Previously: “C.O.W.L. #5”
After wrapping up a fantastic first arc with issue #5, Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel return with something entirely different: an old-fashioned origin story. So the issue says, in 1962, Geoffrey Warner licensed his life story to Image Comics and allowed the publisher to print a one-shot of The Grey Raven’s formative years, and it is fantastic.
While Higgins and Siegel are present, Rod Reis–he of C.O.W.L.‘s monthly awesome artwork–takes a backseat to guest artist Elsa Charretier; while Reis does still handle the colors, Charretier does this month’s heavy lifting in deftly capturing both the universe of C.O.W.L. and the feel of classic comics. Despite having been fictionally published in 1962, the issue has a definite Golden Age Dick Tracy vibe; it even seems to mutate from Golden Age to Silver Age, as the story progresses. I love that because, if Image had come around in 1962–instead of 1992–I like to think they would have been publishing Golden Age comics right in the middle of the Silver Age because there would certainly be creators who would want to do that, and Image would be where they would go.
Outside of the great artwork, the issue’s writing does well to still be engaging while also very clearly forwarding an agenda; this would presumably be a propaganda piece, after all. I mean, you get what could easily pass as a “warts and all” telling of Warner’s early life, but it is clearly written to make him always come out looking like the good guy, and that is perfect. If this were really taking place, politics and public relations would clearly dictate that you do not publish an origin story of a “hero” without making sure he looks good; in that sense, if you imagine all Golden Age comics as origin stories for real people, it’s easy to see them all as propaganda that likely only tell a portion of any real history; just look at war comics during World War II. I love how this issue, as an extension of the C.O.W.L. series overall, makes you reexamine comics a little bit.
Beyond capturing the hidden politics of biographical writing, this issue does very well to illustrate seminal moments in Geoffrey Warner’s life; I mean, it actually is quite a good introduction to The Grey Raven; an explanation of who he is and enough to make you want to see more of him as a character in an actual The Grey Raven comic. At the same time, it also works as a standalone book that any fictional child living in fictional 1962 Chicago may see at the newspaper stand, eagerly buy, read, and become an even bigger fan of their hero.
Also shown in the pages of this issue are the ills we’ve come to know still plague the “current-day” Chicago of C.O.W.L.; corruption abounds, and it’s that corruption a young Geoffrey Warner sees all around him that takes him away from a promising career in policework and into a lifetime of masked (and eventually unmasked) crimefighting. In this distorted and glossy-eyed version of its past, you can see a glimmer C.O.W.L.‘s present. Geoffrey “Warring” Warren fought hard against corruption, but decades into his battle, corruption persists. Throughout the issue, everyone tries to give him the ol’ “Forget it,
Jake Geoff; it’s Chinatown ChiTown”, but he won’t listen, because that’s not what heroes do.
I loved this issue, if that wasn’t clear; both for how well it stands on its own and for the many ways it mirrors and complements everything we’ve seen from C.O.W.L. so far. This seems to have been a bit of an interstitial issue (not unlike the fictional ads found within its pages, designed by Jen Aprahamian), serving as a break between the series’ first and second arcs; the second arc will properly kick off with issue #7, but I’m hopeful we’ll get more of these throwback issues between future arcs; if not of each C.O.W.L. member, then perhaps just a continuation of the Grey Raven series.