Friday, May 22, 2009

Battle for the Cowl #3 Review

Creative Team
Writer & Artist: Tony Daniel
Inker: Sandu Florea
Colorist: Ian Hannin & JD Smith

Story - Last Man Standing

Review
Finally the new official Batman has arrived and unlike how Didio and others in DC want to think that it was a surprised to the readers which character ended up taking the Batman mantle (read here) it was not. In the end Tony Daniel's Battle for the Cowl is just one predictable roller coaster ride that had absolutely no surprises for the reader. The truth about Battle for the Cowl is that it was everything that I was expecting it to be: a summer popcorn for the brain blockbuster movie that is nothing but stalling on DC's part to set up the new status quo of some of the Bat-family characters. And really there wasn't much more than that for Batman fans to expect as in this new Event-era that comics are in now most of, if not all, these event mini-series have been a big let down one way or another. It is really just to bad that Daniel's writing could be half as good as his art as his art was phenomenal during this series.

The one thing I will credit DC and Daniel for is making Battle for the Cowl very accessible to new readers in order for them to get into the Batman books. Even though I am still a new reader to the DC Universe in general I will say that other than Spider-Man I have been reading Batman comic books the longest and as a long time Batman fan, relatively, I do sometimes forget that comics need to be new reader friendly as at times many stories will get convoluted with the history of the characters that it is hard for new readers to get into. But something like Battle for the Cowl is actually a good jumping on point for someone like my little cousins or some of my friends to read and get these characters and why they are taken the roles they are taking next month. So in the end while I would recommend new readers to get Morrison's Batman and Son, The Black Glove, and R.I.P stories on trade paperback as well as maybe Tomasi's run on Nightwing those stories aren't completely necessary to read this one and I think in that way Daniel was a success in his writing of Battle for the Cowl.

Unfortunately for Daniel I am a long time Batman fan and started reading comics right before another story that is very very familiar to Battle for the Cowl and that is Knightfall. Yep that's right no matter what Daniel or DC will say this is the same exact story that I read 15 years ago as a little. The only difference is that Battle for the Cowl last three issues while Knightfall was split into three seperate stories (Knightfall, Knightquest, and Knightend) that was over 30 issues long and lasted a year and a half. The story basically has Jason plays the psycho Batman role that Azrael played during Knightfall, Tim play the same role that Dick played in Knightfall by being the Batman who distracts the psycho Batman long enough for the "real" one to show up and take down the psycho Batman, and then finally Dick plays Bruce's role and is the one who takes down Jason with relative ease as he dominated most of the fight with Jason.

Now speaking of Jason playing the psycho Batman role in this series I just hated the explanation Daniel gave for the reasoning behind Jason becoming the gun-totting Batman. It would have been a much better explanation if Daniel said that because of how Jason was already a hot head during his time as Robin that when he used the Lazarus Pit to make a full recovery, back in Batman Annual #25, that slowly over the past few years since his return he has been losing his sanity due to the after affect the Lazarus Pit has on who ever uses it. It would have at least been a much more reasonable answer to Jason's portrayal during this mini-series than him flipping out because Bruce message to him saying that Jason is his biggest failure, which Jason already knew and stated during Under the Hood. In the end this just made Jason into a little crying kid that had his toys taken away by his father and at this point it would have been much better idea if Jason never came back from the dead as all the potential he had upon his return has been wasted and I could care less if I never see Jason again since he was already non-existent in the Bat-books even before Battle for the Cowl for the past two years.

The fight between Dick and Jason I found to be very anticlimactic and cliche. While I liked that Daniel showed Dick to be the superior fighter as he dominated most of the fight with Jason getting only a few hits in the ending really killed a fight that was actually pretty cool. The whole Dick reaching out to Jason telling him to grab his hand only for Jason to let go of the railing and fall into the water below is about as cliche as a writer can get. At no point was I worried about Jason's fate as I know he will be back and that lack of suspense shows the difference in quality between something like Morrison's suspenseful Batman: RIP and Daniel's bad cliche ridden Battle for the Cowl.

Another thing Daniel failed in is making me care about the gang war in Gotham. In truth this is were I kind of wish DC would have given this series to someone like Tomasi, who has not written a big crossover yet in the company. It is just hard to believe that the US army would just go in and take down Penguin and Two-Face gang war in such a stupid manner as it would be much more realistic if it was the National Guard or another organization set-up to handle this stuff in a much better manner. Also by having the army come in and quickly take down the Penguin and Two-Face it makes the Network who are a group made of some of the best fighters in the DCU and some powerhouses into being really incompetent and useless.

Also I still don't get why Daniel used Black Mask in this story as he was just used as an excuse for Daniel to draw some cool explosions and a burning city. With how little Black Mask appeared in this series it would have been a better move to make it Two-Face as the one who was behind everything in order to build him up into the Joker to Dick's Batman as they were already shown to have a Batman/Joker relationship in the last arc of Nightwing. Also I am guessing that the new Black Mask is Hush as he is probably going to be involved in one of the first story arcs of one of the Bat-books were he will be shown to try and destroy the Bruce Wayne name by posing as him and then using Black Mask to destroy everything Batman worked to make better.

Finally, the biggest problem I had with this issue in particular was how many inconsistencies Daniel had with the writing and the art for Tim and Damian. In the last issue Damien was shown to be bleeding out from his chest but then in this issue Daniel writes off all of that injury by saying Damien only had minor injuries due to the suits protection. And then Tim had a batarang the size of a football stuck in his chest that clearly pierced through the suit into his sternum at the end of the issue only for in Daniel to say that it barely pierced the suit and caused a few cuts. This is were probably Daniel should have just cut back on the dramatic splashpages/panels as it really hurt his writing in this issue and is a perfect example of why these type of endings to scenes don't work since they will be written off by the writer later in the issue or series.

Issue Rating
Story: 2.7/10 - Daniel's writing on this series was very unimpressive and showed that it had been a while since he has written a comic as a lot of the dialogue came off as bit amateurish.
Art: 8/10 - Daniel and Florea combine for some excellent artwork that shows why Daniel's artwork is hundreds of times better than his writing. Though the inconsistencies between this issue and the last two issue hurt how effective the art should have been.
Overall: 5.35/10 - Battle for the Cowl is as predictable as a story can get and this was nothing but filler to get the characters to the point for the relaunch of some of the Bat-titles. And as of now this story failed to get me interested in the current direction of the Bat-books.

1 Comment:

J. Christopher Baggett said...

Unfortunately, you've hit the nail right on the head. As I mentioned when I reviewed the mini on my site, Battle For The Cowl seemed to exist solely to give Frank Quitely time to draw "Batman & Robin". They could have told this story over the course of a month with Done in One's in all the Bat-books, and you never would have noticed a difference.