Of Bats and Owls

Batman New 52

Continuing the theme of discovering new books and such, I’ve been investigating some of the comics from DC’s New 52 series and, since enjoying those involving The Flash, I’ve moved on to the caped crusader himself: Batman!

A little history. I’ve been a Batman fan for a very long time – I adored the Tim Burton films growing up, and will be getting around to featuring those on this blog soon, in fact. Indeed, I actually learnt to read from the book of the movie, my mum feeling I’d pay more attention to a book I was interested in. Growing up, Batman Returns was one of my all-time favourite films – however, over all these years, I never once thought to read an actual Batman comic…

Well that has changed!

I’ve been buying all my graphic novels from my local Waterstone’s, and had been eyeing up the Batman Court of Owls book as a potential for the list, as I love a story that features a secret society, and finally snapped it up a couple of weeks back.

Let me tell you, I was really impressed with this book. It took some time for me to get into – indeed, I actually read it in single-issues for a couple of nights. However, once I’d gotten into it, I really, really enjoyed it, and quickly snaffled the second book, also!

The New 52 was a soft-reboot from 2011, where DC wiped most of the slate clean, leaving the basic premises of their heroes in place but building new stories around them. So Batman is still Bruce Wayne (oh, spoiler alert…) and is still a billionaire industrialist orphan, etc. The first arc deals with the Court of Owls, a new enemy created for this story as a secret society that has effectively ruled Gotham City for decades through fear, helped by their cadre of assassins called Talons. We follow Batman as he discovers links with the Court and his own family, in the wake of an attack by a man dressed in an Owl suit (it’s actually better than it sounds!) The story is really good, and as the sense of intrigue builds, I got really involved and interested in how the story would develop. I had hoped to enjoy the story, of course, but I hadn’t considered the idea that I might actually become so invested!

The first book ends as Batman is captured by the Court, fights his way out of their labyrinth and escapes, and is pursued by the Court’s Talons. Volume 2 then picks up with the Night of the Owls, as the Talons are unleashed on the city. While most of them head to Wayne Manor, some are dispatched to other movers and shakers within the city’s civic life. Alfred calls in the help of the Bat-allies, from whence a series of tie-in comics were spun into a crossover event during 2012. Volume 2 continues with Batman overcoming the main Talon, before some odd issues added in at the end that explore some more of the history, such as the Court being responsible for Alfred’s father Jarvis’ death, as well as a tie-in with Mr Freeze.

Night of the Owls is a collection of the crossovers, so features a number of the issues that have already been collected in Volume 2, alongside issues from Nightwing, Batwing, Batgirl and Red Hood, among others. I mention these four specifically because they are the ones that stick out the most for me. The formula for each is quite similar – each superhero tangles with a Talon in defense of an important person – yet for folks like myself, who don’t read these other comics, crossover events like these give a handy sampler of the other books, and offer something of an easy-access point. While Nightwing has made multiple appearances in the first two volumes of Batman’s comic, I’m now super-interested in learning more about Batwing, and have ordered the first volume in that ongoing series to see what I’ve been missing! I’d also never heard of Red Hood before, but found myself really enjoying that story – though the placement within the book felt a little odd. Red Hood and his Outlaws get tangled up with a rampaging Mr Freeze before the story that shows his escape from Arkham Asylum. But anyway, it’s a small point.

While the storytelling is really great, the artwork can be a bit hit and miss – and not just in the crossover book. I really liked the aesthetic of the first volume of Batman, once I’d gotten into it, but found the various different looks of the issues collected in volume 2 to be quite jarring.

A great little collection there, anyway – highly recommended to people looking to get into the Batman line, or indeed looking to see what else is on offer in the Batman family of comics!

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