Battle for the Cowl #1 Review

Creative Team
Writer and Artist: Tony Daniel
Inker: Sandu Florea
Colorist: Ian Hannin

Story – A Hostile Takeover

After Batman RIP and Final Crisis as well as the Batman and Detective issues that followed those two major storylines my expectations for Battle for the Cowl has cooled especially when I heard that Tony Daniel was going to be both writing and drawing the series. It is nothing against Daniel but I never have read any of his writing before this series. Now even though I was not blown away from Battle for the Cowl #1 I was impressed that Daniel was able to make me buy into the idea that there is much potential to the next two issues. Also it seems that with the few months he has had off since RIP really help his artwork as it has never looked better.

Now anytime I read a new mini-series I try to see if it is something that a new reader can get into since I know a lot of people who want to get into comics but they don’t know were to start. So one of the things that surprised me about this issue was that Daniel made this issue as new reader friendly as possible. There really isn’t much for a new reader to know about other than that Bruce Wayne is dead or at least missing. As long as a new reader knows that and that Nightwing is the grown up first Robin and that Tim Drake is Robin the basic idea of all of Batman’s allies coming together to defend Gotham City as the the city has gone to hell without Batman around. And if a new reader wants to be able to know what lead to Bruce Wayne’s disappearance there 3 stories all in trade paperback form that you can read:

Batman: Batman and Son
Batman: The Black Glove
Batman: R.I.P

All three should already be in local comic shops and book stores since if there is one character DC has done a great job in collecting and distributing their story it is Batman. Now even though those stories aren’t necessary to read BFTC if anyone is interested that would be the reading order before reading this issue.

Something else that Daniel was able to do well with his writing is how he wrote Dick, Tim, and Alfred’s personality shifts with Bruce’s not being around. It was interesting seeing Dick and Tim argue about Gotham needing Batman. Dick as the bigger brother in the family feels that as Nightwing along with the Network they can protect Gotham and that Batman is not a mantle and should die along with Batman, similar to how many fans feel about Batman. It continues what Tomasi was doing over in Nightwing as Dick as a character continues to move more towards being more like Bruce without realizing it. During that one page training sequence were Dick was breaking every one of the training dummies gives off some sort of deep anger Dick has as he has never been a fighter to use brute force but is more about finesse because of his acrobatic background. I will be interested to see when the real fight happens between Dick and Jason in BFTC #3 if Dick will employ more of the brute force he showed here or if he will keep his more acrobatic type fighting style.

I also thought it was cool seeing Alfred pick up more of a father role to Dick as he agrees with like Tim think it is only Dick’s self-doubt that is holding him back from becoming Batman. It will be interesting to see if with this new Batman Alfred will be able to give Dick that push he needs to pick up the mantle as he tells him that he should realize now with a gun-totting Batman needs to be stop by the true heir to Bruce’s legacy.

For Tim it has been interesting to see Daniel continue what Dixon and Nicieza have been doing with Tim continueing his evolution into a solo hero. With him taking up Squire as his “sidekick” it seems with this move along with him dressing up as Batman it is the final push to show he is ready to move on and pick up a new role as Red Robin. Tim’s evolution from the Robin character is very similar with what happened with Dick once he quit being Robin and became Nightwing. Even though he did not have a fight with Bruce he has grown into being the leader of his generation of heroes by leading the Young Justice and Teen Titans, he has left the Titans to protect Gotham and to see were he should go with his career. While not completely similar the situation seems to be calling for him to be the new Red Robin we have been hearing about. And I think it would be cool if in the Red Robin series that Squire would become a supporting character at least as Tim and Squire share a fun chemistry as partners.

Now even though I thought Daniel nailed those three characters down I was disappointed to see that Daniel did not pick up on the video wills Bruce left behind for Alfred, Dick, Tim, and Jason. Through The Outsiders Special and Robin #183 we know that Bruce left different messages for each member of the Batfamily and so far we have only seen the message Bruce left for Alfred thus far. I was hoping that we would see one of the other video messages Bruce left behind for each of the Robins since they may play a role as to why each Dick, Tim, and Jason are acting the way they are in this issue.

One of my biggest problems with this issue is that this issue was to predictable. After reading the first few pages I felt that I could tell what was going to happen in this issue and the mini-series in general. The whole issue felt like it was going from point A to point B without doing anything to add a little mystery to various plotlines going on the story like the identity of who is the gun wielding Batman, more on him in a second.

The inner monologue of Tim started to get annoying towards the end as Daniel used it to much of a crutch to tell the story throughout the issue. It kind of felt like I was reading Bendis’s New Avengers with the amount of inner monologue Daniel used in this issue. Hopefully he is able to tone it down in the next two issues.

Also I did not like that it was Black Mask who has turned up as the leader of most of Gotham’s supervillains. Even though it is within his character we just have not seen enough of the character the past few years, especially within the last two years were he has been almost non-existent in the Bat-titles like Jason Todd. I would have much rather had preferred if it was Two-Face or Penguin who have both hinted at starting a gang through the various Bat-titles over the past year. I think the most logical choice would have been Two-Face since in the last story arc in Nightwing Two-Face seemed to have planned on being at Arkham and that he had some sort of plan for Gotham now that Batman is not around.

Outside of Dick, Tim, and Alfred Daniel does not do anything to develop the rest of the characters involved with the Network. Outside of a few panels none of the Network had a big moment in this issue which is something that peeves me off to see that in order to see what Oracle, Batgirl and other major Batman allies don’t get any time to react to what is going on since the narrative of this story looks to be told from the perspective of one of the Robins each issue with this issue having Tim do the monologue and next issue will probably be Jason. Seeing what Oracle and Catwoman were thinking could have added some more weight to the story and a different perspective than just Nightwing and Robin arguing of who should be Batman.

I especially hated how Daniel portrayed Damien in this issue. I have always found him to be an annoying character but in this issue Damien did not act in any way like Morrison portrayed him. For character that has kicked Tim’s ass and also shown to have no fear to anyone but his dad I thought Damien was a little chicken as he was shaking in his boots when confronted by Killer Croc. I just can’t see Damien be scared of Killer Croc as he should have been more than happy to take on one of his father’s rogues to show he is the heir to Bruce’s thrown.

But my biggest problem with the issue was Jason all of a sudden becoming a gun wielding Batman. Even though Jason appeared for about a total of two issues in the last Robin story arc Jason last major story involvement in the Batuniverse was the One Year Later storyline over in Nightwing that involve him impersonating Nightwing. So because of that Jason as a character feels like he has become irrelevant within the Batuniverse compared to all the other characters, both hero and villain, in BFTC. It is not really Daniel’s fault since one of the DC editors should have pointed this out sooner and had Jason more involved in one of the Batman titles storylines, maybe RIP for example. But because Jason has not been involved in any of the Batman storylines his involvement in BFTC just doesn’t feel as natural.

Issue Rating
Story: 7.7/10 – Daniel was able to impress with his writing ability but the dialogue felt predictable and Tim’s inner monologue throughout the issue got annoying at times.
Art: 9/10 – Outside of a few panels Daniels artwork was even better than his art in RIP. The team of Daniel, Florea, and Hanin gave the story a big budget movie feel to this issue.
Overall: 8.35/10 – Though I was hesistent about Daniel handeling both the writing and art duties he showed that Battle for the Cowl has plenty of potential and I look forward to the next issue.