Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls

by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion
(May 15th, 2012, DC Comics)

(Note: This is a New 52 relaunch so no previous Batman knowledge is necessary.)

Book description: When Batman is called to the scene of a murder, he finds that the victim has left him a mysterious message: "Bruce Wayne will die tomorrow". As he begins to unravel the mystery of this John Doe's death, he's drawn to the dark heart of his city's lore. Someone wants Batman to believe that the Court of Owls -- a secret society thought to rule Gotham from the shadows since time immemorial -- really exists. But does it? And if so, has the Dark Knight finally met his match?


The Court of Owls is quintessential Batman. The plotting is outstanding. Its tight, intriguing, fast-paced, and imbued with a real sense of looming danger. But it's not only that. Its that the writer perfectly communicates the significance of the events taking place; no occurrence ever feels throwaway or poorly-developed.

Batman is extremely well-drawn. Synder really appreciates the nuances of the character: the scientist, the strategist and the detective, and flawlessly conveys each trait. He also understands Bruce's hubris, his obsessiveness and his possessiveness of Gotham. But his vulnerability during one episode in particular humanizes him, a rare feat. The secondary characters, from wry Alfred to straight-laced Gordon, are also pitch-perfect.

The Court of Owls, a group of villains that have secretly ruled Gotham since colonial times, are a truly worthy addition to the Batman pantheon. It's extraordinary that the reader doesn't feel that the Court is a recent addition. Details like the nursery rhyme make them feel just as powerful and entrenched in Gotham urban myth as even the most classic Batman evildoers. This allows the story to take a decidedly historical turn with a conspiracy that, literally, spans ages.

The artwork is superb. Renowned penciller Greg Capullo and the other artists' illustration is atmospheric without ever being gratuitous in its gore, or too dark. The drawings of action sequences so perfectly depict key moments that readers will feel like they're walking the Gotham streets with the Dark Knight. 

Verdict: Transcending its genre, The Court of Owls is a highly sophisticated tribute to Gotham that acts as both a dark, thrilling adventure story and an exceptional introduction to some of the best villains Gotham has ever seen.

Rating: (10/10)

Recommended for ages 12 and up, but I'd take a look before giving it to children.

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