Fourcast! 01: Saved by the Cowl

May 25th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

We took the plunge and recorded the inaugural 4thletter! Fourcast! this weekend. Esther and I sat down in my apartment and talked about comics for a while, and our gift to you is thirty-four minutes and five seconds of good stuff. I’m not 100% happy with the mix, as there are a few audio peaks spread throughout, but we can work those out as we go along.

We’re looking at a biweekly schedule for now, and bringing in a few surprise guest stars down the line. We also need to rope Gavin into the mix, but that’s a problem for another day.

We begin the first of many Fourcasts with a talk about Batman: Battle for the Cowl, Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance starring the Super Young Team, and what character really hooked us into comics.

If you want to subscribe, hit up the podcast-specific RSS feed or grab the normal one. Tell your friends, give us an iTunes review or three, and drop us some comments. If you want to subscribe on iTunes, click here! If you have suggestions or want to donate some music… drop me an email.

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Is this a comeback?

May 23rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

No idea, but Gav told me to do this.
From the ever-classic rap battle.

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Compare and Contrast

May 7th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

The Battle for the Cowl so far is comprised of three main books, numerous associated mini-series, and a few scattered one-shot tie-ins.  I’m not strongly affected either way by most of these, but this week two of those one-shots loom large in my mind.

The first is an example of the perfect tie-in.  It shows us something we never would have seen if we were following a conventional narrative, and offers us something truly different from the norm while still maintaining the tone of the world for which it was created.  That one was Battle for the Cowl: Arkham Asylum.  Written by David Hine, it takes us on a tour of Arkham Asylum, and for once focuses on the less gruesome aspects of the institution.  Jeremiah Arkham narrates the story, not in the usual hard-boiled tone taken by the Gotham crowd, but with sincere sadness that he hasn’t been able to help the inmates. 

While we sense that he is somewhat unhinged himself, he’s an eccentric and an idealist, not the usual film-noir lunatic.  He finds picks a few inmates who pose no threat, and leads them out of the ruined structure.  In the end, before the final, worrying sting, he expresses the hope that he can rebuild the asylum so that it lives up to its name – so that it can be a true asylum for those who are unable to survive in the conventional world.  It’s refreshing, it’s sobering, and it’s creative.

Sadly, I only really got to thinking about how excellent it was while reading Battle for the Cowl: The Network.  Well, now I know something about myself, at least.  Pissiness is a bigger motivator than honest admiration.

So let’s get to it! 

Well, first thing’s first.  Huntress’s costume has been changed back to a glorified bikini.  And why?  Because the promotional poster for the event, drawn by Tony Daniel, has her back in her Jim Lee costume.  I don’t see why this would necessitate a costume change in the actual book any more than the ‘The Real Power In The DCU’ poster would necessitate putting every woman in the DCU in a white evening dress, but I guess that’s how they’re going to play it.

Honestly?  I didn’t even notice the costume change.  A girl fighting crime in a bikini doesn’t catch my eye anymore.  What made me notice was the characters in the story can’t stop picking at the new outfit.  Batgirl, still with a perfect command of the English language, mentions it once.  Oracle mentions it later.  Both talk about how impractical it is.

I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s a jab by writer at a mandated costume change.  Maybe he’s was trying to have his cake and eat it, too, by putting Huntress in a two-piece bathing suit and still snarking about it.  I’m not sure who made the decisions to regress Huntress sartorially. 

I just know that the decision was also made to regress her personally.  When the villain announces that he will start murdering two hostages if the heroes don’t murder one, Huntress pulls her crossbow and is about to take a hostage out when Batgirl knocks her aside.  This is the deal-breaker for me.  Cass is back on the moral high ground, but she had to knock Helena off it to get there.  Never mind that in continuity we haven’t seen Huntress kill in years.  Never mind that we’ve never seen her kill that casually.  In the end, the plot of this book involves the worst mistake a team book can make: cutting off one character at the knees to make another character look good.  That’s never the way to go.

In short: Buy Battle for the Cowl:Arkham Asylum.  Leave Battle for the Cowl: The Network on the shelf.  And stop making women fight in swimwear.

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Jason Todd: Movie Monster

April 29th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Is it me or is Jason Todd acting like the main killer/monster from scary movies? 

Let’s review the narrative of most of the Battle For The Cowl themed issues he’s appeared in.

A character is isolated from the main group.

The character feels fine, and is going through a routine activity when . . . they get tense.

Oh no!  Crisis!  What will happen to this character? 

Wait, wait, no.  We thought that was the main scare, but the crisis is quickly averted.  Things are okay again – until . . .


