Batman Volume 1: The Court of Owls
Medium: comic
Year: 2011
Writer: Scott Snyder
Penciller: Greg Capullo
Inker: Jonathan Glapion
Keywords: superhero
Format: Batman #1-7
Series: << Batman >>
Website category: Batman
Review date: 8 December 2021
Recently, I made the mistake of buying all ten volumes and 52+ issues of Scott Snyder's Batman run.
It's because I'd bought Batman: Last Knight on Earth. That's a Last Batman Story and I was reading all the Dark Knight Returns books, so I snapped it up... but it follows on from Snyder's Batman series, so I bought that too. What the hell. People seemed to think it was quite good (hah).
Crucially and fatally, it's part of the New 52. Yes, yet another DC reboot.
This first book, though, I liked. A mythical organisation called the Court of Owls has supposedly been controlling Gotham for decades, or even centuries. They have a super-assassin called the Talon. (The iconography, of course, is because owls eat bats.) Batman's surprisingly dogmatic about the non-existence of these owlmen, but of course he'll fall foul of them in a big way. He gets lost in an underground labyrinth, believed dead, possibly mad and/or poisoned. He cracks up. It's not quite the Breaking of the Bat and he'll recover and fight back, but it's pushing him into darker, scarier places than I'd expected.
I like the pacing. It's a slow burning arc, with the menace of the Talon and the Court of Owls building up inexorably. We're now seven issues in and it feels as if it's about to get big.
You don't really need to know any Bat-lore, as one expects from reboots. At one point, there are three Robins or ex-Robins in the same room, but this Batman operates solo. Nightwing/Dick occasionally drops in for a chat, admittedly. Alfred's ever-present, though, as is Gotham's police department. Jim Gordon, Harvey Bullock, the odd pathologist, etc.
We see different two sides of the Batman. Bruce Wayne, billionaire philanthropist and idealist, gives a big, shiny speech about Gotham's future and rubs shoulders with the next mayor. (Maybe. If he wins the election.) This is a brighter, more optimistic Batman than usual, even if he's in civvies. In costume, though, he visits slum apartments and does detective work with cynical cops who say things like, "Guys like Wayne, they don't get how the city works the way we do."
He looks too young, though. Greg Capullo's a good artist, but in some panels Bruce Wayne looks like a teenager. When he's in his dinner jacket alongside the Robins, the only real difference between them is height. (Even though one of them's his son!)
The verdict so far: pretty good. I was happy to keep reading. I was interested in seeing where things went. Mind you, the Talon reminds me of Daniel Dreiberg from Watchmen...