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‘C.O.W.L., Volume 1: Principles of Power’ – Advance TPB Review

Everything done in Chicago comes with strings attached.  In this alternate history epic, Chicago’s streets are patrolled not only by the police, but superpowered humans who work for the Chicago Organized Workers League, a union of super and non-superheroes who are the check to the supers that fall on the other side of the law.  Allegorical to the union struggles of the same era, the story magnifies the power moves and underhanded dealings that built the modern metropolis that stands today.

Set up like a noirish mystery, the story follows several factions all trying to navigate the dangers of the day.  There’s plenty of action, but the setups are nuanced and gripping in their execution.  Panels flow into each other, dialogue leading you into the next scene like quick wipes on film, but each scene piles onto the same story, building a truly complex mythology that gives you enough information to follow along yet makes you beg for more.

The art style serves the ideas here brilliantly, with sharp edges and lots of shadow, and you’re never quite sure who’s taking who down until the author’s ready to reveal it.  It lends itself to the sense of mystery and subterfuge of the world that all the characters are trying to navigate.

I think the most fun in this edition is the finding of what’s right.  Is it right to pay people to protect the populace at large?  Is it right that the public institutions that govern people gain control over those that keep that city safe, or should they rather be an autonomous institution that can keep a check on the politicos, as well?  Is it right to deny safety to bargain a better deal?  The great thing is that we’re not presented with an absolute right, just given the world in its realities and we’re free to make our own judgments.

This is a great, deep world with some awesome storytelling that will keep you guessing about the action and yourself throughout every page.  If you’re up for unraveling a dense, but accessible, world with adetective story feel, then you should check out this volume.




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