Writers: Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel
Artist: Rod Reis
Release Date: May 28, 2014
It’s 1962 and agents of the Chicago Organized Workers League, a sprawling union of crime fighters and superheroes known as C.O.W.L., are chasing down the latest threat against the American way. Spoiler alert: he’s Russian. But the times they are a-changing, and on the heels of one victory a new struggle emerges — staying relevant.
While there will surely be no shortage of whisky, cigarettes and chauvinism, C.O.W.L. stands to be more than Watchmen with a Mad Men cliché infusion. A few characters stand out early, like Geoffrey Warner, a ‘40s-era hero named the Grey Raven and current chief of C.O.W.L., and John Pierce, a taciturn detective with keen instincts and an upturned collar. But, the most intriguing so far is Radia: looking like Nancy Sinatra with a twist of vintage Marvel Girl, she’s the only female member of the team and strikes a chord heavy with complexity and depth. She’s tough, too — whether blasting a mad Russian down a city street or disdainfully scowling at her boss — and the book can only benefit from more of her.
Sterling characterization aside, C.O.W.L.’s trump card lies in its art. Rod Reis, through hard brushstrokes and intense facial lines, carries even the slowest scenes, making a conversation in a dimly-lit office or a detective sitting at his desk a sight to revel in. Reis’ Chicago, with its dark palette and abysmal shadows, leans more Gotham than Metropolis. The aesthetic is realistic, yet magical, shifting seamlessly from dreamy to hard-boiled and back again.
This first issue feels like the tip of a massive iceberg. The future of the series seems ripe for power struggles, tangles of corruption and conspiracies. With more characters to flesh out as the story unfolds, and any number of dramatic tropes to play off of, C.O.W.L. can go in many directions — hopefully one brimming with sleaze and grime.