Battle for the Cowl #2 kicks the deep and brooding psychological aspects of the first issue and the tie ins right in the nuts by unloading the action on the reader with both barrels. The book opens with the on-going war between Penguin and Two-Face. The two continue to battle each other completely unaware that the Black Mask is playing them. While Two-Face is killing his own men for not for-seeing Penguins attack (which wasn’t the Penguin) the Penguin is getting ready for a retaliation he doesn’t deserve.
From there the action jumps to Nightwing and Damien who are trying to stop Jason Todd. Todd has decided he is the only one who can replace Batman. Not content on that alone Todd also wants to ratchet things up a notch in the violence department. Dressed in his own twisted Batman meets Knights of the Round Table costume Todd decides that the old Batman code of honor is worthless and dispenses his own brand of vigilante justice often with deadly results. During the battle Todd opens fire on Damien leaving him clinging to life, which weighs heavy on Nightwing. Though able to get him back to the Batcave where Alfred manages to patch Damien up Nightwing still feels like a failure.
While this is going on the rest of Gotham is slipping further into the abyss. The Black Mask has hired Jane Doe, Firefly and Adam Bomb to begin burning Gotham to the ground for his own amusement. Commissioner Gordon is trying to hold his police force together while under fire from not only criminals but also an unfriendly District Attorney. Just as one problem seems to end another more explosive issue throws its weight on Gordon.
Meanwhile Tim Drake, dressed as Batman from the Neal Adams era, is conducting his own investigation into Jason Todd’s murderous rampage. Drake’s investigation not only leads him to Todd’s haphazard Batcave but also to Catwoman. When Todd returns home he is not pleased and the battle between the two former Robins’ is brutal, bloody and leaves one of them near death. Oh did I mention Commissioner Gordon gets shot down? See what I mean, the action just doesn’t let up.
Battle for the Cowl #2 is a great read, really exceptional from end to end. Writer Tony Daniel does a magnificent job of building off of the tie-in issues to create a complete picture of what’s happening in the wake of Batman’s death. He manages to make it believable that Jason Todd would believe his twisted logic is the best thing for Gotham. Todd isn’t just crazy he’s kind of sympathetic. Daniel also keeps the inner struggle that Nightwing endures over becoming the new true Batman as a constant theme. When Alfred tells Nightwing that he is the only one that can truly wear the cowl it’s really powerful, which is not easy to do amidst all that action.
Art wise Daniel’s doesn’t hit the same high notes as his writing but that’s not to say it’s bad. The art is professional and acceptable but doesn’t really jump off the page like I feel it should have. I also wasn’t a huge fan of Daniel’s interpretation of The Penguin. There was something too gothic and theatrical about him when Penguin is really a very gritty character. The same can be said for Daniel’s Black Mask who loses his trademark shirt and tie for this Dracula look that is more silly than sinister. Rest assured however these are small points that don’t take away from the titles overall power.
I wish DC had given this much care to the “death” of Bruce Wayne instead of letting Morrison hack and slash his way through the story. As summer nears and DC prepares for the next phase in the life of Batman this Battle for the Cowl series is a wonderful conduit to those events. I’m excited for issue #3 and invested deeply in the story. You can’t really ask for more than that from a comic.