Battle for the Cowl: Oracle The Cure started off with a serious bang. The story was exciting, well written and seemed to be playing into the whole mystery surrounding what happened to the Anti-Life Equation since the defeat of Darkseid in Final Crisis. There had even been a bit of intrigue around the Oracle issues themselves with DC Comics only shipping the minimum amount needed to fulfill subscription orders. Why would DC do that? Would this three-issue arc be so important to the Batman story that DC needed to shroud it in mystery?
Sadly, that isn’t the case.
The most disappointing thing about the end of Oracle: The Cure is that it turns out to be just another Batman Universe story. Nothing in this story arc moves the entire Battle for the Cowl story along except maybe by getting Oracle back to Gotham or being a lead in to the new Batgirl title that’s starting up. Perhaps by some miracle having to do with the Anti-Life Equation Barbara Gordon gets the use of her legs back and tries to become the female Caped Crusader again but I doubt it.
When we left Barbara in issue 2 she was trying to face down the master criminal The Calculator who was using the world of virtual reality gaming to try and hunt down the remnants of the Anti-Life Equation in order to save his daughter. I waited for issue three to raise this common comic book tale into something with much more power but it never happened. The Calculator is a bad guy and Barbara Gordon is going after him, that’s it, that’s all that goes on.
Even the way the comic ties together runs from the boring to the altogether stupid. Setting the entire battle in some virtual reality world creates a total disconnect from anything going on with human characters. The Calculator’s “virtual” identity looks a lot like a cross between predator and the robot from the film Metropolis but sporting green shades, The other “virtual” characters look like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, which renders any and all battles completely silly. Try keeping a straight face when Barbara brings a tiny dog into the virtual world that enters in a virus by peeing on the virtual wall. Oh yeah, it’s that kind of stupid.
When the end of Oracle finally comes to fruition it means nothing, you don’t care about The Calculator enough to even bat an eye when his final fate is realized. His daughter’s suffering comes in too late to really register as more than a plot device. In short the entire story feels like a gigantic waste of time. I was particularly unhappy with how the physical realization of the Anti-Life Equation looked like a cheap fake diamond necklace. I started thinking that maybe DC held back sending multiple issues because they knew just how bad this story was.
Writer Kevin Vanhook (Bloodshot, Superman & Batman VS Werewolves) does a competent job with the dialog but really loses steam plot wise with issue three. The first two issues really felt brisk and well paced while issue three feels clunky and rushed. The complete lack of payoff is really disappointing based on how well Oracle: The Cure started out. It some odd way it feels as if Vanhook just gave up, almost like this wasn’t his original story but something he was forced to do so he just phoned it in. Whatever the case he really fails with issue three.
The artwork by Julian Lopez is pretty solid and he maintains the Barbara-is-still-hot vibe started with the first two issues. Nothing here jumps off the page or makes you think Lopez is something special but you also don’t spend time analyzing how bad it is so it just becomes the necessary art for the story.
As Battle for the Cowl winds down and the days until we find out who the new Batman is grow shorter these off shoot titles are really going to set the stage for our new Dark Knight. DC needs this new Batman to hit the ground running if he’s going to have any staying power or interest with the fans. The world the new Batman operates in will be a huge part of how interesting his adventures are and I can only hope Oracle: The Cure isn’t indicative of what’s to come.