The Revolution has low expectations for Battle for the Cowl #1. This seems to be an editorial dictated story that is hardly covering new territory. And on top of it DiDio selected an artist with not the most impressive writing resume to handle the writing duties. Having said that, maybe Tony Daniel will surprise me with a highly entertaining read. I certainly hope so. Let’s go ahead and do this review for Battle for the Cowl #1.
Writer: Tony Daniel
Pencils: Tony Daniel
Inks: Sandu Florea
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Robin and Squire on patrol in Gotham City. Robin thinks how Gotham has descended into chaos since the Batman’s death. That thugs and criminals have gotten out of control. Therefore, Nightwing decided to call in for some back-up. It was Robin who suggesting Knight and Squire. Robin states that he does not have a crush on Squire. That the two of them just work incredibly well together. Robin says that it is as if they can read each other’s thoughts.
We see Robin and Squire chasing some criminals into an abandoned building. Robin thinks how Batman always taught him that you have to have a game plan for everything. Even death. And with great preparation and a little luck, you can avoid death. Robin and Squire catch up to the criminals and find them knocked out and tied together. There is a note pinned on the criminals that says “I am Batman.”
We cut to Robin and Squire racing through Gotham on Robin’s bike. Robin thinks how Nightwing and Batgirl assembled “The Network.” The Network is a group of their most trusted allies to help fill in the hole that the Batman’s death has left behind. That with Batman’s death, Gotham has collapsed as turf wars have broken out between the Penguin and Two-Face along with other gang members as well.
We see Nightwing, Knight, Wildcat, Black Canary and Batwoman hard at work dealing with all the crime. We see some criminals that have been hung with signs posted on them that say “Rapist” and “Killer.”
Robin thinks how the people of Gotham are looking for Batman. Or at least a Batman. We see Robin and Squire arrive on the scene where Nightwing and Knight are battling some thugs. Our heroes combine to defeat the criminals. Robin thinks how Dick has changed since Batman’s death. That Dick is now unapproachable and has cut himself off from all emotions.
We cut to several buses full of inmates from Arkham Asylum heading toward Blackgate Prison. Several of the prison guards turn out to be thugs working for the Black Mask and they stop the buses. Then, the Black Mask and an army of his thugs appear before the buses.
The buses are emptied and Black Mask tells the assembled villains that they owe the Black Mask for their freedom. Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Chameleon and Croc scoff at the notion of following the Black Mask’s orders. The villains say that they work on their own and that they follow no one.
One of the villains lunges at Black Mask. The villain suddenly collapses to the ground as acid spills forth from inside of him and eats away his face and kills him. The Black Mask reveals that he had his men infiltrate Arkham Asylum a while back. And that the Black Mask had chemical implants placed in the villains’ sedatives. That the implants are radio activated and will kill them instantly.
We cut to the Gotham City Police Department. Commissioner Gordon is outside of the building. There is a mob of people outside the police department calling for Gordon’s firing due to the spike in crime. The Riddler asks Gordon if it is true that the Batman is dead. Suddenly, a cop points to the sky. We see that the Bat-Signal has been turned on and the words “RIP” are written inside of the Batman symbol.
We shift to the Batcave with Nightwing staring at a case with one of Batman’s suits in it. Robin walks up and says that the Batman costume does not look happy to be in the case. Nightwing responds that maybe it is not happy because they have let Gotham go to hell. Robin counters with the fact that one of them has to be Batman. Nightwing disagrees and says that they have already gone over this.
Robin then says that someone has already started acting as Batman. Robin says that the new Batman is using batarangs that Bruce designed. Robin says that this person playing Batman is no ordinary citizen.
We slide over to the new Batman kicking ass on some thugs. Robin narrates how the new Batman has a brutal style of fighting and is an expert marksman. The criminals who the new Batman has busted have all sworn that it was the Batman. And the criminals all say that the Batman moved so fast that they could barely see him.
