Review: 'Batman: Battle for the Cowl' (pts. 1 & 2)

Cary Ashby
Mar 29, 2010


It's easy to consider all of Batman's Robins as some sort of son-figures.


In the midst of the Caped Crusader suddenly missing in action and gang activity reaching mayhem-like levels, all those archetypes come to a head. Dick Grayson, the original Boy Wonder, is now an adult who has been on his own for many years as Nightwing.


While occasionally butting heads at first with Batman as Dick asserted his dependence (and an identity apart from his mentor) as a young adult, Dick has found his niche as being there when Batman needs him. As Robin, Dick was an energetic partner who had Batman's back — the bright ying to the Dark Knight's yang.


When facing the need for a Batman (not necessarily the Batman), Dick is the faithful, compassionate son who reluctantly must admit he's the rightful heir to the Mantle of the Bat.


As far as Nightwing's/Dick's role in "Cowl" goes, 8-year-old Liam of the refreshing The Kid's Comic Book Reviews Web site says it best: "I think that Dick Grayson needs to hurry up and do something. … Even Alfred is telling him that he has to be Batman but Dick isn’t doing anything except thinking about it while everyone else is going out and fighting and getting into trouble."


One of those who is "getting into trouble" is Jason Todd, the street urchin-turned second Robin who was so passionate about fighting crime he often went against Batman's wishes or orders. His recklessness and hard-headed nature led to him being beaten to death by The Joker (a moment given an homage when Tim Drake takes a crowbar to JT in issue 2) and blown up.


Now, the adult resurrected JT has fashioned himself as a psychotic vigilante (no surprise, since he first returned to the DC Universe as Red Hood) in a Robocop-like Batman costume willing to go to extremes — even killing — to hand out his own brand of street justice.


Tim Drake became the third and current Robin after figuring out Batman's and Nightwin's secret identities and noticing Batman was being extremely violent after JT's death. Tim made Bruce Wayne see that Robin is an essential balance point for Batman. Having earned the right to the next half of the Dynamic Duo, Tim is patient, insightful and level-headed in ways his predecessors never were. However, Bruce's adopted son isn't so sure Batman is among the dead.


With the June publication of the new ongoing series "Batman & Robin" (one of many Batman titles premiering that month as previewed in my March 24 blog), one has to wonder if Tim won't be willing to give up being the Teen Wonder and strike out on his own. After all, the bo used by yet-to-be-seen-officially Red Robin has been Tim's weapon of choice for years.


Then there's the fourth son-figure, Damian, whom Bruce recently discovered is his biological love child with Talia al Ghul. He's a lost soul. And fans have yet to figure out where Damian ultimately will wind up in the Batman family. While technically never a Robin, Damian once fashioned his own Robin costume and told Tim he's more of a son to Bruce, if for no other reasons than biology and a skewed sense of entitlement.


Damian is every bit as impulsive as JT and has shown little inclination to taking crime-fighting seriously. Bruce, before his apparent death(s), seemed to tolerate Damian and brought him to Gotham City because it was the right thing to do. (See my "Batman & Son" storyline review.) Nightwing, however, calls him a brat in "Cowl" issue 1.


And obviously there's no love lost between Robin and Damian. Damian shows his impulsive nature in the first issue by attempting to show a girl who's on a joy-ride with him how the Batmobile can fly. (A foreshadowing of "Batman & Robin" and the fulfillment — finally — of the "Building a Better Batmobile" title way back in the first issue of "Batman & Son"?)


Nightwing uses the Batwing to track down Damian and the Batmobile, which were pushed into a swamp by Killer Croc. Upon being rescued, Damian seems to seek Nightwing's approval when he asks if "what happened back there" can stay between them.


Within minutes, a gang has gunned down the glider carrying Nightwing and Damian, who are face-to-face with Jason Todd, armed with semi-automatic guns he uses to kill the gang-bangers. Just what Gotham needs with the real Batman MIA and Black Mask returning mysteriously from the dead only to blow up Arkham Asylum!


In issue 2, it's Robin's turn to be impulsive. He snags the classic Batman costume (the one with the gold oval around the Batsymbol used in current continuity until about 1999) from the Batcave to track down and stop JT.


What follows is Catwoman trying to use her feminine wiles on a Batman she knows isn't Bruce and a violent smackdown in JT's own crude version of the Batcave.


The last splash page shows JT leaving Tim mortally wounded with a Batarang lodged near his heart. (After his confrontation with Nightwing and Damian, Damian is recovering from gunshot wounds to the chest in the actual Batcave.)


n the real Batcave, Dick continues to struggle with what seems to be the next natural step — becoming Batman. (What do you make of most of the characters calling him "Dick" and not "Nightwing," a way of saying the Nightwing character is all but a memory?) Exciting stuff here.


Tony Daniel, best known as Morrison's artist on his run, does a fine job of producing his first writing project. The characters are right-on. I especially enjoy his emphasis on making sure readers know JT is a pure villain now.


I agree with IGN Comics writer Dan Phillips (who did a great interview with Daniel posted online March 12) who says Daniel "hit(s) the ground running from the very first panel and never let(s) up." I'm looking forward to how this ends in issue 3. Grade A