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C.O.W.L. Volume 1: Principles of Power

(C.O.W.L. #1-5)

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  878 ratings  ·  165 reviews
Welcome to the "Chicago Organized Workers League"- the world's first Super-Hero Labor Union! While C.O.W.L. once stood as a beacon of hope against an epidemic of organized crime and an unbeatable "brotherhood" of Super-Villains, the union now faces its fiercest foe yet-a disillusioned public. In targeting the last of the great villains, C.O.W.L. attempts to prove its value ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published November 11th 2014 by Image Comics (first published August 1st 2014)
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3.37  · 
Rating details
 ·  878 ratings  ·  165 reviews

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Jul 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommended to Anne by: Mike
Even though it's nothing super-duper new or special, I thought this was pretty good. Not mind-blowing, but decent.


The gist of the story is that superheroes are unionized now, and work for an agency called C.O.W.L., instead of doing things on their own. Which is great, because now they have health and dental, right?
I'm still not sure of all the particulars, but the agency apparently farms their services out to the police force.
They're right in the middle of renegotiating their contract, when (in
Sam Quixote
Nov 07, 2014 rated it did not like it
COWL is the Chicago Organized Workers League, aka the world’s first superhero labor union. Makes sense I suppose, not all superheroes have the resources of Bruce Wayne’s billions. But you know why no writers really focus too much on how superheroes get their rent paid? Because it’s not even remotely interesting!!

It’s 1962 and after years of protecting Chicago from supervillains, COWL have disposed of them all, effectively making themselves redundant. So when it comes to renegotiating their cont
Feb 07, 2015 rated it it was ok

This is it, the first Stinker from my Image Humble Bundle...1 star seems a bit harsh, so 1.5, which means 2 on GR.

COWL is a piece of derivative work. It's ripping off Watchmen, and every other book written about a team/group of heroes where things aren't what they seem, and the relationships between everyone are actually pretty shitty.

On top of that, the art looks like a bad copy of Bill Sienkiewicz (from the Elektra Assassin book by Frank Miller in the 80s). Rod Reis, is he related to Ivan Reis
I received this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I liked this one, especially the back-and-forth between the COWL union representatives and the Chicago reps. The story reminded me of a cross between The Watchmen (superheroes with major emotional and psychological problems) and The Incredible (superheroes no longer "needed" by the people they're protecting).

I'll definitely be looking for the next volume in this series.
Crystal Starr Light
Bullet Review:

Anybody heard of consistency in art? No? OK then...

The last issue is probably the most interesting as it seems to make the whole thing different from another Watchman or Jupiter's Circle clone. This isn't the most ground-breaking or earth-shattering comic I've ever read, but for a time waster, could be worse.
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
Well, that was a disappointment. And it's my fault, I looked at the gorgeous covers and I though the story was going to be good. Interesting at least. Well, no, I couldn't care less about what happens to the COWL guys. I liked the art, but I didn't really find anything in the story that compelled me to continue reading.
On the bright side, one less comic I have to buy, less money I have to spend.
'kris Pung
Sep 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Pretty cool new series that had some interesting characters, world building, and some unexpected twists. The only thing I didn’t really care for is the contract negotiations part in the middle really seemed to slow down the momentum of the book.
Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
I put off reading this for a while because of other reviews I had read, but I had the feeling I get when I know I'm going to like it. When I read Anne's review and saw the artwork that was the final trigger for me.

The artwork is brilliant and the era that it's set in is one of my favourites. A little bit like mad men.

C.O.W.L are like a task force, consisting of members who all have their own gifts. Some of them have powers and some don't but they all have expertise and they all use them to kee
Mar 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime, reviewed
I'd really liked Kyle Higgins' Batman: Gates of Gotham and was interested in reading more things from him, so when I came across this book at my LCS, I found the premise interesting - and factoring in the $ 9.99 price point - I said to myself 'What the hell...' and took the plunge.

