Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Batman: Battle for the Cowl - The Network #1 Review

Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Don Kramer

Best way to describe this issue is that it was surprisingly good. I honestly wasn't expecting much from the Battle for the Cowl tie-in, but definitely walked away with my money's worth.

For those interested, the story is a fairly simple race against time. Dr Hugo Strange, who I had actually expected to be the Black Glove before Grant Morrison introduced Dr Hurt, is back after escaping from Arkham and has kidnapped three people, each in a similar vein to victims in the Saw movie. By this I mean they are damaged or broken humans, one being a crack addicted mother that tried to sell her own children, another being an escaped convict who was on death row for murder and the other being a 91 year old woman suffering from late stage Alzheimer's.

Strange has kidnapped these people as a means of testing the new Batman (aka Jason Todd) by making him choose who lives and dies from his three hostages. The catch is that The Network, a group of street level Bat-family related characters, like Batgirl, Oracle, Manhunter, Huntress, Misfit and various others, are picking up the slack and break off into teams to try and save the three victims before they are killed.

It's a fairly straight forward plot that we've seen variations of before, but Fabian does a good job with it despite the familiarity of the plot. His work with Batgirl was excellent and has me wishing he was handling the character more often. I loved her playing off of Huntress, despite my misgivings with the regressing of her character to the more anti-hero/killing badguys to save good people is justified routine.

I was also quite interested in the return of Hugo Strange. He has never really been a part of the post-Crisis DC Universe, despite being a fairly unique villain and foil for Batman, especially as someone that had learned his identity at one point, and, aside from some cameos in Gotham Underground and the odd mention in Morrison's run on Batman, this is probably the first real appearance by him in years. He doesn't come back with a bang nor is this a defining moment in his history, but it's an entertaining reintroduction to the character and I look forward to seeing more of him in the future.

Verdict - Check It. Fairly entertaining, albeit predictable read. Quite satisfied with the purchase even though I know this isn't the best book I'll ever read.

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