As someone who bailed a few issues into Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman: The Court of Owls story arc in the monthly Batman comic book which spanned the bulk of the first year of the New 52, I found that I really enjoyed the crossover follow-on story as compiled in the late February hardcover release, Batman: Night of the Owls. While you are either left scratching your head or enjoying the ride as the Batman “Death of the Family” story arc wrapped last week with Batman Issue #17, this new trade edition is one way to check out some other New 52 titles you might not otherwise try. And it’s fun watching how several writers can make a crossover take place in one night over 14 issues.
It’s the first crossover of the New 52. Batman: Night of the Owls collects 360 pages, including Batman Issues #8-9, plus the tie-ins from Batman Annual #1, Nightwing Issues #8-9, and Issue #9 of All-Star Western, Batgirl, Batman and Robin, Batman: The Dark Knight, Batwing, Birds of Prey, Catwoman, Detective Comics and Red Hood and the Outlaws.
Basically all the Bat-characters in the DCU come to the defense of Gotham City one evening, beckoned by Alfred Pennyworth from the Batcave. A cabal from the early days of Gotham called the Court of Owls has unleashed an army–the Talon–on the city. The Court itself was thought only to be a line from a nursery rhyme. In fact it is a group of men and women who do not age but have regenerative properties that make them perfect supersoldiers. Well, not actually perfect, as one by one they are snuffed out by each Bat-team.
The snuffing out one by one serves to make a real-world battle of the comic book creators. As if given a single story line, how can they make their Bat-title reign over the rest? Batman: Night of the Owls begins with All Star Western Issue #9 as the seeds of the story begin in Old West Gotham. Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Moritat do a great deal to set up a potentially ho-hum group of villains and give them a real foundation in the New 52 DCU. The story is also heavily-Dick Grayson/Nightwing centric. So it is no wonder his story–primarily in Nightwing Issues #8 and 9 but also featured among the other titles and hinted out from the story’s beginning chapters–provides some of the best story telling of the volume.
Although the Batman titles–Batman Issues 8 and 9, Batman Annual #1 , and Detective Comics Issue #9–seem to merge together, other than Batman donning a very Iron Man-vibe set of battle armor, other titles manage to stand out. Red Hood and the Outlaws Issue #9 introduces Mr. Freeze as a relevant villain, and the Red Hood (former Robin Jason Todd) proves to be a very interesting, complex hero, along with Red Arrow Roy Harper. Batgirl gets some good action scenes against one of the more interesting Talon army villains in the Batgirl Issue #9 chapter and with Katana and Black Canary in the Birds of Prey Issue #9 chapter. Even more surprisingly kid Robin Damian Wayne proves to be a one-man, crazy-determined, unstoppable little force to be reckoned with in Batman and Robin Issue #9. At one point you’d think he could take out the Talon army on his own.
If there is anything missing from Batman: Night of the Owls it is a clear distinction between chapters and some titles are not clear what they are, especially which Batman title is which through the volume. This could be remedied with chapter headings or just a table of contents as can be found in the mega-sized New 52 Issue #1 compilation book. I am still not certain what title the last chapter is from. The 14 issues do not seem to have one satisfying resolution, and this may have been because the story carried on in other issues. I’d also like to have seen all the cover art for each issue–I am not sure if there were alternate covers that could have been added. Batman: Night of the Owls includes five pages of original art sketches of the Talon but I’d have liked to have seen a few pages of full splash page art of key pages.
Batman: Night of the Owls manages to be a solid work with good chapters of story telling throughout. It’s an ambitious undertaking and a worthy way to read 14 issues from the New 52. Batman: Night of the Owls retails at $29.99. It’s available at comic book stores everywhere and at a discount from Amazon.com. Completists will also want to check out the events leading up to the story in Batman: The Court of Owls and Batman: The City of Owls.