Thursday, August 16, 2012

Book Review: Batman: The Court of Owls (New 52!)

I have a complicated relationship with Batman. That relationship is simple on its face - Batman exists, and he's probably my least favorite superhero. For one, he's not really super. For another, he's not really much of a hero as much as an overbearing fascist force in a city that really should have had the National Guard turned on it decades ago.

I am one of four people who didn't care much for The Dark Knight Returns. Forget The Dark Knight Rises entirely. Batman seems to make bad Wonder Woman stories worse. And on and on and on.

Seriously? Give me billionaire playboy Tony Stark over Bruce Wayne any day of the week.

With all that said, I'm trying to expand my horizons somewhat with the New 52. I never would have tried Animal Man without the New 52, and I'm hoping to give Superman another shot if the library ever ends up buying any of the new ones in that line. With a few friends who think I'm absolutely crazy for disliking Batman, I figured I'd give The Court of Owls a shot.

So this book is not really much of a reboot - one of the old Robins is still Nightwing (someone had to explain that whole thing to me) and there's a new Robin. The whole "Batman Inc." thing is gone, and Bruce Wayne is the only Batman. We good so far? Yeah, I guess.

So first things first, the Batman stories I know are gadget-heavy, for sure, but this is the first time that I've been able to look at a Batman story and say "yeah, that's actually cool, useful tech." Batman comes across not as a huge, despotic jerk, but rather someone who is probably a little too creepy for his own good, but using realistic tools to fight an unrealistic enemy. I can get behind that.

The idea behind this arc is that there's a shadow group that runs the Gotham underground - the Court of Owls. They've been around longer than Bruce Wayne has, and now they're gunning for him. What comes around is issue after issue of simple, concise action. They waste very little time overall, instead pushing the plot forward in a really great, fast way, and proving plenty of time for Batman to not only be heroic, but also human.

Furthermore, the Court of Owls? A genuinely cool, steampunky-looking enemy. They're pretty dangerous, and you get the idea more than a few times that Batman may not be long for the reboot. A problem I have with Batman (and one that I know has been addressed a few times) is how seemingly immortal he appears to be for someone without real powers, and that's not the Batman we see here. He has reasonable endurance, and scary adrenaline, but the danger shines through. It's a welcome change.

The writing, obviously, is super-solid here. But the artwork in this? Absolutely gorgeous. It's modern without being overdone, and it mirrors the pace and action of the story perfectly. It's not stylized like the new Wonder Woman, nor is it trying to do anything special like Animal Man, but it's a piece all its own, and is neither distracting nor overshadowing. A perfect complement.

Guys, seriously - get The Court of Owls. Support this reboot, try Batman again for the first time if you haven't. A book we need and a book we deserve.

Available to buy at Book Depository


  1. It's shot to near the top of my favourite Batman stories EVER...and I've read tons and tons. Writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo are amazing.
    oh regarding the new 52...Batman and Green Lantern's history stayed more or less the same...just shrunk, I guess...

  2. This is the only redeeming comic of the new 52 for me. Solid artwork and story. Batman also is the only reason I don't write off dc comics completely as a train wreck of effing up good characters. Although they try really hard with Batman's son who they even write as a description that he's annoying...