COWL #1 – Friday Flash Review
Shadowhawk and Bane of Kings take a look at Image’s latest title, from Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel.
“Not quite up to Kyle’s usual standards but interesting nonetheless, although the art isn’t really to my liking.” ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields
“An original Take on the superhero genre that doesn’t disappoint – Higgins and Siegel combine to create a great issue with some brilliant artwork.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
When Image announced a while back that Kyle Higgins would be writing a superhero book for them, I got really excited. I’ve enjoyed Kyle’s work for DC’s New 52, and he is easily one of my favourite writers in the industry. So when COWL #1 was released on Wednesday, it was one of the first comics I bought and precisely for the reason that it was written by Kyle. And his work doesn’t exactly disappoint although this first issue is quite long and there are lots of things happening so the plot gets a bit muddled every few pages. Not to mention that the artwork by Rod Reis isn’t exactly to my liking either since it is a bit too stylised and distinct.
The story of COWL appears to be about a bunch of superheroes in 1960s Chicago who have sort of formed a league of their own, under contract with the Chicago Police Department and the story in the first issue is about them hunting a rogue superhero agent in the city and the fallout from that as they realise in the end that this villain was the last in a long line of such villains and thus the future of COWL as an organisation is now in doubt because of that.
Kyle and Alec Siegel write a very fast-paced story but given how many characters are introduced right off the bat, things get confusing eventually, especially in the middle pages, and it isn’t easy to follow along with what is happening. The fact that there are so many characters here, different characters and superheroes with different sort of powers, however is a good thing and in that respect Kyle manages to keep things fresh and interesting. I just wish that the story was tighter and more focused so that it was generally easier to read. Still it isn’t bad per se and I did kind of have fun with it.
Rod Reis, who has done a lot of work for DC in recent years, is the artist on hand for this series with this debut issue and he is joined by letterer Troy Peteri. Given that the story is set in ’60s Chicago, there is this whole noir vibe running through the artwork and while I liked it to a degree, it also made things confusing since the artwork is so stylised and often a bit indistinct. Rod’s characterwork is fairly good but there is often the effect where the characters kind of bleed off into the background scenes and they also lack proper inked definition that sets them apart.
So, while this was a fairly decent issue writing-wise, it wasn’t so good in the art department. But, I’m willing to give this another chance and see what this team puts out next month. Should be interesting!
Bane of Kings:
C.O.W.L is a brand new series by Kyle Higgins, former Nightwing author – and something that I’ve been looking forward to reading ever since it was announced, and based on the strength of this first issue I can easily see it joining the likes of Manifest Destiny, Lazarus and Black Science as some of the more recently launched Image titles that are essentially must read books, because like most writers when they’re working on creator-owned books, they really bring their A-Game to the series, and if this first issue is anything to go by then this is a book really worth sticking with for the long haul.
Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel are both working on the narrative for this book and it’s a good read – books featuring new superheroes are always fun to read, because unlike the books from DC and Marvel, anything can happen and nobody is safe – they don’t have that decades of continuity to adhere to as well as a fanbase that will lash out if a character is handled poorly. C.O.W.L. manages to establish a strong cast, and we get superheroes like The Grey Raven and Blaze in show here as the book follows the journey of the world’s first superhero Union – not quite the Justice League, but more of a superhero police force. It’s an interesting hook for a storyline that Higgins and Siegel manage to deliver very well.
Artistic wise, the book is handled by Rod Reis, and it looks amazing. Every panel is pulled off with stunning detail and it’s already one of the better looking titles on shelves right now – and the fact that he’s handling both pencils and colours make this a great success, with the atmospheric setting really on display here – this is a book that I can see myself reading more of for the artwork alone.
With a new twist to the standard superhero formula, C.O.W.L has managed to breath fresh life into the genre with a great period backdrop that works. It once again proves that Image is the publisher to beat right now in terms of storytelling – with a near 100% hit record from their recent debuts. This book debuted this Wednesday so if you want to get on board this series then there couldn’t be a more perfect time to do so, because if future issues are anything like this then I am going to be around for more no questions asked – I’ve loved Kyle Higgins’ work on Nightwing and he doesn’t disappoint here, with the amazing talent of Siegel and Reis combining to create a breathtaking read. Exceptional stuff.