Review: C.O.W.L. #1

C.O.W.L. #1
Written by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel
Art by Rod Reis
Published by Image Comics
Release Date: May 28, 2014

COWL_01-1A 9 year personal project for writer Kyle Higgins that originally started as a short film senior project for college, C.O.W.L. (Chicago Organized Workers League) follows the first super hero union as they battle villains and themselves.

C.O.W.L. starts with a bang. An action packed prelude to chapter 1 features a multitude of powers and super powered men and women fighting in the air and on the Chicago streets. The tone is also quickly set with an unsuspecting display of brutality. While it came as a surprise to me, it brought me into this world with a punch to the face and showed me the intensity I should expect. It’s a risk that paid off because the tone was the necessary hook to keep me going through the slower paced middle. As the issue progressed, C.O.W.L. had trouble matching the opener. While there were solid scenes scattered within the book (the office scene with Geoffrey and Kathryn was a standout), most were lackluster and didn’t do much to enhance the story or characters. The pages that were used to bring the characters more depth were generic and forgettable.  The dialogue was a mixed bag. Flourishing during the high intensity moments, but flaming out when things calmed down. Issue #1 also lacked that gripping final panel or page to guarantee you come back for issue #2. There are some interesting dynamics inside the offices and a hint of something bigger (isn’t there always?), Higgins and CO. just couldn’t quite pull that last punch to get me to go all in.

There is one aspect of the series that wasn’t entirely prevalent in issue #1, but will be a huge contributor to it’s success: the lore. You can tell this was a 9 year project and each character has been thought about, destroyed, and rebuilt again. From the city map and all of the characters roles within C.O.W.L., to the wonderful fleshed out BIO at the end, it is going to be fun really getting into the back stories of the world being created. Issue #1 had to hold back so new readers wouldn’t be overwhelmed, but when the dam bursts and the cast and city become fully realized, then the title will become something special.

The art was the opposite of the writing and became better as the issue progressed. With the nighttime setting for the first fight, Rod Reis’s unique drawing style hurt more than helped. The sketchiness of his style caused some of the characters to appear similar and blend in with the background. Once a broader range of  color and light was introduced, Reis’ style meshed much better and popped off the page. Usually the 60’s aren’t portrayed in such a gritty style, but it matches the feel of the book nicely and the art should only get better as they become familiar with each others styles.

Issue #1 was a nice introduction to the C.O.W.L. universe. The comic had it’s fair share of ups and downs, but it has the making to be a hit. I think the title will gain traction as it goes on and the setting and characters become more fleshed out. Patience will reward you if you stick with C.O.W.L.

The Verdict: 7.5/10

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