DC Comics‘ New 52 has been the source of a lot of controversy. From restoring Barbara Gordon’s ability to walk, to the cancellation of several titles at their eighth issue, seems like there’s always something to complain about in rainbows of fan driven saliva arcing across the comic shop counter. Die hard fans can argue for hours about the color of a character’s eyes, and the creators of these books sink or swim based on the most arbitrary of points. For example, I won’t read Wolverine and the X-Men because four pages into Issue 1, I saw that Doop was now a recurring character. Yup. The green alien spud made a long time X-Girl drop a book off her pull list. That’s the kind of comic geek fanaticism I’m talking about. So, what does a writer do when his book is not just one of the core of the DC line, but has the responsibility of an entire family of books? You take the whole mythos of your main character, turn it on its head, and make everything he thought was true an elaborate card house of lies, tricks and secrets… and show the readers that there’s so much we don’t know about a character so iconic he was on the verge of becoming stale.
If you haven’t been following the Bat titles, here’s the briefest of histories. The Court of Owls, a mysterious syndicate dating back to 1880s Gotham city, who have been manipulating the city as deftly as an orchestra plays an intricate symphony, set William Cobb, the organization’s current assassin, codenamed The Talon, to kill their perceived enemy, the Batman, and take over Gotham City, a move nearly 150 years in the making. Meanwhile, Nightwing, formerly the first in Batman’s ever growing numbers of Robins, has his own literal demons to fight, when his history with Hady’s Circus as a young trapeze artist turns out to be involved with the Court, making orphaned Dick Grayson’s complicated relationship with Bruce Wayne all the more complex. The whole of this major crossover is unfolding in a beautifully woven tapestry throughout books that are obviously in the Batfamily as well as a few surprises. If you haven’t been reading All-Star Western, you’re missing out on Jonah Hex snarling his way through Old Gotham, and you need to rectify that immediately. The back story for this massive epic began at issue one of the reboot, but The Night of the Owls storyline begins in earnest with Batman Issue 8, in your LCS now.
Scott Snyder is just killing it, absolutely killing it. The Eisner and Harvey award winning writer, who also pens the outstanding American Vampire series for Vertigo, has not just brought new life in the Batstory, but orchestrates the key incidents in his story with as much style and energy as LA Philharmonic’s Gustavo Dudamel. This issue is no exception. Recovering from torture at the hands of the Court over the previous issues, Bruce Wayne, his eyes damaged but his spirit unbroken, fights an entire parliament of owl themed semi-dead assassins, with only the help of his ever trusty butler, the way-too-competent Alfred, only to find out that he’s not the Court’s soul target. The action starts on page 5 and for the next fifteen pages is complete non stop action, ending with a splash on the final page that made me, my comic shop boss, and every customer who couldn’t stand to wait until he got home, go, “DUDE, YES!” Expertly penciled by Greg Capullo, a self taught natural talent late of Haunt, in the clean and yet detailed style that so perfectly accentuates the action sequences, yet does not falter during the slow calm before the storm. With a drab but effective color pallet of browns, blues and greys, yellows and oranges used sparingly as shockingly bright punctuation, the book is as nice too look at as it is to read. There’s even a bonus story in the back to expand on the Court of Owl’s attack on their other victims, and to justify the dollar price hike.
Before the DC reboot, I was reading absolutely no titles not put out by Marvel. Of the books belonging to the distinguished competition that I gave a first arc to, I’m down to roughly 9 titles or so. Batman, however, remains the pinnacle, and I’m going to follow the Night of Owls until daybreak. We’ll see then which myth of Gotham rules the night.
Have a mainstream book you want reviewed, panned or bitched about? Contact Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org!