The Chicago Organized Workers League is at its breaking point. Geoffrey Warner is attempting to pull out all the stops to salvage the union, but will his efforts be enough or will the members of C.O.W.L. go their separate ways? More importantly, is it good?
C.O.W.L. #5 (Image Comics)
After the chaos of the strike in the previous issue, the political landscape for Geoffrey Warner and C.O.W.L. is looking grim. His allies within the organization and outside are shrinking and shrinking fast. Even a once dependable ally in the media backs out, claiming, “…eventually everything ends.” John Pierce and Arclight are putting their plans into motion to expose the weapons dealing C.O.W.L. had been conducting with Skylancer. The two are in agreement and Arclight pronounces, “But screw it. I have your back. Again.”
Writers Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel pour gasoline onto the burning house of Geoffrey Warner and C.O.W.L. The reader is well aware of his situation and the fact he has been pushed to the edge. This is made very explicit in a scene involving him, Arclight, and a bottle of alcohol. Rod Reis’ use of body language depicts a despondent man. His head is slumped down and his clothes are bedraggled as he seemingly mourns the passing of C.O.W.L. He moves from his sitting position to standing up, placing his hand against a locker looking away from the reader, bottle still in hand. The next panel continues to illustrate an emotionally beaten Warner, with his hand running against his forehead as he contemplates how it all went wrong. Even at this emotional low, Warner still believes in C.O.W.L. and pitches to Arclight that the city of Chicago still needs people like him; heroes.
The book transitions to an action sequence involving John Pierce as he hunts down two armed robbers. The scene is gritty with a ton of shadowing from Reis. Pierce is flawless in his execution of putting a stop to the criminals. He uses the lid of a trash can as a discus to incapacitate the first one, and then moves in for close-quarter combat involving a heavy right fist to the second robber’s jaw and eye. The scene is exciting and shows off the crime-fighting skills of Pierce, but also his desire for what is right. He foregoes meeting with his contact to expose the Skylancer weapons smuggling to apprehend the two criminals. Unfortunately, his desire for what is right will be his undoing. In a scene all too reminiscent of Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan, Arclight reneges on his promise and puts an end to John Pierce’s meddling once and for all. He even mutilates his body, tattooing “SCAB” into his forehead.
Arclight’s decision-making process is drastically thrown into question. After the previous issue where Warner had him physically beaten up and humiliated by Blaze, he throws his chips back in with Warner in the belief he is a hero. The dynamic is complex. He has eliminated one of the true heroes and by doing so also eliminated his chance of ever obtaining the title of “hero” from the readers.
The final two pages transition back to Geoffrey Warner as he makes a desperate ploy to salvage C.O.W.L. Will his machinations work? And how will the city and people of Chicago respond?
Is It Good?
This book is an excellent finale to the first story arc. It has the right mix of political machinations, action sequences, and character emotions, but also adds in one hell of an emotional shock to the reader. Reis’ artwork is top-notch once again, creating the gritty dark vibe of 1960s Chicago.