by Kyle Ellinger
The second issue of Kyle Higgins and Alex Siegel’s C.O.W.L. continues to showcase a gritty 1962 Chicago where the streets are being cleaned up by superheroes…not the conventional gang of superheroes we’re familiar with, but by the Chicago Organized Workers League, or C.O.W.L. This team consists of powerful superheroes and normal humans all tasked with keeping Chicago safe from crime and super villains. Bureaucracy, egos, and our heroes’ checkered pasts plague C.O.W.L. from the top down, like most government organizations: from one hero with trouble balancing family life at home to some using their fame as heroes for their next sexual conquest.
C.O.W.L. has many layers, with a lot going on, but the writers make the journey a little easier by providing character breakdowns on the first page, highlighting who will be featured in a particular installment. Each issue ends with a personnel file for one of our main characters, giving us a little more detail on the masks. Some information has been redacted from these files, but one day, perhaps we as readers will get a higher, level 3, clearance. The second issue continues to focus more on the politics and relationships, so there is not as much action as we saw in the previous one.
C.O.W.L. feels a little like Watchmen or Astro City. I really enjoy the many layers and complications presented, everything from superhero health insurance, to costume budgeting, to the challenge of working for C.O.W.L. without powers, to even examining crime-fighting as a business model (if you’re really good at what you do, there will be a need to renew your contract).
Artist Rod Reis does an amazing job making 1962 Chicago a character of its own. The shadows and minimalist color give the city its grit. Background colors change with the tenor and feel of the subject matter at hand, or even disappears altogether when in dark alleys or behind buildings. Each character is unique in look and feel, and the 1960s style is evident with every panel. We’re not given too much detail about these characters, but it’s enough for us to sympathize with their plight, root for some, while at the same time having distain for others.
All in all, in its second issue C.O.W.L. continues to create a world where political dealings and personal demons weigh just as heavy as the super powers wielded. This comic isn’t meant to reach every audience, but the foundation of the series is enough to keep me interested in it for what it’s trying to build, not what it lacks. I look forward to the next few issues and learning more about a world where superheroes get paid overtime.
Keep up with C.O.W.L. and other comics by the same creators: