Here ends the Court of Owls storyline. Apparently this was a DC crossover event and I should be reading the other relevant issues in another graphic novel, Batman: Night of the Owls. These include All-Star Western, Batwing, Batgirl, Batman and Robin, Batman: The Dark Knight, Birds of Prey, Catwoman, Detective Comics, Nightwing, Red Hood and the Outlaws and... oh, never mind. I won't be buying it. This is one of Snyder's better arcs, admittedly, but this collection stands up fine without the bolt-ons.
I quite like the Owl storyline, even if I tended to find the Court of Owls as boring as hell when they got cameos later on. The plot's playing big, it has genuine surprises and it's pushing Batman to the limit. He faces a real fight. He seems likely to lose. One of the surprises is an adventure serial cliche that might make you laugh, admittedly, but there's a ton of deniability and the baddie's claim is probably false. (This is Snyder's rebooted New 52 Batman, mind you, so it could have been true... but apart from one passing reference later, it's never referred to again. So sod it.)
My only problem with this story arc is that it dribbles away without an ending. It probably worked better as a monthly comic, but here it's limp. The Owls are still out there, presumably, anonymously... and then the book loses interest and starts talking about teenage electricians and Mr Freeze.
Batman #10 ("The Fall of the House of Wayne, Part II") is an unexpected side-step, but also a bit rubbish. It's about Alfred's father, Jarvis Pennyworth. His (fantastic) name and appearance are Victorian, but the setting's modern-ish and he's just Alfred's predecessor as the Waynes' butler. He gets in trouble with the Court of Owls. I didn't care.
Batman #12 (Ghost in the Machine) is different and interesting. No supervillains, except en passant in the sewers. No criminals. No plan for evil. It's about two teenagers. One of them (Harper Row) has been invited to a Wayne ball, but prefers going underground and working as a city electrical engineer. (She also has dyed hair and wears noseclips.) The other teen is her brother, Cullen, who gets beaten up by homophobes. Batman punches them. That's what's most important for our heroes and it's the most important thing for us too. I really liked this and I think it's good to see in this kind of Batman story sometimes too, alongside the bigger ones.
It's the kind of down-to-earth story where my favourite panel was just Harper seeing lots of cake. I can relate.
Batman Annual #1 (First Snow) uses an established Bat-villain: Mr Freeze. (Disappointingly, he doesn't resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger.) This is linked with the Court of Owls, but in a semi-detached way that answers a question I hadn't been interested in asking. The story itself is entertaining, though, and it makes both Mr Freeze and the Penguin memorably evil. That snapped-off frozen finger. Ewww.
Overall, I quite liked this volume too. In hindsight, these first two books are a (not enormously) high point of the run.