Battle for the Cowl – Week One!

Gotham Gazette: Batman Dead?Well, week zero, technically, since the first issue of Battle for the Cowl doesn’t come out until next Wednesday.  Still, this week saw the release of Gotham Gazette: Batman Dead?, a sort of prelude to the storyline that introduces some of the bit players, rather than focusing on major characters like Robin and Nightwing.

Gotham Gazette almost reads like the old Gotham Central, tackling some of the street level characters in Gotham City, the people who don’t wear capes, but are important to the Bat mythos.

Narrated by the new character Veil (she popped up in Detective Comics #850 back in November), we get a couple of different tales – all written by the ever-reliable Fabian Nicieza, but drawn by different artists.

Read the summary and my thoughts after the jump.

Gotham is feeling the loss of Batman.  No one knows for sure that he’s dead (other than the heroes), but his loss can be felt in the streets.  Crime is up, Two Face and Johnny Stitches (Gotham Underground) are fighting for control of territory, and there’s a feeling that there may not be hope for the city.

Vicki Vale is back in Gotham, after a big fall from her stint in TV.  She’s back taking photos for the Gotham Gazette.  I’m not sure if she knows Bruce Wayne is Batman, but she’s trying to get a hold of Wayne to be her date to a news award ball.  Obviously, she’s unable to reach him, so she goes on the search – there are pictures of him partying all over the globe (though those are actually of Hush, the villain who has Wayne’s face after a recent stint in Detective Comics), so he’s got to be around, right?  She checks all his usual contacts, and even gets blocked by Oracle on some of her attempts, but returns home to find an invitation to join him for the aforementioned ball.  Was it left by someone trying to cover Bruce’s tracks?  If so, how do they plan to make up for the fact that, well….he’s dead?

The next story is about Stephanie Brown, the Spoiler and once girl Robin.  She’s trying to find her place in the world after being rejected by Robin, and she’s starting to get the feeling that she should become Spoiler once again….

Meanwhile, Leslie Thompkins, once Bruce’s most trusted doctor, has returned to Gotham.  She starts to feel like she may have come back at the worst possible time, and that Gotham’s soul may be wounded beyond repair.  She witnesses a prison breakout and is held captive by the Cavalier (Robin villain), who’s injured and needs her help.

Harvey Bullock is working with a new rookie and, despite the fact that the only cop he trusts is Jim Gordon, is having to get used to working with the Metropolis Crime Unit.  Still, despite the problems inside the department, he’s got a decapitated body and he needs to find the killer.

I didn’t leave off the ends of any of the stories intentionally …. that’s where they end.  Gotham Gazette reads as a preview for some larger storylines, and I’m not sure if they’ll be resolved in Battle for the Cowl, or in Gotham Gazette: Batman Alive in May.  It’s a good read, and the art is great, but it’s certainly not the most accessible read for new readers.  Hell, even a regular Batman reader like me is a little lost in some of the stories, and there’s not much exposition to help readers catch up.

Still, if the character names above sound familiar to you, pick it up – it’s always interesting to see how life runs in Gotham for those who aren’t masked vigilantes.  It makes the city feel like a real place.

See for yourself though – DC has a preview of the first couple of pages here.

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