Does Scott Snyder deliver a Batman story for the ages?
Writer, Scott Snyder (American Vampire, Swampthing) and artist, Greg Capullo have just wrapped up their epic crossover event for DC’s the New 52, “Night of the Owls”. Being hailed as one of the best Batman story arcs in recent years, “Night of the Owls” presents some pretty heavy storytelling and some character history changing surprises. Though introduced during “The New 52”, the Court was hinted at during Snyder’s run on Detective Comics (issues 871-881) and also the “Gates of Gotham” mini-series Snyder co-wrote with Kyle Higgins (Nightwing), all before the Flashpoint.
Court of Owls (Batman, vol 1, #1-7, Nightwing, vol 3, #1-7)
Our Story beings as Nightwing and Batman take on a prisoner outbreak at Arkham Asylum (Batman #1), this leads to Batman investigating a man who warned Nightwing of the Court of Owls. Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City, confident that his Batman INC. initiative is a success, he has decided to use his resources and finances to help revitalize Gotham City. As Dick Grayson, Nightwing is attacked by Saiko, calling him a murderer “without knowing it”. Saiko figures out his identity and attacks and kills Mr. Haley, leaving Haley’s Circus for Nightwing to inherit. Nightwing then engages in a relationship with Raya, his former childhood friend and member of Haley’s Circus.
During his announcement party, Bruce over hears a report given to Commissioner Gordon. A “John Doe” was discovered with several antique throwing knives lodged in the body, all of them with a symbol of an owl on them. A little detective work later and Bruce finds skin under the fingernails of the victim and a hidden message, Bruce Wayne will die tonight! After sending the DNA sample to Alfred, the tests bring about an even more disturbing discovery. The DNA belongs to….Dick Grayson!!??
After a meeting with Lincoln March, a candidate for mayor, Bruce is attacked by an assassin named William Cobb. While Bruce manages to survive, Cobb gets away. Bruce notes that Cobb was dressed as the Talon, a legendary figure and a member of the Court of Owls. Nightwing, meanwhile, drives Haley’s Circus to Chicago, and then Miami, where he uses Mr. Haley’s dying clues to find the Black Book of Names, which has his name and William Cobb’s.
While investigating into the attack by William Cobb, who is known only as the Talon, Batman finds Cobb’s “nest” at the Old Wayne Tower, but before he can further investigate, he is attacked by Cobb himself. Cobb manages to defeat the unsuspecting Batman and takes him to three Court of Owl members, before proceeding to torture him mentally. For eight days, Cobb tortures Batman in a maze that contains portraits of Gotham in the Wild Wild West that also details Gotham’s history. As Batman begins to solve the mystery that is presented to him, he realizes the court is trying to undermine him and his presence in Gotham by “breaking him”. Batman comes to a room of caskets, but does not open them, wishing to solve the rest of the mystery first, he is attacked and impaled by Cobb. Cobb reveals that Batman is such a worthy foe, that the court will hang his bones in the maze, an honor that only three before him have received. Cobb takes Batman to a room full of Court of Owls members who eventually decide on what they shall do with Batman through their youngest member, a girl who wants him hurt even more.
Cobb begins to mercilessly beat Batman to the point that he wishes for death, members of the Court then begin to swarm Batman’s body. However, refusing defeat, he retaliates and challenges Cobb to another battle, stating that to him, Cobb has no significance and is just another thug. He then defeats Cobb in battle and nearly kills him, stopping at the very last momen! Batman then uses his detective skills to escape the court’s lair. Seeing the brutality of the Batman, the Court of Owls decides to awaken all of their Talon’s and unleash them upon Gotham.
As Nightwing battles Saiko, a girl named Harper Row helps Batman escape the Court of Owls. Saiko reveals to Nightwing that due to his adoption by Bruce Wayne, Saiko was taken in by the Court of Owls instead of Nightwing. After a battle with Saiko, the villain drops to his death and Nightwing feels responsible. Nightwing returns to the Batcave where Bruce is studying the body of William Cobb, recovered by Alfred. Bruce reveals that due to an agent in the Talon’s blood, they can revive themselves, which Cobb cannot do because of a cooling agent Bruce is pumping into Cobb’s blood. Bruce then reveals to Nightwing that Cobb is actually Nightwing’s great-grandfather and that Nightwing was destined to be a Talon, a goal stopped by his adoption.
