Battle for the Cowl #2 Review

The Revolution was not impressed with Battle for the Cowl #1. At this point, I am ready to dump every Batman Family title (except Morrison and Quitely’s Batman and Robin) and simply wait for the return of Bruce Wayne. I am sure that Battle for the Cowl #2 will be an uninspired and generic read with a paint-by-numbers feel to it. Maybe Daniel will prove me wrong. Let’s find out and hit this review for Battle for the Cowl #2.

Creative Team
Writer: Tony Daniel
Pencils: Tony Daniel
Inks: Sandu Florea

Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Two-Face at the docks and inspecting the ship full of his weapons that got hit by Killer Croc last issue. Two-Face thinks that the Penguin was behind it since there are no other rival mob bosses in Gotham anymore. Two-Face kills his “Intelligence Chief” for not knowing who pulled off this hit. Two-Face then orders that they make a quick and nasty strike on the Penguin.

We cut to the Penguin being told about the weapons shipment that was stolen from Two-Face. Penguin is told that Two-Face thinks that the Penguin was behind it. Penguin wonders who was behind the hit and orders that his men kill whoever stole Two-Face’s weapons. Penguin says that he cannot tolerate anything happening in Gotham without it running past him first. Penguin then says that Two-Face will probably retaliate against the Penguin so they need to go ahead and hit Two-Face first.

We zip over to Nightwing and Damien facing off with the two-gunned Batman who is presumably Jason Todd. Nightwing does not like the fact that this new Batman is killing criminals while wearing the Bat symbol. The Batman replies that Nightwing is still operating under a code of rules that got Bruce Wayne killed.

Batman then tries to make a run for it. Nightwing and Damien pursue him. The Batman thinks how Bruce Wayne’s first mistake was becoming a public figure. That the Batman was more effective as an urban legend. Bruce’s second mistake was teaming up with Gordon where Bruce was seeking validation.

The Batman thinks how Bruce took in Dick Grayson not to help Dick but to keep Bruce safe from the outer fringes of madness. Then the Batman says Bruce picked him next. (Okay, so this two gunned Batman has to be Jason Todd.) Batman thinks that he chafed under Batman’s rules and restraints. Batman says that he learned that Batman brought him under his wing to keep him from becoming Bruce’s enemy one day. Batman thinks that he never wanted to be Bruce’s enemy. That he only wanted to replace Bruce one day.

Nightwing and Batman start fighting. Suddenly, Black Canary and Huntress arrive on the scene. Batman then shoots Damien in the chest and uses the chaos to try and escape.

We cut to Black Mask’s headquarters where Black Mask is meeting with the villains that he freed from Arkham. Firefly is less than pleased with having to work for Black Mask. Firefly thinks that he simply traded one jail for another. Black Mask tells Jane Doe and Firefly that the next stage of their plans depends on them. Black Mask says that by dawn Gotham will be in flames.

We slide over to Gotham’s west side where the two-gunned Batman is stalking a couple of the Black Mask’s thugs. Batman thinks how things have changed and that villains are now bolder, smarter and deadlier than ever. That villains are afraid of nothing, least of all some guy who might just break their arm or split their lip. Batman says that a little birdie told him that these thugs work for the Black Mask.

Batman then attacks the thugs. Batman says that Batman must become real fear. Batman kills one of the Black Mask’s villains. Batman then begins shooting the arms and legs of the other thug until the thug finally answers Batman’s question of where he can find the Black Mask.

We cut to Tim in the collapsed ruins of the Gotham subway system where Tim has tracked down the base of the two-gunned Batman. Tim sees that the two-gunned Batman has created his own Batcave. Tim spits that Jason Todd is attempting to steal the mantle of the Batman. Tim then sets off a booby trap bomb that explodes. Catwoman appears on the scene and saves Tim from falling into a pit.

We slide back to the Batcave where Alfred has finished surgery on Damien. Dick beats himself up and says that he almost got Damien killed. Dick says that he let Damien down. Alfred replies that Bruce would often say that about Dick and Tim many times over the years. Dick adds “And of Jason Todd.” Alfred adds “Him, as well.”

Dick says that Jason was right. That Gotham has crumbled around Dick and that Dick has not been able to save the city. Alfred counters that Dick is just one man. Dick responds that Bruce was just one man, too. Dick says that he has tried to become Bruce before and he failed. And that Dick did not like what he had become.

Alfred says that no one can be Bruce, but someone must represent Bruce’s ideals. Justice, consequence and ironclad resolve to protect. Alfred says that there is no one else who has the wherewithal to uphold those ideals other than Dick Grayson. We get a cheesy shot of Dick standing there on a ledge with his shirt off and a bat in the air behind him.

