Artist: Rod Reis
Publisher: Image Comics
With every passing issue C.O.W.L. feels more and more like a comic that is the child of the dark ‘80s comics whose grim and gritty stories have influenced many titles of today. From the nihilistic tone of Watchmen to the uncertain, and somewhat begrudging saviour that is Batman in The Dark Knight Returns, these comics expressed a darker, angst-ridden outlook that the hero doesn’t always win the day, humanity is inherently evil and generally—I’m oversimplifying here—that things suck.
“C.O.W.L. #5” descends into a world that is more violent, corrupt and desperate than we’ve seen so far. This soul-crushing malevolence provides the spring board for an exciting issue that encapsulates what makes this world interesting despite its depressing tone. We pick up the story in the aftermath of C.O.W.L. picketers become a little too violent and the opposition to their continued existence has become unanimous throughout the city. Higgins and Siegel take the opportunity to get to the heart of the matter and reveal what this series is really about: that without villains, heroes are unnecessary.
The backdrop of Chicago continues to give Rod Reis more than enough fodder for fantastic artwork. The consistency he has been able to achieve for five issues now is incredible. Everything still looks fantastic and clearly identifies the tone and atmosphere of the story. There is no doubt when you pick up the latest issue of C.O.W.L. that you’re going to get something beautiful. However, the death that occurs toward the end of the issue is a little muddled because of Reis’s style and seeing a bit more of the gory details would have been nice, but that doesn’t prevent the panel from impacting you.
A detail that stuck out for me this issue as the book appears to finally focus in on the point Higgins, Siegel and Reis have been building to from the start is that the union is playing a less necessary function than perhaps originally suspected. That unique aspect has given the creative team a platform to jump from but their jumping into well-trodden territory: what happens when a city no longer needs its heroes? They’ve done a great job with creating a unique, beautiful, and engrossing world, so my fears are likely unfounded. But it’s something to keep an eye on going forward.
“C.O.W.L. #5” is another remarkable entry into one of Image’s darkest yet most compelling series. Co-writers Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel have crafted characters that have real skin in the game and some of them are easy to love while others are easy to love-to-hate. Rod Reis’s art is a defining characteristic for the book. It simultaneously sets the book apart from everything else on stands while also providing exactly what the doctor ordered for this series. Everything about “C.O.W.L. #5” is mysterious, grim, and foreboding.
“C.O.W.L. #5” earns 8.0/10