Robin thinks that the new Batman wants to be caught or else he would not keep leaving behind notes and clues. Robin says that there can be only one Batman and that this person impersonating the Batman is not the real Batman. We then see Robin taking the Batman costume out of the case in the Bat-cave.
We cut to Dick sparring with a bunch of dummies. Robin narrates that maybe he is not the Batman, either. But, that someone must be the Batman. Robin narrates that Dick does not want to assume the mantle of the Batman. And Dick believes that no one should take Bruce’s place. Robin continues that Batman is more than a crime fighter. That Batman is a guardian angel. And that Gotham needs that back. At any cost. Including even Dick’s friendship.
Alfred enters the scene and picks up a staff and begins to spar with Dick. Alfred mentions the legacy of the Batman. Dick responds that Bruce is gone. End of discussion. Alfred responds that Bruce is gone. But that does not mean that the Batman is gone. Dick says that he has already been over this several times with Tim.
Oracle then contacts Dick and tells him that Arkham has been blown up. We cut to Nightwing meeting Commissioner Gordon over at Arkham Asylum’s ruins. On the roof of Arkham is the Bat-Signal with the “RIP” Batman logo. Gordon asks Nightwing how he is holding up. Nightwing snaps for them to stick to the matter at hand. Gordon wonders how so many villains could disappear without a trace. Gordon says it is unbelievable that these villains could have been herded like cattle.
Nightwing responds that whoever freed the villains gave them no choice but to follow him. We cut to five hundred feet below Gotham. We see the villains all getting into their costumes. Black Mask tells them under his guidance each of the villains will reap the rewards that life has cheated them so far. Black Mask tells them that they will start tonight.
We cut to Catwoman at Crime Alley beating up some thugs. Catwoman sees a person in a Batman costume jumping from rooftop to rooftop. Robin narrates how there are too many holes for the Network to plug and that it is only a matter of time before it all falls like a house of cards. Tim narrates that Dick knows this as well.
We then see Tim in the Batman costume going from rooftop to rooftop. Tim says that Gotham will not collapse on his watch. Not on Batman’s watch. Tim thinks that first he has to confront and expose this wannabe Batman. Tim tracks the wannabe Batman to a certain location. Tim enters an abandoned facility and says “Gotcha.”
We cut to the Gotham docks where the Black Mask, Poison Ivy and another villain are stealing a huge shipment of weapons from a freightliner that belonged to Two-Face. Black Mask thinks how Penguin and Two-Face must realize that the Black Mask is the real threat.
We shift to Damien taking his girlfriend out for a joy ride in the Batmobile. Oracle contacts Damien and says that she has tracked him down and that she is now taking over the controls of the Batmobile. Oracle says that she is directing Damien over to the docks where an unscheduled freightliner just docked.
Oracle says that she sees the girl with Damien and that the girl has to go. Oracle activates the ejection seat and the girl goes flying into the air and parachutes back to the ground.
Suddenly, Croc appears on the scene and rams the side of the Batmobile. The Batmobile rolls over several times and crashes into a lake.
We cut to Oracle’s headquarters where Huntress and Lady Blackhawk are hanging out. Nightwing then radios Oracle and tells her that he is close to Damien and that he will go rescue the little brat. We shift to Damien getting out of the Batmobile and wading his way through the small lake. Suddenly, Croc and Poison Ivy appear on the scene. Croc tosses Damien his girlfriend’s bloody shoe and comments how the girl was a tasty appetizer.
Damien starts acting like a total wuss and begs for the villains to let him walk away and that he won’t tell anyone that he saw them. Croc yells “Sushi time!” and lunges at Damien. Suddenly, Nightwing swoops in on his glider and grabs Damien and the two fly off into the air. Damien stammers “Uh, Dick…what happened back there…” Dick replies “Stays back there? We’ll see.”
Suddenly, Nightwing’s glider explodes and Dick and Damien crash into a building. Damien drags a half unconscious Nightwing to his feet. Another explosion sends Dick and Damien flying across the room. We see an army of Black Mask’s thugs surround Nightwing and Damien. The thugs say that with the Batman dead that the Black Mask has declared it open season on Gotham’s vigilantes.
