Friday, March 13, 2009

The Battle for the Cowl #1 Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

Chad Nevett and I couldn't resist talking about "Batman: Battle for the Cowl" this week, given our strong love for Morrison's "Batman" and our strong non-love for Tony Daniel's art. With Daniel on both art and script, how could this comic not be a winner?

Well, you can read Part 1 of our discussion at Chad's blog, and find out why we didn't like the issue very much.
Then come back here and read the rest of our chat, which will probably contain spoilers if that matters to you:

Tim Callahan:
What I have a problem with is the details of the writing. I have a problem with how Robin's monologue isn't recognizably Robin's without the little "R" insignia to identify it. Tim Drake's voice should be strong enough not to need that, but even if they decide to go with the labelled caption box, at least use it well. It's used overlapping a Catwoman scene at first, and then it's like, "wait, where's Robin? Oh, I guess he's in that Batman costume all of a sudden?"

And though I mentioned that I like the Black Mask as a Batman villain, he's just used here as a generic leader of villains. Take his dialogue and give it to the Penguin, to goddamn Maxie Zeus, and it still works the same. The whole thing about the Black Mask is that he's a screwed up parallel to Bruce Wayne. He's Hush, if Hush were a psychotic self-torturing creep. Oh, wait, Hush turned into that under Paul Dini. So basically Hush became the Black Mask because the Black Mask was supposedly dead. Anyway, Black Mask is back, and he's generic-er than ever! Wahoo!

By the way, might it be confusing to anyone that the whole second half of the Morrison "Batman" run was all about the Black Glove, and now the Black Mask -- who is completely unrelated to the Black Glove in every way -- shows up as a criminal mastermind? It would be like an Avengers comic giving us a big Doctor Doom story, and then following it up with a Doctor Droom story, no relation.

So, wait, Jason Todd is the rampaging Batman? And he just happens to use almost exactly the same mask as the psychotic ex-cop Batman who may or may not have been working for the Devil? That Todd kid has made some interesting costume choices since coming back from the dead, eh?

Chad Nevett: Yeah, here's the line from the solicits: "But when you add a deadly Jason Todd masquerading as a gun-toting Batman to the mix, things have definitely spiraled out of control!" The similarity to the Third Policeman's costume is striking, but, come on, if there's one thing that the Image-style of artist has always lacked, it's originality in design, so I'm not surprised.

Honestly, I don't know Tim Drake's voice or character well enough to judge the narration. I've seen him pop up in Batman books, I've read the odd the issue of "Robin," but, really, I have no sense of the character beyond him, seemingly, being a teenager and kind of responsible, maybe? Of course, those captions are generic enough that I see your point.

The Black Glove/Black Mask thing is a good point, especially because when we last saw the Black Glove, he was in a helicopter explosion. So, it's not a quick leap for a fan to think that, maybe, he was burned horribly or something, had to cover his face and has changed his name. Readers "in the know" know this isn't the case, but it would be an easy mistake to make.

I think my main problem with this book (and the larger "event" surrounding it) is that it doesn't feel that important or like there really is anything at stake. Yes, Gotham is falling apart (again); yes, the Black Mask has an army of bad guys; yes, there's a crazy Batman running around... but, come June, that's all behind us and... it just feels like there's no real tension or drama here. As I said before, the writing is obviously geared towards moving from post-"Final Crisis" to June, so what actually happens in the journey isn't nearly as important as the destination.

TC: It not only reminds me of "Countdown," in the way that it's just so perfunctory, but it's also like "Salvation Run" in its gaggle of costumed characters and its completely bland look and feel. Actually, as much as I despised the end of "Salvation Run," and as bad as the Sean Chen art was (two weeks in a row with me trashing Sean Chen -- sorry, nothing personal), at least "Salvation Run" had the campy sense to amp things up to 12 on the ridiculositity-meter. The Mallah vs. Grodd sequence was insanse fun. "Battle for the Cowl" lacks even that.

"Battle for the Cowl": It's all the pedestrian dullness of "Countdown" without the thrills of "Salvation Run"!

CN: And seeing as how I avoided both of them, I think the remaining two issues plus the various minis and one-shots will similarily get avoided. Bring on "Batman and Robin"!


Chad Nevett said...

Hmm... this was one of our shorter columns. It wasn't even bad enough to really be interesting to discuss.

Timothy Callahan said...


Marc said...

Really disappointing shit here, the book sucked. I was expecting (at least) a small shift in the tone when the writing switches to anybody from Morrison.

We all know it's going to be Nightwing, I just wish that they put more emotional focus on him, and maybe something from Damian... I mean, his freaking dad died!

Jeff said...

You guys are complete sticks in the mud. The issue was great fun.

Jeff said...

and for the record:

1. I worship Morrison's Batman run

2. How the hell can you guys compare this to Countdown? I mean c'mon, really? Just remember the last line: "Oh Harley, never change."

Bruce Castle said...

I left my Battle for the Cowl comments on Chad's blog, but Tim, did you see this?

June, please come very soon!

Timothy Callahan said...

I did see that, and I can't wait for Quitely and Morrison B&R action!