We shift to the Gotham Police Headquarters where Commissioner Gordon is meeting with District Attorney Hampton. Gordon shows Hampton pictures from the hit on Two-Face’s weapons shipment. Gordon says that Killer Croc was behind the hit. Gordon asserts that Penguin orchestrated the break out of the villains from Arkham Asylum.

Hampton is unimpressed with the meager evidence Gordon has assembled. Hampton tells Gordon that he is going to need more evidence than this in order to ask the judge for a wiretap on Penguin or anyone else that Gordon suspects. We cut to Jane Doe and Firefly killing a police officer. Jane Doe then slices off the face of the cop and wears it like a mask.

We then see Firefly setting off a big bomb at the police headquarters. We cut back to Gordon’s office where Jane Doe enters the room wearing the dead cop’s face. Jane says that Two-Face would like to extend the proverbial olive branch. Jane shoots Hampton. Jane then tells Gordon that Two-Face really likes Gordon, but that next time tough love will turn into Teflon love. Jane shoots Gordon in the chest where he is wearing his bullet proof vest.

We shift to outside the building and see Black Mask standing on the ledge of a building as fires consume several buildings in Gotham.

We then cut to the Batcave where we see an apparently naked Dick Grayson surrounded by Bats. (Yeah, this is just weird.) Dick walks over to the cases holding the various Batman suits. Dick sees the not from Tim that says “Gone hunting.” (You know, that reminds me of a scene from David Lynch’s Wild at Heart. One of the characters gets a note from another character that says “Gone buffalo hunting.”) Dick gets a crazy pissed look in his eyes.

We slide back to Jason’s Batcave with Tim thanking Catwoman for her help. Tim shows Catwoman where Jason has one of the Black Mask’s thugs stripped naked and chained to a wall. Tim says that the thug has been repeatedly tortured. (Really? Was it necessary for the thug to be stripped naked except for his ski mask? This is just gross and creepy in a bad way.)

Suddenly, the two-gunned Batman appears on the scene and attacks our heroes. Catwoman is quickly knocked out. Tim and the two-gunned Batman then engage in a long fight. During the fight, the two gunned Batman tells Tim to join him and be his Robin. (Uh, I don’t think I would want to be a Robin to a Batman who keeps naked men beaten and shackled to his wall in his Bat-cave. That might be a sign of things to come.)

The two-gunned Batman comments how ridiculous Tim looks in the Batman costume. Tim then grabs a crowbar from the ground. (Why would there be a random crowbar lying on the floor of a cave? Oh, I forgot, convenient imagery.) Tim starts beating the two-gunned Batman with the crowbar. And Tim beats him bloody with the crowbar. (Yeah, this is not working for me.)

The two gunned Batman starts laughing. We then see that the two gunned Batman has stabbed Tim in the chest with a Batarang. Tim falls to the ground. The two gunned Batman gets up and walks off saying “Just one more to go.” End of issue.

Commentary

The Good: Battle for the Cowl #2 was an incredibly dull read. However, there were a couple of positive aspects to this issue. I thought Daniel made a compelling argument in supporting the two-gunned Batman’s philosophy on fighting crime. Bruce’s manner of fighting crime is probably antiquated and highly ineffective given criminals in modern day America.

To be sure, the two-gunned Batman’s approach is far more practical and successful. There is no doubt that if Batman had killed his various rogues long ago then there would have been far fewer deaths of innocent people in Gotham.

I also liked the fact that Daniel has the two-gunned Batman bring up the fact that Bruce as the Batman actually made Gotham a more dangerous place. That by operating in the public eye, the Batman simply attracted more crazy and insane villains to Gotham who were looking to make their name by killing the Batman. I agree that Batman is much more effective operating as an urban legend than as a known public super hero.

I liked how Daniel had the two-gunned Batman dissect Bruce’s reasoning for working with Commissioner Gordon. This move never made Batman more efficient, but it certainly did give him validation and more credibility as a legitimate part of Gotham’s crime fighting force. The two-gunned Batman’s view on why Bruce brought in Dick as Robin was quite interesting. I have to agree that it seems that Bruce making Dick Robin was more for Bruce’s benefit than for Dick’s benefit. Dick has always been Bruce’s anchor to sanity and reality.

And if the two-gunned Batman is indeed Jason Todd, then it also makes sense for Bruce’s motivation for making Jason the second Robin was to make sure that Jason did not end up a villain. I like that Daniel is making the effort to plant the seeds for Todd’s differing views early on in his career as Robin. There are many reasons that a hero would take on a protégé. Sometimes it is because they are like Tim and have the potential to be a great hero. Other times it is because they are like Jason and if left to their own devices then they have the potential to become great villains.

I may not be impressed with Daniel the writer, but I sure am amazed by Daniel the artist. The artwork in Battle for the Cowl #2 is fantastic. This is a wonderful looking issue. Daniel’s artwork the clear strength of this title and is the only thing that makes Battle for the Cowl #2 readable.

