Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Batman #7 review

The Court of Owls story goes on. And on, and on, spreading its wings through the entire Batman Family of titles. And Jonah Hex. And likely Tiny Titans, if it weren't being cancelled - well, there is a Talon in there!

The Talon in here's an entirely different guy, though, and Batman discovers just who he is after examining his almost-corpse in the Batcave. Almost? Indeed, it seems Talon has a Get Out of Death Free card, in the shape of a tooth. The idea makes sense in a comic book science-meets-history way - it's rather cool, and a nice change from the Lazarus Pits generally piped in whenever a Batman character needs a speedy return from the other side.

Shockingly, someone closer to Bruce has a similar trick tooth, one he quickly knocks out on realising that this particular Talon is the great-grandfather of ... Dick Grayson. It turns out that the Court of Owls had its claws deep into Haly's Circus, and every ten years a kid would be selected for Talon training. Dick got the tooth, but not the assassin classes, Bruce's adoption having saved him from the Court's clutches.

I tell you, I didn't find the Court of Owls that scary until I realised they even owned Gotham's dentists. How many check-ups has Dick had over the years, and the Tooth Wonder gone unremarked?

Then again, given the evidence here it's entirely likely that if Dick ever did have toothache, Bruce just punched the offending molar right out of his head.

Rattled at the thought that the Court of Owls were nesting so close to home, Bruce gets terribly melodramatic about the city. Dick, bless him, basically tells Bruce to get a grip and quit being a daft old nelly. It's just a shame Dick doesn't smack him one back (click on image to enlarge).
Other scenes this month see the Court of Owls wittering on as cornily as Bruce, prior to sending a whole bunch of Talons into the air to 'take back our kingdom'; nearly dead after the events of the last few issues, Bruce has a revelation about the fate of the bat that inspired his pyjamas; and some woman named Harper (Jamie, Nightwing's old pal?) revives the fallen Batman with jump leads but gets neither thanks nor job offer.

It's an interesting issue, a crescendo of drama from writer Scott Snyder. My only real problem is that I don't quite get what the Court of Owls wants. There's the aforementioned business about owning Gotham, but given that the Court is made up of Gotham's richest, surely they already own the city? Why do they need to dress up and talk like bad actors? If anyone can explain it, I'd be most grateful.

The art by Greg Capullo is hugely effective at conveying the creepiness of Gotham, from the fate of the First Bat through to the freeing of the All-Talon-Squadron. My favourite scene is the scraggy Batman's arrival outside the Batcave, an alley filled only with darkness and a gun-toting Alfred. It's first-class work from Capullo and colourist FCO. A shout-out, too, to letterers Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt (of Owls? Dentists?) for good-looking calligraphy.

I'm ready for this story to wrap - I know, some hope - but if more individual issues are this good I can take the Court of Waffle awhile longer.

13 comments:

  1. This is my theory on Scott Snyder's work. The man is all about buildup and setting things into motion. Having read his Detective Comics run and first arc in Swamp Thing, he starts things slowly and builds up the characters and the world around them. Things get exciting every now and then, but everything moves slowly to make sure everything is fleshed out.

    Then he reaches the climax and he pulls out all the stops. Everything's built and you finally see what he has made, bringing into focus the theme and scale of the arc. EX: The first arc of Swamp Thing was about building the threat of the villian and making us feel for Alec & Abbey as they try desperately to escape a destiny that is unavoidable for both. It was slow but it was worth it.

    Scott is a slow builder, but when you reach the end, it was all worth it. That's what this Batman run is. It is slow and there is a ton of building and establishing this Gotham, but you'll look back on it and feel glad you were on this ride.

    Also, holy crap. You actually reviewed the main Batman title!

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    1. Hey, I often review Batman: The Brave and the Bold! And I did do #1 of this book ;)

      I agree with your assessment of Scott Snyder's work, I'm just not thrilled that what could be a tight story in this one book is being spilled out across the line due to its popularity. I fear the usual dilution we get in such circumstances. But I hope I'm wrong!

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    2. Oh, and I almost reviewed the interestingly structured #5, but it was a busy week and time ran out. As for last issue, I found it ridiculous in the way Batman didn't so much rally after being beaten nearly to death as became magical.

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    3. I don't think it's due to popularity (Well maybe with Tony Daniel's run on Detective Comics) that this arc is spreading into other titles. I remember reading interviews with Scott and the other Bat family writers about how he approached them and asked if they would interested in joining in the title. They all seemed interested in doing it and the only two who said wouldn't are Tony Daniel (Though that's not true anymore for some reason) and J.H. Williams III due to not wanting the Owls story cutting into their own story.

      So all the writers who are in on this arc are doing this because they want to and not because of being forced (If they were forced into it, why would Batwoman get to continue on its merry way without interruption?). Also, Kyle Higgins was clearly planning on having Nightwing cross over long before this owl explosion happened and All-Star Western has been leaving a few hints and winks to its tie in as well.

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    4. That's the way I heard it too. I may be an old cynic, but I can't see the other writers wishing to join in if they don't see a wave of popularity. I suppose it'd understandable Snyder is keen for other Bat-books to back up his interpretation of Gotham as an owl haven. Ah well, we'll see how it turns out (he said, realising that he won't, to any great extent, having dropped Detective, Batman & Robin and Birds of Prey and never bothered with Nightwing, Catwoman or Batwing after #1 - ah well, that leaves Batgirl and Woman, maybe I'll love 'em!).

      I like variety in a line - the more comics that share a storyline, the less interested in them I am.

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    5. Fair enough. However, it would be completely strange that with all of those talons out there that absolutely none of the other characters in Gotham and as such, the title characters of their own books, notice or come into contact with them. I mean, imagine if Gotham had another earthquake and absolutely no other title besides Batman address this!

      As such, I feel it makes sense for these titles to come into the story, if only for one issue.

      So you are only reading Batman, Batgirl, and Batwoman? Gees, you should at least try Batman: The Dark Knight in June when the new writer comes in, Gregg Hurwitz. He's writing a Scarecrow story and we are so due for a good one right about now.

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    6. Goodness, I forgot that book even existed. Also dumped after #1 (thinking on, I think Batwing got to #2 before the gore sent me packing), but I'll give it a try. Remind me!

      How I miss the days of just two Batman books a month, crossing over and mixing the superheroics with soap.

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  2. First of all, agreed on the mad props Bruce deserves for being able to hit someone in the face with oral-surgical precision.

    One thing about the tooth that I haven't seen anyone mention yet (probably because it's so obvious) -- it's an inversion of the suicide capsule in the false tooth convention that's so prevalent in spy stories. Instead, this tooth brings the dead back to life.

    And thinks for possibly ID-ing Harper. My thought was, "Boy, is this ever a weird way to reintroduce Lian Harper!" I'm not sure if I've ever met Jamie before, but I never read a lot of Nightwing comics.

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    1. What a brilliant observation about the tooth, Rob. Excuse me while I nick it, work it into the review and delete your comment ...

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  3. I agree with your assessment completely. However I think we differ in how much the two of us are enjoying it. I certainly hope the Court of Owls sticks around for the long haul!

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    1. But not too long, Jimmy!

      (And anyone who isn't me or Jimmy, pop over to Jimmy's Heretical Jargon blog for Jimmy's view on Batman #7)

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