Previously, “C.O.W.L. #10”
This issue brings the series’ second arc to an end, and with it, the conclusion of C.O.W.L.. There is, of course, always a possibility we will get more C.O.W.L. in the future, be it in the form of new comics or in some other medium like television or film, but for now, this issue represents the last pages in this fantastic story from Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, and Rod Reis. As sad as I am to see it end, this finale properly gives the series the send-off it deserves.
Everything has led to this. We’ve had ten issues consisting of murder, kidnapping, vigilantism, corruption, and everything else you can possibly want from a story being told about a fictional superhero union in 1960s Chicago. From the beginning, it has all been about one thing: survival. Geoffrey Warner, the once righteous leader who saw corruption in his father and chose to give up policework to fight crime on his own terms under the guise of the moniker The Grey Raven, saw C.O.W.L.–a union he had built from nothing to become the Second City’s beloved heroes–crumbling before him. They had ostensibly beaten crime; the city was so safe, its mayor did not want to renew its contract with the superhero union.
To ensure the union’s survival, Warner did things The Grey Raven never would have fathomed of doing, but Warner had to, right? He had to partner with the city’s biggest crime boss, Camden Stone, in order to fake crime, so the mayor would still feel C.O.W.L. was necessary. It wasn’t that bad, right? I mean, Warner was only doing this because he knew, even though crime was under control now, without C.O.W.L. around, the city would surely fall back into disarray. With this partnership, there were some disagreements and some bumps along the way, but it was ultimately worth it to Warner. It would force the mayor to renew the contract, and C.O.W.L. would be saved.
But would it, though? No. Even with the contract renewed, Warner broke the union. He may have saved the brand, sure, and that may keep criminals fairly in check for the foreseeable future, but nobody in his life can trust Geoffrey Warner anymore; not after everything he did. A superhero union was a good idea, in theory, but introducing political doldrums to the dynamic of powered individuals saving people’s lives? Especially Chicago politics?! Warner’s dream died in a nightmare of bureaucratic redtape. He’s essentially become the corrupt crime boss he set out so many years earlier to rid his city of, and that’s the beauty of C.O.W.L.
I really can’t express the disappointment I feel at the ending of this series. It is so rich in plot development and potential future storylines, but I do understand. These things happen, so we have to do our best to accept them. This final issue wraps everything up very neatly, while also leaving so many things open for a future you will at least get to see in your mind. Every character left in this story–Radia, Eclipse, Blaze, Evelyn, Tom–is left with somewhere you know they’re going in the issue #12 we will not be reading next month, and you know what? That’s perfect.
While the story of C.O.W.L. has always been an intriguing page-turner from beginning-to-end, for me, the phenomenal art of Rod Reis has been the star. Just read everything above, and you’ll know that is not meant as a slight on the writing of Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel; that’s just how great Reis’ artwork has been for this series. From the selective realism, to the fluctuating temperatures that always set the proper tone, to the shadows and the scribbles; every bit of Rod Reis’ mixed medium of watercolors and markers has bled into the series’ plot in such a way as to make it a living and breathing creature. Prometheus would come running from the mountaintop, and Rod Reis would say, “I’ve got this.”
Just browse through the pages and catch the moments when a single panel will signal a complete tonal shift of the issue’s story. When needless details drop away, and you’re left with only the pieces of a scene you automatically identify as important, or the lines fade away, and you see a character for exactly what they are in that moment; whether it be a shadow of themselves or the exemplification of what they are meant to be, you see it. That’s not even to mention to occasional panels where Reis seems to say, “Okay, I’m just going to paint the fuck out of this one.” With all of the good things to take away from C.O.W.L.‘s short run (and there are many), the discovery of Rod Reis is my favorite.
Now that Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, and Rod Reis have a bit of time on their hands, they are free to work on yet another collaboration! This time, it’s a little series named Hadrian’s Wall. Here is the synopsis provided by Kyle Higgins in the back of C.O.W.L. #11:
In 1985, tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union culminated with nuclear detonations in New York City and Moscow. In the decades after, the two super power found peace through a partnership focused on building the first colony in space. But now, one hundred years later, a new cold war simmers… between Earth and that very colony.
When a crewmember dies aboard one of Earth’s survey ships, Hadrian’s Wall, investigator Simon Moore looks to determine whether foul play is involved. However, once on board, it doesn’t take Simon long to realize that few things are what they seem… including the identities of the crew and the real reason Hadrian’s Wall is on the edges of Colony Space.
With every crewmember a suspect, and tensions between Earth and the Colony mounting, the fate of both worlds may come down to one man and a ship.
I don’t know about you, but I am most certainly in. Sign me up, right now, and I’m on that ship. Oh, I mean, I’m going to read about other people on that ship.
I’m sure it comes as no surprise to say, in conclusion, this bittersweet finale is fantastic in so many ways. I could not be sadder to say this is my final opportunity to review an issue of C.O.W.L., but if this has to be it, it was certainly a great one to go out on.
Goodbye, C.O.W.L.; hello, Hadrian’s Wall; and let’s all try to do a better job buying this one, so it’s not taken from us so soon.