Title: C.O.W.L. #1
Writers: Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel
Artist: Rod Reis
Publisher: Image Comics
Rating: 5 / 5
The debut issue of C.O.W.L. could not be any more sleek, sexy, gritty and noir. We’re brought into Higgins, Siegel and Reis’s world with a costumed firefight on the very first page. Afterwards we are slowly walked along a very different 1960s Chicago than the one we know from history. There are costumed villains (who are now appearing to be subsiding) and the heroes are unionized employees of C.O.W.L., the Chicago Organized Workers League.
The creative team spares no time in getting us into the action, as we open on the main C.O.W.L. unit in the throes of battle with an ex-KGB villain Skylancer. We quickly get a lay of the land in the main characters, their names, their code names and their general role on the team. It’s fast and frantic, but it throws us right in and that’s a good thing. The intro is for excitement and the following pages become our first insight into internal dissent and possible corruption within the organization and city as a whole.
C.O.W.L. #1 drops us into a gritty noir world and doesn’t hold our hand. The story evolves organically and we can feel the tension as we read it. Reis’s loose and unrefined style adds a ruddy gleam of sexiness and chic flair, not only to the characters but the alternate 60s era as well. Also worth mentioning is his amazing ability at conveying facial expressions. Some of the close ups serve as brilliant ways to let us inside the characters’ heads without so much as a speech bubble or dip or narration.
I suppose it’s difficult to avoid adding that the world is reminiscent of Mad Men with a dash of superheroes, but I would say that’s a high compliment indeed. If Higgins and Reis can bring this much compelling drama with a slice of action in just a single issue, I can’t wait to dive into the next one.
Review by Brent Gladney