is either another word for “blush”, like women wear on their faces, or french for “red”. :) I used to know people who pronounced the word rogue as “rouge” and it drove me batty. :D D&D flashbacks~! ahhhh!!! Oh, yeah, topicality… I’m hoping that GunMan is the “new” Azrael, whoever it turns out to be — I get the impression that “Azrael” is a title/position, or at least it is now. Furthermore, it would be neat if Bruce asked Jason to return to the underground, in order to be a “mole” for the new Organization. Those two things said, I expect the complete opposite to actually pan out in the pages. :D

  12. Ricco
    April 14, 2009 at 2:14 pm — Reply

    It seems that the current Azrael has the skills to be Gun-Bat, he dodged an arrow from freaking Merlin, but he doesn’t want the bat sign on his armor so maybe not.

    I still think Bruce either wanted Jason to be an atagonist to Tim and Dick so either one would pick his mantle or wanted him to live a normal life and he didn’t approve (the old, I’m not good enough? I’ll prove you wrong!). When you think about it if Jason really wanted anyone dead, Damien or Tim, he’d shoot them in the head after the initial wounds, chop them to pieces, feed the pieces to dogs and burned their poop. Assuming the first shot killed his target is sloppy for someone who has been working as Batman for weeks now.

    @Wyntermute: I’m Frech Canadian, I feel like slapping anyone who pronunces rogue as rouge.

  13. Dave
    April 14, 2009 at 7:58 pm — Reply

    Yeah, I wondered what happened to Tim’s “crispy head” too.

    The Batman mythos is a fucking mess.

    The DC Universe as a whole is only a few steps behind that.

  14. shamon
    April 15, 2009 at 12:29 am — Reply

    Behind Batman: Battle for the Cowl Part Two
    Tony Daniel discusses issue JASON TODD IS THE GUN BAT


    [quote]IGN Comics: I guess there’s no better place to start our discussion than Jason Todd. In the recent past his characterization has wavered quite a bit. We’ve seen him played as both a grim-and-gritty antihero and well-meaning yet misguided hothead. Here we see him portrayed as more of a full-blown villain than ever before. Can you talk about your take on Jason in Battle for the Cowl?

    Daniel: Jason in his own mind thinks that he’s taking the necessary steps to combat the evil in Gotham City. In his mind he’s not doing anything wrong, he’s fighting fire with fire. The big difference between Jason and Bruce is their approach. Jason was always a little bit more on the reckless, daring side, and he obviously has a screw loose after coming back from the Lazarus Pit. When you do come back from the Lazarus Pit, you’re not one hundred percent right in the head, and Jason really wasn’t all that right in the head to begin with. What I like about his character is that he really believes in the way he’s going about his business, and in his mind he’s right. In his mind he’s not a bad guy.[/quote]

    [quote]GN Comics: There’s one fantastic line in particular where Jason claims that Bruce took him under his wing to prevent him from becoming another one of his enemies. We all remember that great introductory scene of a young Jason stealing the hubcaps off of the Batmobile, and I think it says a lot about Jason that he’d think of Bruce’s motivations as being selfish.

    Daniel: Right. That says a lot about Jason’s own inflated ego, conceit and self-importance. Obviously his captions may not necessarily really be the truth.

  15. nu
    April 15, 2009 at 1:13 am — Reply

    yeah unless tony daniel is flat out lying to us, then all of the jpv, jason todd, black mask, hush, gatman rumors to rest. it would be cool though

    April 15, 2009 at 1:14 pm — Reply

    “If DC (or any company) wants to create edgy, dark stories that are ripped from the headlines, or whatever nonsense the story is borrowed from, then characters just can’t die and then return in a couple of months. It takes away from the seriousness of the story, and makes the company look like a liar and a joke when The Leader proclaims this is the end, as readers are wise to these cash grab moves. Be it Jason Todd, Black Mask, or Batman, from now on DC, if you kill someone keep them dead.”


