Previous issue: “C.O.W.L. #1”
After the tremendous start its first issue gave this series, part of me was worried it would have been a fluke; you never know if a series is going to carry that kind of momentum from month-to-month. After reading this second issue, I can safely say that C.O.W.L.‘s premiere issue was no fluke; it was a revelation of both immersive world-building through plot and the emergence of Rod Reis’ spectacular artwork.
Although the overarching plot of C.O.W.L. deals with the seemingly imminent demise of the union amid peaceful times outside the group and tumultuous times within, this issue focuses heavily on the partnership of Grant and Karl; it’s through this prism that we’re shown a deeper look at some of the personal struggles these characters deal with on a daily basis. I love how C.O.W.L. isn’t afraid to let moments develop and characters to just sit and interact with each other. It’s in these moments when Reis’ true artistry comes through, as is evidenced by the panel below.
These are not just characters; they are made human by the subtle watercolor brushstrokes Reis uses to give their acting realism. The eyes darting away from each other, their posture awash with fluidity; the space between them might as well be an inch or a mile because they’re nowhere near each other in this moment. You have to know exactly nothing about what happened in the panel preceding this one to know precisely what is happening in this one, and that’s an accomplishment that weighs very heavily on the success of a comic’s ability to tell a compelling story. As Higgins states in the issue’s letter-to-the-editor section, this is Reis’ first book, and that makes what he’s doing here that much more impressive.
As with the previous issue, most of “C.O.W.L. #2” exists in a subdued world of cool blues and grays; coasting you through a noir world of emotional conversations and dramatic storytelling, but then action is sprung on you with a sucker punch of bright reds splashed from panel-to-panel of intensity. The shear artistry at work here, both in Rod Reis’ illustrations and the storytelling from Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel, is frankly amazing.
Along with the continuation of C.O.W.L.‘s story, this issue also includes the first instance of the series’ now-named Union Dues section (for letters and whatnot), as well as a letter from the series’ co-creator Alec Siegel on his history with the project and how it came to be.
If, for any reason, you have not yet begun reading C.O.W.L., I don’t know how much clearer I can say this: start reading C.O.W.L.. The story of unionized superheroes in 1960s Chicago is compelling enough, but when you add in the fact that every single panel of Rod Reis’ artwork is worthy of hanging on any wall in your house, it’s a no-brainer that this is something you should be reading. If you have any interest in comics, art, 20th century American politics, or just well-done storytelling, don’t wait and let so many issues pile up that you won’t want to tackle them all; this is one you’ll want to be able to say you read from month-to-month.