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Monday, December 28, 2015

Tales From the Trades! - Batman: Battle For The Cowl


Three cheers for Christmas shutdown! Now I can try to sleep normally for a couple of days…

Next up on the list is of Batman wanna-bes is Batman… sort of. No, this isn’t the John-Paul Valley variety either. I didn’t want to center on too many of Batman’s supporting characters this month. A lot of them are more or less knockoffs. I did at least want to look at a couple who tried to take on the mantle of the Batman. Only a few have tried it. I won’t be looking at Comm. Gordon’s more recent time as Batman aka RoboBunny. Yes, that’s happening now and it’s actually not that bad. It is Scott Snyder after all.

I’m actually looking at Batman: Battle for the Cowl, a three issue-crossover series that occurred after Final Crisis. It basically served as a midway point for Grant Morrison’s time on Batman. In Final Crisis, Batman “died."Yeah, he was actually getting his Sam Beckett on, but he’s not in Gotham where trouble is always brewing right now. By the way, I’m only looking at the three-issue crossover from the trade. The trade also has two issues that looks at other supporting characters in Batman’s world.  Tony Daniel wrote and did the pencils for this small series and I think it was his first time writing.

Batman: Battle For The Cowl
Writer and Pencils: Tony S. Daniel
Inks: Sandu Florea
Colors: Ian Hannin
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher

SYNOPSIS
Gotham City isn’t doing so well right now. Ever since Batman disappeared and Arkham Asylum got abandoned, the criminals have been at it. Nightwing (Dick Grayson) has assembled the Network, a group of Batman’s most trusted allies, and that is doing little in getting Gotham under control. Robin (Tim Drake) realizes that someone needs to take on the mantle of the Batman. Dick isn’t hearing any of it since the title was Bruce’s. Also, Bruce told Dick that he didn’t need to become Batman in his will. While all of that is going on, a new Black Mask is out freeing Arkham inmates from Blackgate.
Okay, that is a cool suit!

Another problem arises in the form of another Batman who is really brutal and is taking lives. Tim starts to investigate this new threat. He realizes that whoever this is, he’s really good and knows their tactics. He also decides to throw on one of Bruce’s old suits since Dick isn’t relenting from his position on a new Batman. Meanwhile, Black Mask has the Arkham inmates do things in order to make Penguin’s and Two-Face’s gangs go to war with one another. He also gets inmates to blow up Gotham’s banks and kill the new district attorney.

Meanwhile, Dick and Damian run into the new Batman who is revealed to be a crazier Jason Todd. The three fight and it ends with Jason shooting Damien in the chest. Luckily, some other heroes were in the neighborhood and get Damien to the Batcave. Dick realizes he needs to do something about this, but he then notices that Tim has gone out in a Batman suit. As for Tim, he ends up finding Jason’s lair later and Catwoman even tags along. It all goes bad though as Jason returns, knocks out Catwoman (who then disappears for the rest of the story) and fights Tim. They go at it until Jason stabs Tim and takes him captive.

Dick knows Tim wouldn’t be a match for Jason, so he gets Oracle to find Jason’s lair and he heads off. Alfred has a somewhat recovered Damien and Squire provide some back up. Those two end up rescuing Tim at Jason’s Batcave. Dick and Jason end up facing off against one another. Dick tries to calm Jason down by showing him a piece of Bruce’s will, but that doesn’t stop him. Their fight then moves to a moving train. Luckily, Dick is able to end the fight before anyone gets hurt.  They fall off the train and Jason falls from a ledge refusing Dick’s assistance. Dick still knows he’s out there somewhere. In the end, Dick Grayson assumes the title of Batman and Damian becomes the new Robin.
So... Jason wears his mask under other masks? Does he do it to see the vision in his eyes or something?

OPINION
I thought this was good for the most part. I do have issues with it but it did succeed in showing us how Dick became Batman. That was the main focus of it all. We got to get into the heads of the three sidekicks and see how they regard Batman. I did like that most about the story. Even though you know Dick is going to be Batman (seriously, who else would it be), I did like seeing him accept the mantle. Yeah, one can go on all day about how Batman should only be Bruce, but it would be cool to see what happens after Bruce is gone. I know he does come back, but I do like seeing someone else don the bat-ears for a change.

The artwork is really good. Tony Daniel’s work on Batman was pretty good at this time. “Batman R.I.P.” is probably my favorite of his Batman artwork. The action scenes are cool and everyone looks good. I especially like Jason’s Batman costume. It looked pretty cool and reminded me of something else from Morrison’s run. While there are a couple of spots where it’s not as good, the artwork is definitely the best thing about the little series.

Even though I did like this, it does have its problems. I didn’t necessarily care for what was done to Jason Todd here. I guess the idea was to make him into a full-on villain, and I don’t see him as that completely. He’s more of an anti-hero and having him almost kill Damian and Tim was taking it too far. The subplot of Black Mask’s attacks felt a little weird. We really get no resolution on it and it feels thrown in at times. If the main series was a little longer, we might have seen more of this.

I also thought some other characters didn’t ring true to me. Damian was one that felt off especially when he’s introduced here. I will say he does start to act like “The Brat” we all love towards the end. Also, the dialogue wasn’t always that good at times. It just felt off to me at times. Lastly, the ending feels a little rushed. I guess they didn’t want to spoil Dick’s earliest times with the suit or something. I know other writers did something similar to Dick finally donning the costume, so that maybe why the ending feels short.
Black Mask wants you to wait until Tony Daniel comes back to the book. He's apparently waiting too.

Even though it has its issues, I did like this mini. It tries to introduce a new Batman while showing what Batman is and isn’t about. It also had great artwork. Well, I got to call it a night. I’m getting close to the end and it’s looking good. Peace and God Bless.


NEXT TIME: BATMAN… OF THE FUTURE!

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