Writers: Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel
Art: Rod Reis (Stephane Perger for Issue #4)
Letters: Troy Peteri
Covers: Trevor McCarthy
Publisher: Image Comics
C.O.W.L., or the Chicago Organized Workers League, consists of individuals with powers and some without. All members of the league, whether it is the telekinetic Radia or the honest detective John Pierce, are out to fight a common enemy: the villains that commit crimes and threaten the greater good of the city of Chicago. The premise may sound redundant, however, there are particular examples that utilized the genre of superheroes in a very unique way. C.O.W.L. has the potential, and to a certain extent captures an early feel of the impact that Watchmen would have not only on the genre, but also on comics as a whole.
Writers Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel start the first issue of C.O.W.L. with an accelerated start. The core of C.O.W.L, lead by Geoffrey Warner, an unpowered war veteran, have defeated communist villain Skylancer. The new topic brought about by this elimination of the final member of the crime syndicate known as the Chicago Six is whether or not the Workers League is going to be of any use, now that the major threats have been taken care of. Many interesting characters are introduced, stemming from the Workers League. Most of the core unit contain powers and have some sort of dilemma with one another. Tom Haydn or Arclight, revels in the spotlight of being a hero while Karl Samoski, or Eclipse, abuses his anti-kinetics power and gloats his stories of heroism. There are many others introduced, opening up a wide array of damaged individuals, struggling to understand where they stand in a changing world. Higgins and Siegel definitely appear to have more up their sleeves as one works through the first five issues collected in this collection. Many trick cards reveal themselves, only to paint a much wider canvas of possibilities.
Speaking of canvases, the art style of Rod Reis, whom has mainly been a DC artist and colourist, stands out incredibly. Though rough in appearance and distracting at times, the combination of notable lines and a paint or pastel look creates this unique clash, really making the reader feel the disconnect and tension within the world of C.O.W.L. Altering colour palettes are utilized brilliantly and playfully, notably during the first issue’s point of view frames of a blind Radia, as she struggles to pinpoint the imminent threat of Skylancer. Reis, in a sure nod to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, also plays with form by briefly choosing television screens as the frame and isn’t afraid to break out of the boxed in images as the blood travels from the face of sharpshooter Grant Marlow onto the neighbouring edges of the page.
Image has once again struck gold with C.O.W.L.; a series that readers should jump on now. Higgins and Siegel have created a magnificently interesting universe that works tremendously well with the rough but well toned pairing of Reis’s art. All of the characters are well developed on such an early note in this series, from all of the powered heroes to the unpowered detectives. There is so much room for world building and a better understanding of these characters; a very excited notion indeed.