Jason Todd suddenly lurches out of the darkness and kills the hell out of the character!  The other characters obviously are troubled and scared by this, but that doesn’t stop them from breaking off from the main group in their turn.

I’m hoping they change Gotham’s name to Camp Crystal Lake.  Also, get Jason a hockey mask.

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April 7th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

And so it appears in the preview of Battle For The Cowl #2. . . oooops, spoilers already . . .

Read the rest of this entry �

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Making An Az Of Himself

March 18th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Azrael is the member of the Batsquad I know least about.  He was long gone, continuity-wise, by the time I started reading comics.  The first issue of the new Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight didn’t make me regret that one bit.

It’s not that the book is bad.  It’s just that I don’t care for Azrael.  I can’t exactly pin down why.  The guy’s self-righteous, yes, but self-righteousness is Batman’s stock in trade.  And yes, he does go crazy and try to kill people pretty regularly, but Superman does that as well.  Azrael actually succeeds in killing people, but of course, that’s what the Secret Six do and I love them.  That’s what back-from-the-dead Jason Todd does, and I like him.

That’s right.  Old Azrael ranks below Jason Todd in the Bat hierarchy. 

Azrael fans: What, if any, selling points does this guy have?

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Why Must DC Frustrate My Sense Of Order?

March 15th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Why is the Faces of Evil series, which is a group of unconnected stories, share the same title, while the Battle For The Cowl series, which has a clear narrative running through it, be published under a bunch of different titles?

Gotham Gazette, Battle For The Cowl, Azrael, Commissioner Gordon, Oracle: The Cure – I’ll have to rifle through at least three of my longboxes to read it.

It’s enough to drive me to waiting for trades.

Oh, who am I kidding?  Like there’s a chance in hell that I’m not going to pick up a series about Barbara Gordon.

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Oh, Timmy. How you have grown.

March 13th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I’m putting this entry, shallow as it is, under a cut in case any of you don’t want to be even mildly spoiled for Battle For The Cowl. Read the rest of this entry �

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Birds Of Prey: Ending Low

February 19th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

While Robin ends with Tim Drake coming into his own as a hero, Birds of Prey finishes with Barbara Gordon losing her identity.

At the end of the series, Babs has to blow up her second headquarters in two years.  She’s faced the Joker again, only to get knocked around.  She’s faced Calculator and seen him literally attain new heights while she’s left in the dust.  Her team is hated in their new town, and while they manage to disperse the criminal syndicate they were running, they can’t shut it down.  She’s lost a friend, possibly permanently.  All in all, this is a low point for her.

The different approaches to the two series make sense.  Tim is a young hero and former sidekick, so his series need to see him reach a new level of independence and maturity.  Babs is well-established, and has to find some new direction.  Her new direction is hinted at in the upcoming mini-series, Oracle: The Cure.  I know, I know, the name is supposed to be a reference to curing a sick little girl.  Still, either Babara Gordon is going to record a cover of Boys Don’t Cry, or DC is teasing us with the possibility that Babs is going to walk again and Cassandra Cain is going to have a little battle for her own cowl.

I hate being brought face-to-face with my bias as a comics reader.  The Robin series ended in a way which I didn’t approve of, but which made sense dramatically.  Tim Drake became a competent and autonomous hero while having to give up some of the things he’d loved as a child.  Couple that with the death of his last parental figure and you’ve got a strong, archetypal coming-of-age story.  I hate it.

Barbara Gordon quitting the team she established and nurtured, leaving a kid she semi-adopted, walking again, giving up her identity as Oracle and possibly stepping back into the shadow of the bat is wrong.  It’s backwards motion, it’s erasing her identity, it’s losing her place in a larger universe.  And yet I cannot find it within myself to hate it.  I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t happen.   I need it.  I love it.  I want it. 

I want fun!  I want the original Batgirl and her adventures.  At the very least I want more mini-series!

There is a lot to be said for comics that are committed to a story, rather than bowing to popular opinion.  But honestly, I don’t want to take my comics the way I take multi-vitamins.  If there’s an Oracle mini, I’ll be there.  If it breaks in the middle to make Barbara Gordon Batgirl again, I’ll be there and tearing at the shelves.  Pander to me, DC.  Pander to me.

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Something Jumped Out At Me From The Battle For The Cowl Promo Image.

February 7th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell


Obviously, the winner, as previously suggested on this site, should be Ted Kord, who I am assuming is not in the picture in order to preserve the element of surprise.

But if it ends up being Alfred?  In that uniform?  It’s all been worth it.

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