Written By: Scott Snyder
Pencils By: Greg Capullo
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: OUT NOW IN STORES & DIGITAL DOWNLOAD (VIA COMIXOLOGY)
The Court of Owls Saga comes to an end. Batman has been through plenty of ups and downs (some serious downs at one point) and he’s come out the other side. This issue picks up straight where #10 ended. Batman fighting the ultimate Owl Assassin who may or may not actually be his brother Thomas Wayne Jr and it really just extends on that for the entire issue. The is he or isn’t he the brother of Bruce rattles on while beating on Batman and because it’s Snyder’s writing, it never feels repetitive or more insane that it needs to be. With that said, I don’t think Snyder ever actually feels like he’s committing to the idea that this maniac is actually Bruce’s brother. Despite the stories of his past, the car crash and his Owl training, I never had the sense that I was expected to consider the validity of the claims. To a certain degree this undermined my enjoyment of the final act as the Owl ranting never rang true to me but there’s no denying he gave Batman a run for his money.
The lavish and cinematic art from Capullo here is fantastic. Pretty much every blow is felt and while I never totally swallowed that Batman could hold on for that long while inside a travelling jet engine the tension was perfectly played and the struggle for Batman was really felt. This was a great action set piece that just kept growing. It was like Die Hard in Gotham and while Batman was largely silent through his pummelling, when he did speak it was almost always awesome.
With the action brushed aside (after one hefty explosion put a stop to the NOT brothers fighting) the best part of the issue came between Bruce and Dick as they sum up what the Court of Owls Saga has done to them. Dick’s destiny to join the Owls is mentioned and the question of whether Thomas Wayne Jr. is still alive and whether he really could be a Wayne is laid out in a semi “What does the audience want?” way. As if Snyder has posed the question of how far he can push it in a post DC 52 world and see how the audience responds, rather than brashly inputting a character into the DCU without taking fans’ feelings on the matter into account. I like that. I like he’s thrown out an idea to the crowd and will probably wait to see what response it gets. I know some people like the Grant Morrison approach of dropping a bomb on a mythology and expecting us all to deal with it but I think how this brother thing has been handed shows a real respect for the Batman audience and what it might not like. Anyway, Bruce and Dick share that father and son moment that anyone who loves the duo can’t help but love and Bruce lets us in on how he feels about Gotham after the dust has settled. Which brings me to the Court of Owls Wrap Up.
Oh no. Wait. The Father of Alfred Pennyworth story in the back of the Batman comics finished here as well. It was ended as it began as a fairly bleak backstory to the Pennyworth’s history with the Wayne’s as well as the Court of Owls and once again we are shown how Alfred’s involvement in Bruce’s life is the key to giving him a counter point to his inner demons (even if in this story it was Bruce being the counter point to Alfred). It’s been a great extra in the Batman run of late and the conclusion sat nicely with the wrap up of the main story as well.
Court of Owls – The End
First things first, the beginning of this Saga when we were introduced to the Owls, was the turning point on this whole DC52 relaunch for me. Until Snyder got stuck in with the Owl stuff, I didn’t really like any DC 52 titles, other than Catwoman. They all felt hollow to me. Old favourites like Nightwing, Superman and Robin were feeling weak and mixed up for the sake of it and all I was reading the DC52 for was to see what had changed and most of it just made my eyes roll. Court of Owls changed that. Snyder’s Batman felt like it had something to say, something to reshuffle in the Batman universe and the wind up of the first act (which is still some of the strongest Batman storytelling in years) had me back looking forward to monthly Batman titles.
Into Night of the Owls, that welcomed the rest of the Bat-family to the party, we had a hell of an opener with the attack on the Batcave but for me the Bat-family titles that followed were too much of a mixed bag. This crossover shared the same story but there was very little forward motion to the side stories and repetitive moves made for some instalments feeling a bit boring. I liked the majority of the Nightwing stuff but the Night of Owls was all over the place. One minute it was about individuals being attacked, then it felt like the entire city in jeopardy, then it was just about the Owl’s back-stories and then just when I thought we were gonna get a Bat-family attack on the Court, it all became about Mr Freeze’s involvement with the Court (which in itself led on to a real highlight to the event as well as the DC 52 world in general). After that I didn’t even know what was happening for a while. The Bat-family titles got on with their business and then with the core Batman title everything shifted focus from the Owls (who will obviously return at a later date) to this possible brother of Bruce Wayne.
As a whole I have to say I’ve enjoyed all of the Court of Owls event and how it kept growing. Admittedly, I enjoyed some parts more than others (what was the All-Star Western addition for exactly?) but at the core of everything Scott Snyder’s vision of Batman has been solid throughout and every issue he’s written has impressed me, especially as they delved into Bruce Wayne’s character and the history of Gotham City. So as it comes to an end I feel more attached to post DC 52 Batman because of this Court of Owls run. I’m still on the fence about some of the depictions of the Batsuit but it seems like Batman is the first character to get back to business and not mess about with new suits, new powers and new ways of doing things. Of course no one was going to change Batman too much as there’s nothing to change. The Court of Owls Saga has been a fun ride. I don’t think it’s a truly great Batman adventure as a whole but the elements that stood out are some of the best for the character in what seems like too long. Given the history of great Batman stories I would only say the Snyder stuff is something I’d consider memorable, with the side order elements ending up largely forgettable. With that said, we are still at the beginning of the new DC52 and this is a fine event to start growing the Bat-titles and offers up plenty of scope for future Owl and not-Bruce’s-brother stories and with the Joker’s return on the way Scott Snyder is about to get another chance to showcase how good he can be.
Court of Owls Overall Rating: