Battle for the Cowl #1

Battle for the Cowl #1Well, the next big Batman event is upon us.  Following the events of RIP and Final Crisis, things have gone downhill sharply in Gotham.   Word of the Batman’s demise has spread and the gangs, both big and small, have declared open season.

Struggling to keep a handle on things, everyone is looking to Nightwing for leadership in the Bat-family.   Nightwing and co have put together a team they’re calling the Network, consisting of Bat-family members and a few others and are trying to combat the spiralling threat to Gotham, but without fear of the Bat to keep them in line, the gangs are running riot.   Things aren’t then helped when Black Mask turns up, and frees all of Gotham’s inmates, blowing up the Asylum, and forming them into his new gang via means of poison capsules injected into them.  Whether this is a new Black Mask, or the original back from the dead though, remains to be seen.

Meanwhile a new Batman appears to be operating in Gotham.  No one in the Network has spotted him yet, but his calling cards keep turning up.

This is a pretty good first issue, marred by a couple of niggles.   The setup and plot is fairly action packed, although the premise of Gotham going to pot without Batman seems a little familiar, as does the mass-escape from Arkham, which dilutes those events slightly.

More effective are the scenes showing Nightwing and Robin struggling to cope with what has to be done.  Robin is pushing Nightwing to assume the mantle of Batman, but Nightwing is adamant that Batman died with Bruce.  Of course, the fact that Nightwing’s so against assuming the role stands out to me as a marker that he will indeed by Batman by the end of this series.  Something I’m quite looking forward to, and I suspect DC would struggle to sell anyone other than Dick or Tim in the role.  

One area that stood out slightly was when they’re discussing the imposter Batman running around.  Tim notes that he’s obviously highly trained, and is also using batarangs and bat-ropes of Bruce’s design.  However the name Jason Todd is never once mentioned by either Dick or Tim.   It seems pretty obvious that that’s who it’ll be, so as an attempt to play out a mystery, it doesn’t quite work.   At the very least having Dick and Tim acknowledge Jason as the most likely candidate, but keeping their options open would’ve scanned better.

A big thing that didn’t work for me, was the scene with Damian.   Now, admittedly I’ve only read the Batman and Son trade, so if he turned up after that, I didn’t really see it.  But while he was bratty in that series, he was also supremely self-confident, arrogant and fearless.   Here he’s positively terrified when faced by Ivy and Killer Croc, up until Dick saves him.   This just stood out as a really bad bit of characterisation compared to what I know of the character.   Given his interactions with Dick though, I do think we could be seeing them as the new Batman and Robin (with Tim becoming Red Robin?).

As a really minor niggle, would someone please point out to Tony Daniel that Huntress stopped wearing that costume a couple of years ago?  It keeps annoying me to see her drawn in it, as her new costume is a much more practical variant, and the midriff-exposing section of that costume always struck me as a bit daft-looking.

Niggles out of the way, this was still a good read.  I really liked seeing Tim take the initiative, and don one of Bruce’s spare Batsuits for himself.   We also get to see him using his detective skills, as he’s the one who’s working to identify and trackdown the imposter Batman.  Alfred’s talk to Nightwing was good to see, and its fun watching the entire Bat-family working together.

However, the real star of this mini-series is without a doubt the art.  Tony Daniel’s art really is on top form here, and the final reveal of the gun-toting Batman was brilliantly realised.  

All in all, some niggles, but I enjoyed this first issue.  While I’ll be skipping most of the tie-ins and one shots, I can see myself picking up The Network based on this (alongside Oracle: The Cure, which I’m partly dreading).  I’m definitely looking forward to parts 2 & 3 of this.

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