This inaugural volume did a good job of establishing the main characters & their motivations. The art was at times confusing and unclear, but otherwise okay. Gritty, scratchy, setting the right tone for the story.
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics
I enjoyed this one. A good detective character. Guy at the top with questionable morals. Unionized Special police force unsure of their directives.
David Schaafsma
Apr 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
"Welcome to the "Chicago Organized Workers League"- the world's first Super-Hero Labor Union!" the blurb says about this series. C.O.W.L. And it has all these elements: union activism, crime drama, period piece (sixties, at least in this volume, which calls up not NYC MadMen but Chicago, though it has some resemblance to Madmen with some of the fancier characters), working class, Chicago history, politics, and some (not all) of the COWL dudes have superpowers. So, there's a lot of things here I ...more
Apr 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: comics, read-in-2015
Perhaps an oversimplified description of this comic, but it is trying really hard to be Frank Miller meets Watchmen. The premises are similar (superheroes losing their place in society, attempting to prove their legitimacy as an organization as they age and seem to be less and less socially relevant). It also is full of unlikeable, anti-hero figures in superhero roles. I suppose this comic wanted to use the landscape of the 1960s to start from a similar premise but ultimately tell a different st ...more
Mar 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Very cool art style but while this has a cool concept I felt that it fell short. It seemed to lack any character development and I honestly felt no attachment to any of them. I heard volume 2 is much better but is it really?
I loved the artwork but the story was all over the place. By the end of the volume I simply didn't care enough about the characters or the plotline.
Eric Mesa
Dec 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review was originally published at (go there to see images). This review covers both volumes (which is the entire story), but is extremely light on plot spoilers, so don't worry too much about that.
Two things attracted me to C.O.W.L.: the subject matter and the author. I knew Kyle Higgins from Nightwing Vol 3 (AKA New 52 Nightwing) where I enjoyed his writing. C.O.W.L. takes place in Chicago in 1962 when unions are still strong and the Chicago Or
James DeSantis
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
This was okayish. Since running low on time today make this a quickie. Taking place in the 60's a organization of superheros are trying to stop criminals and super villains from rising once again. Basically a police force of superheroes. In doing so this story is a bit of fighting, a lot of political talk, and some pretty interesting art moments. This didn't blow me away but it was good enough to finish even if it did get dull at points. A 2.5 out of 5.
Nicolo Yu
Aug 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sdcc-2014
The first issue available for free on Comixology during SDCC 2014, C.O.W.L. is a brand new series by former Nightwing writer Kyle Higgins and artist Rod Reis.

I liked Higgins' take on Nightwing and his exploration of the chracter's pre-Batman origins. He also uprooted the character from Gotham and moved him Midwest to Chicago.

In C.O.W.L., Higgins continues the Chicago setting and he also returns to a familiar concept, his superhero labor union which he originated in a short film titled The Leagu
Dec 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of graphic novels
This actually impressed me more than I expected it to, being a bit reminiscent of Watchmen -- although one could argue it was derivative of that, instead of just inspired by it.

It featured an alternate history, a world where super-powered heroes appeared during the second world war. The focus is 1960s Chicago where the unionized heroes -- C.O.W.L., or the Chicago Organized Workers League -- that supplement the police force are struggling to reach a new contract with the city. A lot of thought w
Nancy Meservier
C.O.W.L. is a new Image comic that focuses on superheroes. More like mercenaries then in traditional comics, C.O.W.L. asks what happens to the heroes once all the super villains have been defeated. The result is an interesting, noir-flavored comic that takes place in the 1960s. This Watchmen-esque title attempts to show the reader grittier version of superheroes. It ends up dealing with a lot of characters and ideas, which can make Principles of Power a somewhat complex read, so I think it's a l ...more
Sara J. (kefuwa)
Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sara J. by: Humble Image Comics Bundle 2: Image Firsts
Shelves: graphic-novels
Disclaimer: I haven't read Watchmen, but I have watched the movie. #koff

Okay, with that aside I rather enjoyed going through this. The art is beautiful. The atmosphere gritty and sometimes downright bleak. AU 1960's Chicago and a union of super heroes growing increasingly redundant due to a dwindling population of super powered villains. The first volume starts off with the last member of the main villain group being taken off the board.

