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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Batman: Battle for the Cowl Companion

Title:
Batman: Battle for the Cowl Companion







ISBN:
9781401224950


Price:
$14.99


Publisher/Year:
DC, 2009


Artist: Tom Mandrake, Jim Calafiore, Jeremy Haun,
Pablo Raimondi, Don Kramer, Mark McKenna


Writer:
Royal McGraw, Joe Harris, David Hine, Chris Yost, Fabian Nicieza


Collects:
Batman: Battle for the Cowl Specials:
Arkham Asylum, The Network, Man-Bat, Underground
and Commissioner Gordon





Rating:
3/5





I
enjoyed the stories in the Batman: Battle for the Cowl Companion, but indeed
that's just what they are -- stories. The five specials collected here range
from closely or tertiary connected to Batman: Battle for the Cowl, all the way
to advertisements for other comics entirely; there's not a bad one in the
bunch, but you hardly need this companion to understand Battle for the Cowl.





Both
the "Commissioner Gordon" and "Underground" chapters
intersect directly with Battle for the Cowl. In Battle, Gordon mentions his
"run-in" with Mr. Freeze, and indeed this is that run-in. Chris
Yost's "Underground" -- apparently what we call Batman's villains
these days -- answers my earlier question as to what became of Catwoman during
Battle for the Cowl; I'm not sure the timeline of the two stories quite fits,
but Catwoman running in to Black Mask (whom she believes she murdered) and the
post-Countdown to Final Crisis reunion of Harley Quinn and sometime-Catwoman
Holly Robison are both great moments.





Unexpectedly,
my favorite of the stories was "Arkham Asylum." The story is an
unabashed lead-in to writer David Hine's forthcoming Arkham Reborn miniseries,
but it also takes on the concept of insanity, imprisonment, and the meaning of
asylum with striking seriousness. Through the narration of Jermiah Arkham, Hine
introduces three fascinating inmates -- one obsessed with his own looks, one so
ugly her face drives men insane, and with no face other than what he himself
draws -- and the detailed description of Arkham's treatment of the inmates is
equally interesting. The cliffhanger ending comes seemingly out of nowhere, but
it does its job -- whereas I might otherwise have skipped that miniseries, now
I'm curious to see what happens next.





"Man-Bat"
and "The Network" round out the book. Joe Harris's
"Man-Bat" makes good use of Dr. Phosphorus, last seen in the recent
Batman: Detective stories, and also references Man-Bat's wife Francine's ties
to the Outsiders, but the story also ends on a cliffhanger which I'm not sure
where, if ever, will be followed up. Fabian Nicieza's "The Network"
-- as strange a name as "The Underground" -- works as a Birds of Prey
story in that Oracle gets the spotlight, though his ultra-violent
characterization of the Huntress is largely outdated. There's also a suggestion
in the story that former Bird of Prey Misfit is ill, though again it's hard to
know if that's something that will be continued elsewhere.





The
Battle for the Cowl Companion spotlights a good cross-section of the Batman
universe, and each of the stories has a fair or twist at the end; I also
appreciated reading a selection of writers I wasn't familiar with. Most of
these stories are pretty well disconnected from the main Batman events,
however; either they don't branch well from Battle for the Cowl or it's unclear
where they're meant to fit elsewhere in the DC Universe. Inasmuch as one might
have thought DC would have learned their lesson by now, these seem to be fairly
needless crossover issues, banking on rather than adding to Battle for the
Cowl. The saving grace indeed is only that they're all surprisingly well written;
otherwise this volume might not get the recommendation that it does.

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