The Bad: Battle for the Cowl #2 is the poster child for everything that is wrong with editorial mandated and controlled stories. Battle for the Cowl #2 lacks a soul. This story lacks any creativity and is an incredibly predictable read. The reader knows exactly what is going to happen next at every single step of this story. Battle for the Cowl #2 offers the reader a pretty cheesy story that is full of ham handed writing and incredibly forced and artificial “drama.”

The dialogue in this issue is average at best. None of the characters are well developed and they all employ rather generic voices. Daniel gave us possibly the most uninteresting renditions of Dick, Tim and Jason in this issue. There is also a complete lack of chemistry between the characters. All the characters move mechanically through the scenes.

The generic mob war plotline between Penguin, Two-Face and Black Mask continues to do absolutely nothing for me. This is such a standard issue plotline that we have seen many times before. The Black Mask’s big plans to have Gotham in flames and the attack on Hampton and Gordon failed to increase my interest in this plotline.

I was not thrilled with Daniel having Tim use a crowbar to viciously beat the two-gunned Batman. It just did not seem consistent with Tim’s personality and his commitment to Bruce’s ideals. I don’t mind Tim wanting to kick Jason’s ass, but this is not the manner in which I believe Tim would go about it.

There are two reasons for the appearance of the crowbar.  One is that Daniel wanted to force an homage to the Joker beating Jason with a crowbar into this issue.  The second reason is that it is a hint that the two-gunned Batman has beaten Jason to death with the crowbar and that is why we have not seen Jason.  I just cannot believe that DC would junk Jason’s character in an off-panel and casual manner.

Dick’s “epiphany” that he must become Batman was predictable and ordinary. It felt so mechanical. The logic for Dick finally accepting his destiny as the Batman was dull and simple. The reader has been waiting for this moment before Battle for the Cowl even began. And when it happened, it was done in such a cheesy and uneventful manner that the reader merely shrugged their shoulder and turned the page.

And it is obvious that Dick’s newfound guilt over “letting down” Damian will clear the way for Dick wanting Damien to be the new Robin to his Batman. Everything is sliding together in such a predictable and pedestrian fashion. We have been down this road before during the Prodigal story arc and I have zero interest in seeing Dick once again try and assume the mantle of the Batman.

My biggest disappointment with Battle for the Cowl #2 was the poor handling of Jason Todd’s character. I suppose that the two-gunned Batman could actually be Jean-Paul Valley Jr. But, I am fairly confident that the two-gunned Batman is indeed Jason Todd. It would be odd to have a “Battle for the Cowl” and not have Jason Todd be a part of the mix.

So, if the two-gunned Batman is Jason Todd, then I am less than impressed with the continued direction of Todd’s character. I liked Todd’s return to the DCU when Winick was writing Batman. I thought that Todd was an interesting character that had so much potential. The concept of the Batman Family having a black sheep in the family was a great idea. And it made sense that Batman would have at least one rebellious “son” out of his three Robins.

However, Daniel reduces Todd to nothing more than a one-dimensional and generic psycho. Having Todd shoot Damien in the chest and then “kill” Tim at the end of this issue was way too much. Yes, there should be tension, rivalry and even bad blood between Jason and Bruce’s other three sons. But, a willingness on Jason’s part to kill either Dick, Tim or Damien? No. That is going way too far.

Todd is still a “hero” who has a strong desire to end crime. Todd still wants to carry out Batman’s war on crime. Todd simply has a radically different view on how to carry out the war on crime compared to Dick and Tim. Having Jason being nothing more than a rabid dog that is willing to kill Dick, Tim and Damien de-evolves his character into a standard issue villainous psycho.

There should be more to Todd’s character than that. Personally, I like that Todd is willing to fight with his “brothers” but in the end they are still family and he would never actually kill one of them.

Of course, if Daniel swerves us in the next issue and reveals that the two-gunned Batman is not Jason Todd then my opinion of this story will change.

The hook ending to Battle for the Cowl #2 did nothing for me. We all know that Tim is not dead. If Damien can survive taking several bullets to his chest at almost point blank range then Tim can survive being stabbed in the chest by a batarang.

Overall: Battle for the Cowl #2 was a terrible mechanical and technically unimpressive read. This issue offered the reader weak plotting, wooden dialogue, a lack of character work and a story that is relatively generic and predictable. Several plotlines in this title are nothing more than regurgitated plotlines from earlier Batman story arcs. This is a lackluster event that drains me of hope for the Batman Family titles while Bruce Wayne is missing.

Having said that, Battle for the Cowl #2 does offer some quality action and plenty of excellent artwork. And that might be enough to entertain some readers. I would only recommend Battle for the Cowl #2 to hardcore Batman fans. For everyone else, this title is simply not worth the cover price.

