Story by Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel
Art by Rod Reis
Letters by Troy Peteri
Edits by Andy Schmidt
Review by Joey Braccino
Cold open on a smash-em-up brawl between the heroes of the C.O.W.L. Tactical Team and ex-KGB and last Chicago Six supervillian Skylancer.
Once the dust has settled, C.O.W.L. Chief Geoffrey Warner, formerly the illustrious Grey Raven, handles the media and thanks investigator John Pierce for uncovering Skylancer’s plot.
And then everyone clocks out and/or goes on time-and-a-half to handle another case.
C.O.W.L. stands for the Chicago Organized Workers League (founded in 1949 by the aforementioned Geoffrey Warner). Essentially a unionized, for-pay system of superheroics, C.O.W.L. has spent the better part of the post-war years defending and securing the city of Chicago.
Of course, there’s more to Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel’s C.O.W.L. than simply superpowers and paychecks; the driving conflict in this new series is the ethical division between Warner and his “police force” mode of superheroes and John’s comment that they “might still be helping people for free.” Think the whole “Initiative” phase that followed Civil War in the Marvel Universe, except throw in a bit of Rucka and Brubaker’s Gotham Central and some moody, pulpy artwork from Rod Reis and you’ve got C.O.W.L. to a tee. Despite these stylistic parallels, C.O.W.L. feels fresh and engaging in its own right. Higgins and Siegel lay out the diverse, extended cast well, always driving home that operational theme of the ethics of superheroics.
Reis’ artwork is absolutely incredible. In a lot of ways, Reis’ thick inks and noir aesthetic is reminiscent of Phil Noto’s current work on Black Widow. Reis plays with his angles and framing, eschewing large panels and layouts for more dynamic, engaging spreads. I do wish the 1960s setting had more of a presence in the backgrounds and some of the costumes, though the women’s costuming in particular is quite good.
Buy! Higgins and Siegel’s C.O.W.L. is an engaging new series from Image that takes a fascinating approach to the tried trope of superheroics. By seeding the ethical dilemma in the first issue, Higgins and Siegel have created a premise that can toe the line between superhero procedural and corporate drama. And Reis’ art is just stellar. Check it!