Out of nowhere We see bullets flying through the air and kill several of the thugs. The new Batman then busts onto the scene with his two heaters blazing. The new Batman states “The Black Mask didn’t get the memo. I AM BATMAN.”
The Good: Battle for the Cowl #1 was an average read. Daniel gives us a yeoman’s effort with the writing and delivered an issue that was certainly better than I expected. This was a nicely paced issue. Daniel keeps the story moving briskly as there is never a dull or slow moment. The story is nice and lean as Daniel does not waste much panel space with fluff. Battle for the Cowl #1 certainly serves up a heaping amount of action. Daniel makes sure that the reader does not go more than a couple of pages without some action.
The pacing and the action scenes help to convey the chaotic state of Gotham in the wake of Batman’s “death.” Daniel creates a nice backdrop of violence and bedlam for this event. This helps to establish the proper mood for the story and help to pull the reader into the story. Daniel delivers some serviceable dialogue. It is nothing special, but it gets the job done in a workman-like fashion.
Daniel did a great job with the character work on Tim and Dick in this issue. Daniel’s take on Tim was spot on and quite interesting. Tim’s inner narration was well crafted and was my favorite aspect of this issue. Daniel demonstrates a fine feel for Tim’s personality. I liked that Daniel has Tim talk about all the lessons he learned from Bruce and how Tim applies that in his battle against the criminals in this issue. This effectively conveys how even in his absence that Bruce still has a massive impact on his two “sons.”
I also enjoyed the chemistry between Squire and Robin. I liked how Tim makes a point of saying that he does not have a crush on Squire. I like these two characters together and would not mind seeing them team-up more in the future.
I enjoyed how Daniel has Dick’s personality morph into something more detached and serious like Bruce was so much of the time. It is completely understandable that Dick would experience a shift in his personality in the wake of Bruce’s death. Sons often reflect back on themselves and how they live their lives once their fathers die.
And that leads me to my next point of how well Daniel handled how Dick and Tim react to Bruce’s “death.” Clearly, Dick is feeling much more pressure and responsibility being placed on his shoulders than what Tim is feeling. And that is perfectly understandable. Dick is the oldest son and, therefore, is the first in line to assume the father’s throne.
It makes sense that Dick would feel the responsibility of assuming Bruce’s position as the patriarch of the Bat-family and be the one who takes the lead in the effort to deal with the chaos in Gotham. Dick’s personality morphing into one that is more like Bruce’s personality is a natural result of a son trying to become his father.
Dick’s refusal to view anyone other than Bruce as the Batman and his refusal to let anyone else wear the Batman costume is Dick’s way of honoring his father. Dick has been around Bruce longer than anyone else outside of Alfred. And it makes sense that Dick would have a hard time allowing anyone to assume the mantle of the Batman.
Tim, on the other hand, acts like what you would expect from the younger son. Tim does not heap the pressure on his shoulders and allows Dick to assume the role as the leader of the Network. While Tim does subordinate himself to Dick, Tim still views the Batman as an entity that must live on past Bruce’s death. Tim is able to separate the Batman entity from Bruce Wayne. Tim can see that the Batman is more of an ideal than a person.
I dig the concept of the Network and I certainly like the collection of characters that Daniel has assembled to fill out the ranks of the Network. Each character has played a role in Bruce’s career as the Batman. I also like that Daniel actually uses one of Morrison’s characters in Damien. Man, Morrison must be stunned that a writer coming after him actually used something that he created. I also like that Daniel builds off of Morrison’s previous story arc with the Club of Heroes and brings Knight and Squire into the mix with this issue.
It was cool to see Tim wearing the Batman costume. Since Dick has been the automatic consensus choice to be the new Batman, it was a nice little curve to see Tim be the first person to put on the Batman costume. Of course, I am sure that this is only a temporary arrangement and that, after much internal struggle, Dick will eventually assume the mantle of the Batman.
