Batman: Battle for the Cowl #3Batman: Battle for the Cowl #3
Written by: Tony Daniel
Art by: Tony Daniel & Sandu Florea
Spoiler warning - some plot points of Battle for the Cowl discussed below.
The final installment of DC’s three-issue miniseries Batman: Battle for the Cowl is…well, it’s more or less what you would expect. As the final chapter of an miniseries, it falls a bit flat—the puppet master is never completely revealed, the series’ main antagonist’s final fate is left ambiguous (maybe a moratorium on throwing people into the water around Gotham for a while, DC Editorial?) and it’s not even 100% clear who will wear the titular cowl. But as the first chapter in what’s meant to be “Batman’s next step,” it’s a perfectly serviceable book, and it looks great.
While the narrative clearly implies (and all of fandom has taken for granted since Bruce Wayne’s “deaths”) that one character will be wearing the costume the next time we see Batman appear in-continuity, the art leaves Batman’s appearance (intentionally?) ambiguous. Given that writer Tony Daniel also provided the pencils for this issue, it’s pretty clear that was just a style choice but a slightly more dramatic reveal (the final shot of the series is Batman’s face, completely in shadows and partially obscured by the cape a la Paul Dini’s original logo for Batman: The Animated Series) might have been nice.
That being said, there are some great action beats in this book—and the art is pretty stunning for the most part. Ironically, the inks seem a little muddy on page one, setting a lower standard than the entire rest of the book. The final, two-page splash featuring the pivotal moment of Dick Grayson’s showdown with Jason Todd will likely be a defining image for Nightwing’s character as long as he exists. And the early splash of Nightwing’s big group of allies is very tight, imbuing characters like Manhunter and Misfit with personality and individuality, even if you have to play “Where’s Waldo?” just to find them in the crowd.
And while the script itself had its shortcomings—“Bruce underestimated the psychological effect Batman had on Gotham” is probably the most self-evidently ridiculous premise for a Batman comic ever conceived, and the notion that Penguin requires the city’s infrastructure to remain intact in order to be a success completely disregards what happened in No Man’s Land—one of the things it did very well was to build up the new Batman’s supporting cast. As the military moves in on Two-Face and Penguin, and all the other cops are willing to accept “Two-Face is crazy” as an explanation for irrational behavior, Gordon’s skepticism reminds readers why he’s not only a great cop, but a great foil for Batman. Meanwhile, the interplay between Damian and Squire plays up that, while the son of Bruce Wayne and Talia may be abrasive and irritating, he’s still extremely capable, as he one-ups a pretty well-trained ally while recovering from a collapsed lung. And hats off to whoever decided to use “SNATCH” as a sound effect while he did so—it evoked a bit of that old ‘60s Batman camp, and a little chuckle, without derailing the story at all. There is, of course, a certain degree of irony to the idea that it looks as though we might be (at least momentarily) rid of Jason Todd, only to bring an even bigger jerk into the Robin costume.
But all told, a serviceable end to a story whose ending was largely already known by much of fandom.