Zeb Larson reviews C.O.W.L. #6…
NEW STORY ARC! Before he started C.O.W.L., Geoffrey Warner fought for Chicago as the city’s first hero, THE GREY RAVEN! But what started him down the path of crime fighting? Witness the origin of Chicago Superheroes, the War Years, and the formation of C.O.W.L. as told in the sellout issue written by C.O.W.L reporter and comic book writer Randall Winters.
For readers hoping to some resolution to the major events of the last issue, Issue #6 of C.O.W.L. will likely be a disappointment. Rather than delving into all of the problems facing C.O.W.L. and Chicago, this issue is a fictionalized account of the life of Geoffrey Warner. I say that it’s fictionalized because the entire issue is supposed to have been commissioned by Warner, and the book mirrors the style of a comic book from 1963. Replete with period advertisements, this gives us a look at Warner, or more precisely, how Warner wishes to present himself to the world. If you’re willing to ignore the main plot and let the universe be fleshed out, this is a fantastic issue.
The premise of this issue is that Warner specifically commissioned Image Comics to tell his origin story. It starts with his childhood in 1918 and his respect for his policeman father, which slowly erodes over time. Warner moves from career to career, each time disdaining the corruption he encounters, until a masked robber appears in Chicago. Warner decides that only he can do what the police refuse to do, and so he begins his life as a costumed vigilante.
In terms of giving us factual information about Warner, we as readers have to remember that is a heavily sanitized version of Warner’s life. The real story is in what Warner chooses to show us. Warner is creating the image of the costumed superhero as incorruptible and uniquely able to do what the police are unable to do. Obviously, this is part of the propaganda that Warner is attempting to push about the public need for C.O.W.L. Yet it also speaks to Warner’s problem with authority figures. Why else include the story about the conflict with his father, a story which most people would be ashamed to see told in public? Warner continually challenges powerful men, and the basic archetype of the powerful man is a father.
The atmosphere and style of this story is extraordinarily well-done. The issue is replete with period advertisements for Image’s other comic books, all presented in an early ‘60s manner. Toy advertisements are included as well, including one hilariously sexist ad for a Radia hairbrush. There’s also a piece for a jazz album by Joe Clark that is real and available on iTunes, done in an authentic early ‘60s Hard Bop style. All of this recreates the feel of the early ‘60s and complements the moral certitude typical of a Silver Age comic. Warner is good, the bad guys are evil, and the hero triumphs. No doubt this is Warner’s world view, and he thinks he knows who he is.
Warner’s own belligerence and his intractability toward authority figures is fueling much of the ongoing conflicts in this book. Propaganda is often instructive in reflecting what the creator wants you to learn and take away, and this meta-issue is no exception to that. I look forward to getting back to the main plot, but this issue was a fun detour.