The Night of the Owls (All-Star Western, vol. 3, #9, Batman, vol. 2, #8-11, Batman Annual #1, Batman: The Dark Knight, vol. 2, #9, Batwing #9, Batman and Robin, vol. 2, #9, Birds of Prey, vol. 3, #9, Batgirl, vol. 4, #9, Catwoman, vol. 4, #9, Detective Comics, vol. 2, #9, Nightwing, vol. 3, #8-9, Red Hood and the Outlaws #9, and Justice League vol. 2 #8)
The Court of Owls, angered at Cobb’s defeat at the hands of Batman, awaken all of their Talon’s to reclaim Gotham City. They also dispose of Cobb’s body for Alfred Pennyworth to find. The Court’s goal is to prove that they are the superior legend of Gotham City, not Batman. The owls first attack: the Batcave, but the injured Bruce still manages to defeat several of them. Alfred uncovers the forty targets of the owls and sends a radio message out to the Batman family for help. Let the crossover begin! Bruce then dons an armored Batman suit to battle all of the owls invading the Batcave, while one of the owls revives William Cobb.
I find that with most crossovers, supplementary issues are not always necessary to the main story. I myself did not read a lot of them. I stuck mostly with Nightwing and the Batman titles.
Nightwing receives the message and goes to save Mayor Sebastian Hady. Nightwing has no problem in killing the Talon attacking Hady due to it already being dead, but upon stopping it, Nightwing is knifed in the chest by a revived Cobb, who tells Dick, his descendant, that working for the Batman was his worst betrayal. Bruce, meanwhile, continues to fight the Talons invading the Batcave and eventually manages to stop them. Nightwing is brutally beat down by Cobb who continues to mock him, Cobb demands that his heir impress him! Eventually Cobb gives up and calls Nightwing and Gotham a waste. Dick thinks different, telling William that Gotham can change, he highlights the liquid nitrogen coating to the subway power lines, that had to be installed as the city grew, to Cobb. Before William can realize what is going on, Dick breaks open one of the tubes, freezing William, shutting down his reanimated body. As Dick picks up William’s body, he tells his great-grandfather that if there’s one thing he believes, it’s that “destinies don’t exist.” Batman goes to save Lincoln March. Bruce combats Alton Carver, the Talon sent to kill March, but is unable to stop Carver from killing March, a mayoral candidate who wanted to make Gotham a better place. Batman then heads out to burn down the lair of the Court of Owls.
Following the battle, Bruce tracks down the leadership of the Court of Owls in Gotham City to the Powers Family. However, when he finds the Court, they are all dead by poison, possible suicide?! Bruce discovers Lincoln March to have been a Talon all along and tracks down March. Confronting the undead mayoral candidate, he learns that March used Mr. Freeze’s Talon serum to survive, that March was a Talon created to compete with the Batman. March then reveals a disturbing secret, he believes that he is Thomas Wayne Jr, Bruce’s long-lost brother! After a lengthy brawl through the skies of Gotham, March is trapped in an explosion intended to kill Bruce; no body is located. Bruce admits to Dick that although he is skeptical of March’s claims and believes his parents would have told him had he had a brother, without March’s body and a DNA test he is unable to conclusively prove or disprove March’s claims. The story is far from over.
-Story Synopsis Borrowed and Revised Via Wiki
Though slightly bogged down with the usual “big reveals”, and “new” character developments, Snyder does a great job of crafting a tale of suspense and mystery. Something he does oh so well. Here’s hope that we see the Owls in future Batman mythos. I wouldn’t mind them showing up in an Arkham City game at some point. My highlight of the series…Batman #5, the creative team does such an awesome job of illustrating Batman’s journey through the Owl’s Labyrinth. Check this one out for yourself! ~CW