Do you love historical fiction? What about historical fiction that also has superheroes? Well, have I got a book for you! C.O.W.L. (acronym for the Chicago Organized Workers League) is the tale of a superhero union as it enters the swinging sixties, a very turbulent time in American history without the superhero punching.
However, a bit more contrasted to issue #1, co-writers Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel and artist Rod Reis decide to slow things up a bit to begin setting the stage for the series, as this issue follows a few different stories and delves into the world that has a superhero union trying to deal with rampant supercrime as well as city politics.
Three specific stories construct this issue: the story of West Side patrol partners Karl Samoski (Eclipse, power disruption abilities) and Grant Marlow, the continuing worries of negotiations with the City government and John Pierce’s investigation into potential corruption within C.O.W.L. itself. Higgins/Siegel do a great job of really humanizing these characters (especially Grant) and show the acts of superheroism in a light less “They can be a great people…they only lack the light to show them the way” and more “9 to 5 and then go home to the family” way. It also delves into a topic not often really seen, about a non-powered, ordinary guy partnering with a powered hero and the kind of problems and envy that can come with that.
My favorite parts from a story perspective were the parts with Pierce’s investigation. I fully admit, I am a sucker for a saboteur story and seeing this one guy beginning down the path to sniff out the corrupt is always fun for me. True, it has the least amount of panel time in this issue, but for me I found it very enjoyable.
Speaking of looking like, let’s talk about art. Now, what I write next may sound bad, but that is not my intention. Rod Reis’ art in this book is very dreary. Again, I say that in all the good ways. Pencil work, inks and color; they all work to perfectly show the tone this story is trying to go for. I also appreciate Reis’ use of blue green color in a certain scene with Grant and Karl that I will not spoil here. It really sells the depressing scene. On another note, I am curious as to whether or not actor profiles are being used as inspiration for characters. Why? Well, for me at least, John Pierce looks exactly like Vincent Price! Not a bad thing at all, but it does raise a question.
There are some that say this was a slow issue, but I don’t really mind that. Great thing about creator-owned, you don’t have to adhere to dozens of other books in a shared universe. I am so up for C.O.W.L. taking its time and building the world and its characters. I really hope we get to see some of the more social changes that happened during the sixties and how this group affects or are affected by it.
At the end of the day, C.O.W.L. #1 was a strong introduction and issue #2 is even better. There’s a lot of potential in this series. Give it a look.