Sunday, July 21, 2013

Comic Review: Batman: Court of Owls Vol. 1

 "Beware The Court of Owls, that watches all the time, ruling Gotham from a shadow perch, behind granite and lime. They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed, speak not a whispered word of them or they'll send The Talon for your head."

  - Gotham Nursery rhyme    

                                       (There's a 90's memorabilia store just outside this closeup.)

Who owns Gotham City? Well, if you read Batman comics, you probably think Batman knows the city like the back of his hand even in the dark. But, as it is revealed when Bruce Wayne announces plans to help rebuild Gotham, the city is very old and has legends of its own out of a Victorian darkness predating Batman. Owl dressed assassins attack Bruce Wayne and the Mayor-in-waiting after Batman discovers a message that threatens Bruce himself.

    The art throughout the comic is pretty good for the New 52. It’s nice to see Grant Morrison was at least recognized as Professor Pyg is shown in Arkham in the opening scene, and all the former Robins are there. Also, the book (and I’m not saying this as a joke.) does a good job confusing things and making them topsy-turvy, particularly when Batman is drugged, and the pages keep changing which way you go…as he makes his way through the labrynrinth in the Owl’s Nest, that was a nice touch, but did get annoying when I kept losing my place!

   The nursery rhyme here indicated  works on several levels. First, it establishes that the Owls are older than Batman. Second, it introduces The Talon, the head assassin. Third, it provides a link to Batman’s origin story and scientific methodology as a detective. When at first he hears about the owls, Batman keeps  insisting they don’t exist; despite being attacked twice directly by them. Artist Greg Capullo does a wonderful job keeping you on your toes. Everything is so dark and confusing that (at least for volume one.) you actually wonder if Batman is beat by The Talon.

    There is a huge plot twist which I won’t reveal, but one of the worst scenes in the comic was paradoxically what made the confusion so effective. Specifically, when Batman is drugged in The Talon’s underground lair. The comic keeps changing which way is up, so that sometimes when you flip forwards, pages seem to repeat. And then, finally, after a defeat…the Talon’s identity is revealed. I’ll just say it’s a Frankenstein moment!

   All in all, it is a good comic with the main villains trying to steal Batman’s story and mythos. They were here longer than him, they were the night, they hide in every place in Gotham. And as the owls are connected to Batman’s childhood, it begins to invoke terror and confusion in even the world’s greatest detective, who keeps saying the owls are a myth. The childhood fear of his parent’s murder is re-awakened. Owls are natural predators of bats!

    Highly recommended as a read. Scott Snyder is a good writer, and I kept thinking that Batman taking out a thug near a 90’s Memorabilia store was somehow a tribute to the dark deco style of Paul Dini. But, that could just be me! The Animated Series influenced everything! Anyway, by introducing a villain that makes even Batman question his abilities, it makes me eager to read the conclusion to this new series! It was a real HOOT to read...if you can find your way out of the labyrinth.

                                                      (It's enough to drive Batman bonkers!)

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