12 Comments

  1. Some good points, but I think I liked this issue more than you did. Sometimes I like a predictable issue, just for theatricality, and the writing anf art definitely provide for that. I would have given it a 5.5 personally, but understand your viewpoint.

    Also, I agree that the crowbar was convenient, but I think it’s a reference to when Jason Todd was beaten by the Joker with a crowbar. Just a thought.

  2. I agree that if the gun-toting Batman IS Jason Todd, then he has been written horribly. While Jason, as written previously, has had no problem killing, nothing in his character suggests shooting a child in the chest, or even wanting to murder Tim in cold blood.

    The crowbar in that scene already appears to have blood on it before Tim picks it up, which, I think could be a well-placed metaphor to hint that the gun-toting Batman (I’ve been predicting a returned-JPV for a while now) has already beaten Jason Todd, which is why Jason hasn’t appeared in the book to this point. This would fit nicely with his comment at the end of the book, that there is only one Robin/son left, in Dick.

    If the ending of this book is the obvious one, that gun-Batman is Jason Todd, this was a poorly written, awful series. If it’s a swerve, and Jason isn’t that version of Batman, I’m going to be immeasurably happier with the outcome.

  3. I think we’re being set-up: Two-Gun Batman isn’t Todd. Could be Valley, especially with what he says about Bruce taking him under his wing so he wouldn’t end up being Bruce’s enemy, and that all he ever wanted to do was replace Bruce.

  4. So is there a chance that the thug chained up with the ski mask was Jason Todd? It seemed like the odds that Jason was under the cowl went down when Dick called him on it so soon.

    If this is Jason taking out Robins, maybe he thinks he knows their suits well enough to severely injure them while not killing them. Maybe. But this still seems like it is too far for Jason to go.

    Of course, Tim did give him a cheap shot in the balls a year or so back, so that’s probably been eating at Jason for a while…and haven’t a lot of us been wanting to see this happen to Damien almost since he appeared? (Well, this kid doesn’t act much like Damien, but that’s what they’re calling him.)

  5. I’m with Anonymous. I mean, the other Anonymous. The first person I thought of when I read Evil Batman’s lines was, “This guy is Jean-Paul Valley.”

    And since JPV’s body is never recovered in the final issue of his series, it seems like something of a lock – though having not followed the series in general, I’m not sure what his state was prior to that “death” (but then, shoot, if Batgirl can turn up leading assassins…).

    I didn’t mind the Dick/Alfred discussion. It was a scene that had to be done, so I went along with it. The “Gotham in flames because of a gang war” storyline, though, complete with destruction of Arkham… Dear Heaven, how I wish we would never see it again.

    The art was swell. My only complaint is that Tim’s smaller stature doesn’t come across. Look at the page of DarkBats and Tim fighting; Time almost looks his size.

  6. I don’t buy either. I think the two-gun Batman is someone completely different than either Valley or Todd.

  7. I hate it especially given that DC said they would write a consistent Jason Todd for years to come… If this is how they portray him, they have severely mislead others on his character. Deep down, while sick and twisted, Jason is a good guy.

    Like everyone else here seems to agree, his moral may be questionable, but he believes in fighting for good.

    I’ll be damn pissed if DC decide Jason Todd to be the nemesis of Dick as the gun-toting batman.

    p.s: know how i can protest to DC, if it is indeed him?

  8. a part of me thinks that the joker is the two gun batman. There were a few hints, that point me in that direction. First, Joker hasn’t been seen in this issue, and I can’t remember if he was in the first. The crowbar, and there is a time where he is being beaten by Tim where he is laughing. Laughing while being beaten is typical joker. I called it and lets see if Im correct!

  9. @2nd to last Anonymous: I’m with you. I’ve been screaming for Jason’s redemption story every since OYL interrupted Winick’s run on Batman. I know he’s not against killing and therefore can’t be completely redeemed, but I want him to at least have a heart-to-heart with Bruce.

    @last Anonymous: I posed the same thing about the Joker to Nick (2nd post here) yesterday. Cited the same reasons. He called me an idiot. Screw him, though. When GunBatman turns out to be the Joker, we’ll have the last laugh. PUUUUUN!

    @Rokk Krinn: I’m the webmaster of sorts for BatmanObviously. Thanks for putting us in your blogroll. If you send us a banner (250×100), we’ll link to you in our sidebar. Just use the contact link on our site. 😉

  10. No way it’s the Joker. It’s an interesting idea, but the physique is entirely wrong, as is the M.O.

  11. my idea. jason todd has somehow beaten black mask and taken over his persona and he’s tricking the villains to do things that seam villainous but are actually for the greater good. thus proving that he can manipulate people as well as batman can and he becomes the interim batman until bruce is back. Red Robin is going to be a new series that starts after this is over, so that could screw with my idea.

  12. I think that the gun-toting Batman is the Hush all because his guns

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