In Batman: Battle for the Cowl Batman is dead and Gotham knows it. A team of superheroes: Robins (past and present), the Bat Family, Huntress, Black Canary, and a host of others who I don’t recognize are called in to help subdue the rising tide of chaos. Gotham’s underground tests the rumors about Batman’s demise. The Penguin, Two-Face, and the Black Mask compete for superiority and the Bat Team receive some unwelcomed help from the toughest of the Bat impersonators.
The story that leads into “A Hostile Takeover,” the first story in Battle for the Cowl succeeds in introducing the newfound aspirations of Gotham’s criminals in Batman’s absence. It is also introduces the aspirations of Gotham’s self-appointed protectors. Someone in a Batman suit is using deadly force on Gotham’s criminals and Nightwing (former Robin Dick Grayon) is against it. He lives by the credo that Batman lived by: No Killing. Nightwing has been collecting clues and making deductions about Batman’s deadly impersonator.
In the next story, “An Army of One,” Nightwing and Damian Wayne (Batman’s biological son with Talia Al Ghul) take on the powerful Batman impersonator and lose. Damian is mortally wounded and Nightwing develops a vendetta. Also in this story, Tim Drake is fed up with Dick Grayson’s refusal to don the cowl and take on the Batman persona, so he does it instead. He accidentally teams up with Catwoman to trace the murderous Batman back to his lair. While the Bat drama is going on, the Black Mask proceeds with his plan to take over Gotham’s underworld. He successfully coerced some of Gotham’s deadliest villains to join him.
“Last Man Standing” is the last story in the book that involves the Bat family. It begins with a two page illustration depicting all of the heroes that have come to save Gotham. Nightwing (with his face darkened) barks out commands and begins his “hunt” for the murderous Batman impersonator. The impersonator was revealed in the last story but it is still interesting to speculate who will win when Nightwing fights him.
The book ends with a series of stories about the lives of the non-superhero good guys in Gotham: Vicki Vale, Leslie Thompkins, Harvey Bullock, and Stephanie Brown (OK, she’s a superhero but not one I’ve seen before). Their stories are interconnected and culminate at the Robinson Ball, an exclusive function held by Gotham’s high society. These stories were interesting because the protagonists were so far removed from Batman which brought home the fact that Batman comics might just print without their namesake in the storyline. Can you write a comic without its namesake?
Just like the illustration that began “Last Man Standing,” the book was good but there were some parts that due my unfamiliarity with the Bat universe were inaccessible to me. It’s like how I couldn’t name all of the heroes helping Nightwing in “Last Man Standing.” Batman: Battle for the Cowl is a nice epilogue to Batman RIP but just not quite as good as “RIP” or the Batman and Robin series that follows.