Battle for the Cowl: The Network #1 review

Batman’s still dead (I know, it’s been weeks!) so his allies are running round Gotham like blue-arsed flies in the aftermath of an Arkham breakout. This issue sees Oracle and pals out to take down a kidnap and gambling plot by Hugo Strange.

Hugo, you disappoint me – haven’t you always had grander visions?

Oh well, that’s the set-up for a one-shot focusing on Huntress, Batgirl, Manhunter, Misfit and Ragman (characters such as Grace, Man Bat and Lady Blackhawk appear in a splash page roll call, but nowhere else). There’s lots of Oracle sending people here, there and everywhere, telling them what’s up with Hugo’s electronic betting boards, who has them on camera and so on. It’s brain deadening stuff from the usually sparky Fabian Nicieza – suddenly there’s not a single hero in Gotham who can act without Oracle’s advice. I get that Barbara Gordon is coordinating, but I’m sure that once she helps people get to the scene, they could be trusted to handle the rest.

It seems not – take Huntress, for example; her characterisation is thrown back about ten years to when she was still being lectured by Batman and Oracle for her willingness to use lethal force. The fact that she’s back in the imbecilically impractical belly button-baring costume has me wondering if this Huntress has been supping the Superboy punch.

The art doesn’t rescue the comic from the Land of Middling; pencillers Jim Calafiore and Don Kramer, and inker Mark McKenna, do a serviceable job only. And Ladronn’s cover isn’t as appealing as his previous Battle for the Cowl entries – Manhunter, for example, looks like she’s been drinking Gingold. Overall, this is Birds of Prey with added boys and boredom, a Network that goes nowhere.

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