  17. ~wyntermute~
    April 15, 2009 at 7:05 pm — Reply

    “@Wyntermute: I’m French Canadian, I feel like slapping anyone who pronunces rogue as rouge.”

    I’m english canadian, and I’m with you! Whaddya know? We found bilingual unity through violence! :D

    And after reading the Daniel bits, it seems I was right after all. The complete opposite of what I thought would be fun is what seems to be happening. :D

  18. Ricco
    April 16, 2009 at 9:31 am — Reply

    Violence = the universal unifier :)

    Were is good old Thomas Elliot during all this? Still in “prison”?

  19. shamon
    April 16, 2009 at 4:43 pm — Reply

    [b]Dan DiDio gives his reason on Jason Todd [/b]

    [quote]Next question is one that concerns…consequences for actions; I guess is a good way to put it. The reader based their question in the context of Battle for the Cowl #2, which showed Jason going around doing horrible, horrible things – shooting Damian, stabbing Tim in the chest … not to mention that he has killed people. Yet, he’s a regular character in the Batman universe, and while you can’t say he’s someone that Batman looks the other way on, there’s been a feeling that Jason is afforded a level of “tolerance” by Batman and the others who routinely beat people unconscious for, in comparison, minor crimes. I think most readers can still remember Jim Shooter’s edit that if Chris Claremont and John Byrne were going to have Phoenix kill a star system’s worth of people, she had to die. Long question short, does that feeling still apply? Is there the sense in the DC offices that since Jason has killed, he cannot be a hero, and must therefore be either hunted, jailed, or on the run all the time…

    DD: Let’s take this one from the very beginning. When a story is going to be told where we feel that a character crosses a moral line, we just don’t put that in arbitrarily. We think through how that affects everyone around him, and what the long-term ramifications of that action will be.

    The perfect example of that was when Wonder Woman killed Max Lord. We thought that all the way through – we saw how that affected the relationship between Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. We saw what happens when that relationship breaks down, and how that affected the entire DC Universe, as well as how it was ultimately resolved. We saw those causes and effects all the way through. Or another case – Identity Crisis – we saw those events, the effects of those events, and how they played through the DC Universe. Every time that we try to do a major story where we feel a moral line has been crossed, there are always ramifications because of it. Things that you’re mentioning with Jason – of seeing him kill – are all potential stories for the future. Unless he doesn’t make it out of Battle for the Cowl, these are all story beats that we’d like to see play out throughout the DCU, and they’re all fodder for future storytelling.

    NRAMA: But it seems that saying it’s fodder for future storytelling seems almost to be a convenient way out, almost a hand off to some future team that’s not involved in the story or decision that saw the character cross that moral line…

    DD: The way it is is that we don’t set things up arbitrarily – I think you’re asking me what the end of Battle for the Cowl in regards to Jason and the ramifications two years from now…

    NRAMA: Not really – looking at Jason as a specific case, he’s been killing since he’s come back, and he’s been given a pass on it for the … months of comic book time since Judd’s storyarc that brought him back…

    DD: And he’s showing his true colors. He confronted Batman upon his return, he toyed with the idea of being a hero, he failed at being a hero, Bruce Wayne is no longer there, and Jason sees an opportunity where he can take what he wants and show his true colors in the process.

    NRAMA: Okay – it’s just a much longer view then – he tried to be a hero, initially, he failed, spectacularly in Countdown, and now he’s apparently failing again…

    DD: Right. And that leads to something I can never say enough – we’re in the business of periodical storytelling. We are telling serial stories with our characters – these are continuing stories and adventures, and more importantly, everything that happens is building upon things that happened before, Naturally, things that are happening right now becomes fodder for future stories, and by that I mean, not for the people who follow us, but for things that we want to act upon right now, or else we would not go to lengths to set up things that we think will have potential for future stories.[/quote]

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