Piqued my interest enough that I would be willing to consid
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C.O.W.L. has all the right assets: moody art, interesting milieu, complicated story, writing with depth and intelligence. And yet, the sum of the parts never created a unique piece; the ideas underlining so much of this had been done before (and, if I am to be honest, better). I really wanted to love C.O.W.L. but I just didn't and yet I feel like I am doing a great disservice to the author/illustrator as a result.

While I enjoyed reading C.O.W.L., it definitely has its weaknesses and likely wouldn't appeal to many people. I find the idea interesting, a kind of a genre reconstruct/speculative fiction about what it would be like if there were superpowered humans whom everyone knew about, and who needed to have jobs, because they're not all independently wealthy like Bruce Wayne, or a the CEO of a tech company like Tony Stark. I'll admit that no little of my interest in this series was because it was set in ...more
Nov 30, 2014 rated it liked it
This review and others posted over at my blog .

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

From NetGalley: Welcome to the “Chicago Organized Workers League”- the world's first Super-Hero Labor Union! While C.O.W.L. once stood as a beacon of hope against an epidemic of organized crime and an unbeatable “brotherhood” of Super-Villains, the union now faces its fiercest foe yet-a disillusioned
Sep 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed the hell out of this book.

First of all, there's one thing you should know: this book is pretty. It is pretty on a level that far outstrips the other pretty comic books out there. Really, hats off to Rod Reis, and I would love to buy some original art from him.

Second, my favorite issue was #3, focusing on Radia. It was a great look at sexism and how everyone focuses on her looks and not on her tremendous power. I loved seeing her cut loose and just put the fear of God into people.

Nov 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Well I'm giving this 4 stars mostly because of the art. I don't know how art stuff works but what I know is, the illustration is freaking incredible. It really is beautiful, Rod Reis's art makes every scenes realistic and it keeps you attach to the story.

And to the story itself, the characters in here are your typical super heroes but they are still interesting. I'm just hoping to see more development in them in the next installment (and to see more of Grant and Eclipse). And it is also good tha
Drown Hollum
Dec 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Somewhere between Powers and Batman Inc. is C.O.W.L. A book about a unionized league of superheroes, in 1960s Chicago. The themes and art are excellent, creating a tonal consistency across the entire book. The political and action exciting cross roads, as a Batman-esque 'Grey Raven' takes a seat of power behind the bureaucratically tumultuous C.O.W.L. What follows is a cinematic tale of betrayal, politics, and violence, worthy of a television series.

Where C.O.W.L. falls short though is in it's
Hector Ibarraran
Jun 10, 2015 rated it liked it
A book about corruption and politics that takes place in an alternate version of Chicago in the 1960s. It sets the stage for more stories and shows that, when it comes to power, some times the doing right thing is not important to those in power. I always enjoy when a fictional world feels real and lived in, and when the characters in said world behave in a relatable, human way. This book develops characters with very little space, which is the hallmark of a good comic. I've read much longer wor ...more
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Image Comics have been on quite the roll for the past few years and C.O.W.L. is no exception. This is Kyle Higgins' best work to date: smart, mature, and focused. The art is gorgeous, evocative, and perfectly suited to the story being told. Although ostensibly about a superheroes' union, Higgins doesn't really write his characters as even vaguely heroic. These are messy people leading messy lives whose powers only tend to complicate things further. The very concept of what it means to be a hero ...more
Nov 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
C.O.W.L. is the "Chicago Organized Workers League," a union of superheroes and like-minded non-supes, banded together to protect the city of Chicago. It's the 1960s and most of the big threats to the city have been taken care of, so why should the city keep supporting this group? In the latest round of bargaining, the city holding fast to some concessions, which may mean the end for the union. These superheroes aren't always the nicest of people, but they do seem to have the safety of Chicago an ...more
Feb 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Take note MARVEL (you greedy re-print whores! Heh heh heh) and DC,
IMAGE has been printing some fine books lately! This is one of them!
Set in my old stomping grounds (sweet home, Chicago) this book has everything, strong realistic characters, the depth of a well thought out back story, mystery, action,... and that is just the writing.

The cover, which looks like a simple Dean Motter drawing, is misleading.
The art inside is both realistic and expressionistic,
and layered with textures and a wide
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