TITLE: Batman, Vol. 2: The City of Owls
AUTHORS: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV.
PENCILLERS: Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, Rafael Albuquerque, Jason Fabok.
COLLECTS: Batman #8-12, Batman Annual #1
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
RELEASED: May 20, 2013
Need to catch up? Check out Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls.
By Levi Sweeney
Staff Writer, Grand X
I never really took to the Court of Owls. They’re a bunch of hammy ninjas and evil rich people who share an obsession with a nocturnal bird. Maybe it’s because I just don’t buy the fact that there’s this evil cabal secretly running Gotham City for whatever reason. What do they hope to gain? Money? They’re already rich. Power? They could do that without resorting to murdering people and training ninja-zombies. I can almost imagine it: The Court of Owls Political Action Committee (COPAC).
My feelings on the Court of Owls aside, The City of Owls is a decent read. Following a harrowing encounter with the Court in their secret lair, Bruce Wayne suddenly finds himself under attack by a legion of Talons in his own home. What’s more, the Court has sent Talons to target important individuals across the city. Alfred quickly scrambles the Bat-family to try and save as many as they can, but who will win the “Night of the Owls?” More importantly, who’s really behind it all?
Easily the best thing about this issue is the build-up and suspense. I have a renewed appreciation for Snyder’s skill in building momentum. It’s almost like climbing the stairs in a multistory building: You march up to the top, get to the landing, and you’re relieved, and then you’re faced with another set of stairs. In this case, Snyder and Capullo demonstrate their ability to make a comic which is visually compelling and interesting to read.
My favorite parts of the book, however, had little to do with the main plot. I most enjoyed the stories with Jarvis Pennyworth and Harper Row. In the Jarvis Pennyworth story, we see how Jarvis met his end while trying to be a good man trapped in a bad situation. The Jarvis story in particular has art by Rafael Albuquerque that fits the mood and story. The coloring and texture have a vibrant darkness to them, sort of like impressionist noir.
The Harper Row story gives us the kind of Batman tale I’ve always really liked: a look at the superhero situation from the P.O.V. of a normal bystander. Harper herself manages to be her own character without becoming a stand-in for Stephanie Brown. The smorgasbord of artists assigned to her issue managed to mesh well, and actually produced a nice effect.
I can’t say Snyder’s Batman is particularly memorable here. I will say, however, that we get a lot of good, classic Batman moments that were enjoyable to read. For instance, when Batman finally gets rid of that outrageous mech suit, and he’s suiting up, he smiles slightly when he puts on the cowl. He’s enjoying getting ready to kick some Talon butt with his own hands. The final scene with Bruce and Dick was a great one, with Greg Capullo’s art capturing the mood perfectly. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing Snyder write a run on Grayson or Nightwing, as he seems to have a good grasp on Dick’s personality. We saw this plainly enough back in The Black Mirror.
The thing is, I know that Snyder can do better than what he gives us here. Maybe he could try doing something with the classic villains, like The Riddler or Scarecrow or The Penguin. The Mr. Freeze-centric story in the annual gave us a fine example Snyder’s new approach being applied to older villains and ideas, and it turned out beautifully. I’d like to see more of that from him and his other collaborators, especially Jason Fabok, who draws such beautiful renditions of the classic villains.
The City of Owls wasn’t the best Batman story I’ve ever read, but it’s not bad either. It’s one of those things that just above average. It had the potential to be great, and it succeeds as a page turner, but it’s not going to make it onto my top ten list. At the very least, I admire Snyder and Capullo for trying to shake things up a little, and I hope to find more substantial stuff in the future
Image 1 from dccomics.com. Image 2 from popmatters.com.
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