I do have one technical question with Tim wearing the Batman costume. It seems that Tim takes the costume out of the case which would infer that it is one of Bruce’s costumes. Tim is supposed to be around 16 and have more of a gymnast’s build, right? On the other hand, Bruce is more of a MMA fighter in his mid thirties with a big beefy build. And Bruce is certainly taller than Tim. Given those obvious physical differences, how would Tim ever be able to wear Bruce’s Batman costume?
Daniel ends Battle for the Cowl #1 with an exciting and action packed hook ending with Damien and Dick under attack and then the sudden appearance of the new gun toting Batman. I figure that two possible choices for this Batman would be Hush, since he is carrying two guns just like Hush always does, or Jason Todd, since he has the same violent approach to stopping crime that Todd espouses. Personally, I hope it is Jason Todd. I am not too sure why Hush would be so maniacally intolerant of crime and so passionate about being the new Batman.
Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea combine to deliver some excellent artwork. Daniel can dish out dramatic and emotional scenes with the same flair as his dynamic action scenes. Battle for the Cowl #1 is certainly a nice issue to look at.
The Bad: Battle for the Cowl #1 had some average plotting. The flow of the issue was a bit choppy at times as it seems that Daniel tried to rush the set-up for this story due to the fact that he only has three issues to work with. The story itself is a bit unoriginal as it revolves more around the gimmick of who is the new Batman and which member of the Network will assume the mantle of the Batman rather than delivering a compelling and unique story. Battle for the Cowl #1 also suffers from the fact that it feels like a recycled mixture of “Knightfall” and “No Man’s Land.”
I understand that by having Gotham in a complete state of chaos and seemingly overrun with crime that Daniel was trying to emphasize the fact that Batman was more than just a crime-fighter. That the Batman was more than a person. That he was a symbol. A spirit. That the Batman’s mere existence created the aura of boogeyman for criminals that made criminals hesitant to get out of line. The urban legend of the Batman was just as much of a deterrent as the Batman himself.
Having said all of that, the Network offers Gotham the combined abilities of Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, Black Canary, Wildcat, Catwoman, Huntress, Batwoman, Oracle, Lady Blackhawk, Damien, Knight and Squire. I know the Batman is more than human in the DCU and that his mere existence is enough to chill the hearts of criminals. But, I had a hard time believing that with those 13 heroes filling in for just one man in the Batman that crime in Gotham would get so bad that the city would be on the verge of absolute anarchy.
Battle for the Cowl #1 gives the reader the return of the Black Mask. I was never really much of a fan of the Black Mask and got burned out on his character a while back during “The Cult” storyline. So, personally, I am not all that thrilled that the Black Mask is back and that we are going to get yet another battle for control of Gotham’s turf between the various mob leaders.
Also, the Black Mask assembling his army of super villains through threat of death did little to interest me. Seeing the Black Mask tell the villains how they have always been disrespected and labeled psychopaths for their entire lives and that the Black Mask can give them everything that they have always wanted was an extremely unoriginal theme. Yay, another large band of villains who do not like each other but are banded together in order to finally achieve the respect and success that has long been denied them. It seems that we have gotten this tired concept on so many different titles already.
Daniel’s take on Damien was a total miss for me and I found it inconsistent with how Morrison wrote Damien’s character. Yeah, Damien is an annoying brat, but he has always been ultra cocky and confident. And Damien totally kicked Tim’s ass. I just cannot believe that Damien would act like such a cowardly wuss in the face of Croc and Poison Ivy. I am not saying that Damien could have beaten the two villains. However, Damien has never been short on confidence in any issue that he has appeared in before this one.
Overall: Battle for the Cowl #1 was better than I was expecting. And for a largely recycled and editorial dictated story it is not that bad. If you love all things Batman and dig the extended Batman family then you will certainly enjoy Battle for the Cowl #1. This issue also has plenty of action and a good enough story that it should appeal to readers who desire just a bit of fun escapism and some quality action. However, if you are looking for a comic that is offering something new and different then you will probably be bored and unimpressed with Battle for the Cowl #1.