This six-issue collection concludes the first arc of the recently relaunched Batman series, pitting both Bruce Wayne and his chiropteran alter ego against a murderous secret society known as the Court of Owls, whose sinister roots snake through Gotham City’s history—and several generations of the Bat family.
Still recovering from his encounter with the Owls’ assassin, a Talon, Bruce Wayne suddenly finds his home and secret lair under siege by dozens of undead Talons—preserved and revived thanks to a serum developed by Mr. Freeze. The storyline springs out of DC Comics’ New 52 initiative, which softly rebooted the entire DC Universe in 2011, so Snyder’s (Swamp Thing, 2013) intertwining of new (though the owl-as-opposite-of-bat concept dates back to 1960s Justice League of America, the Council of Owls didn’t exist prior to New 52, despite their centuries-spanning history) and old villains (though Freeze himself gets a minor modernization to creepazoid) is a smart move, immediately grafting the Owls onto established Bat-lore. The battle with the invading Talons reveals a larger Owl plot to slaughter 40 prominent citizens of Gotham as a show of the Court’s dominance over the city. To thwart the pogrom, Wayne family stalwart Alfred Pennyworth sends out a call to arms to all members of the Bat family, and those threads are played out in the Night of the Owls crossover event (not collected here). In the aftermath, Batman tracks the Owls to their nest—only to face a new foe with an impossible link to the Wayne family. Unfortunately, this link is hammered (yammered?) home by page after page of running dialogue between Batman and this new Owlman (though he’s not explicitly named within the text) as they bash and smash and wrestle into the heavens. This overabundance of exposition near the end stifles both Snyder’s inspired plotting and Capullo’s (Haunt, 2011) deft sequential art; despite their uncanny ability to resemble the work of Todd McFarlane, John Romita Jr. and J. Scott Campbell, all within a short span of panels, Capullo’s illustrations have an irresistible dynamism, which is nearly overwhelmed by a froth of word bubbles.
A worthy continuation of a cherished legacy, hampered by a bloated denouement.