(Image Comics, 2014)
Story by Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel
Art by Rod Reis
Letters by Troy Peteri
Cover by Trevor McCarthy
I see this one come up in the queue, and I wonder, is this just another acronym book? And then I open it. Ahh…ladies and gentlemen, if I may be so bold, it is definitely not.
C.O.W.L. #1 is on the stands this week, the premiere issue featuring a beautiful cover by Trevor McCarthy, a Mignola-esque silhouette of a man with a bowler and goggles. It’s Mad Men meets the Justice League, a heroic drama set in the 60’s, when everyone was a secret agent and the Russians were most definitely coming.
Kyle Higgins (Nightwing, Batman Beyond 2.0) and Alec Siegel (Avengers: Mythos) write pull some intriguing elements together and drop them in 1962 Chicago. C.o.w.l. stands for the “Chicago Organized Workers League, a company that was founded on the principle that the city needed to be protected and that those doing the heavy lifting shouldn’t have to do it for free. These are paid superheroes folks. Gone are the days when a caped man would arrive and beat the bad guy senseless, then fly home to the arctic and have a light lunch with his personal robot servant. No more millionaires moonlighting as crime fighters, living the playboy life during the day and stalking the shadows at night. This is capitalistic crime fighting, and what better era to set it in than the 60’s, what better place than the birthplace of the union, Chicago?
The head of C.o.w.l. is Grey Raven, a retired hero, who as evolved his super heroic role into that of the expert tactician and organizer. He is a CEO and along with the title come all the problems of running a large company. Wage disputes, overtime, contracts with the city, all are under the supervision of Raven, who has thrived in the role. We can’t tell yet what his motivation really is, but given the current popular thought about corporate heads, it probably isn’t good. Where do his interests lie?
We’re also introduced to a pile of cool heroes without any hard facts about their specific powers. It’s kind of refreshing to not have any exposition, no blatant explanation…”I’ll stop you with my galactic power bands, forged at the heart of a dying star by the creators of the universe…” Nothing like that. They swoop in, stop the bad guy, and, also refreshingly, aren’t perfect at it. There are casualties. These are just people with powers.
The art. Oh gosh the art. So good. Trouble with whole sentences…incomplete thoughts…ok. Rod Reis (Colorist for Aquaman, Nightwing) has a style that is comic and realistic, beautifully colored, and so much fun to look at. I don’t want to compare him to Adam Hughes, simply because that’s the easy way out, but it does remind me of that. Perhaps it’s the subtle use of tone, the monochromatic variations he uses in some of his panels, or maybe it’s the panel on page four where the heroine Radia is first introduced, but that’s the nearest I can come to explaining it. (I did think for a moment on page four, that this was a “Hughes Girl”.) It’s just really beautiful art filled with movement. What more can you ask from a comic book?
If you grew up in the 80’s this book will push all of the right buttons. If you grew up in the 90’s it’ll hit a few others. If you love James Bond, Mad Men, Red Dawn, or any super group book, this is for you. That’s the genius of this book. Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel have put together a story that has so many touch points for so many different people that it will be hard to avoid it, and assembled a super team of their own in the crew that is putting it together. C.o.w.l. #1 is a must-have gotta-get gonna-keep book.
Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.