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Tag Archive: Batman: The Court of Owls


We’ve had a great response here at borg to our complete checklist of the variant covers for the 80th anniversary of Batman and benchmark 1000th issue of his long-standing comic book series, Detective Comics Check it out here if you missed it.  The cover art, especially when merged with the variety of historical and modern title art and legends, makes for one attractive looking book, whichever copy you go for.  At least one of the ten main covers will provide a dose of nostalgia and excitement for any Batman fan.  But for $9.99 is it worth the price?  Can you tell the book by its 84 covers?

Incorporating eleven short stories and three pin-ups with a variety of stories, themes, and eras, this anthology is tilted in favor of the modern dark knight detective over the versions of the character from his first decades in print (Batman TV fans have several Batman ’66 comic book series to turn to for the lighter fare).  Is the issue epic?  That’s in the eye of the beholder.  Groundbreaking?  Probably not.  But it’s a fun read, and using mixed pairs of writers and artists–a few classic pairs and a few nice change-ups from then and now–it’s a great exercise in searching out what works and what works really well for DC Comics’ editorial department.  Love a particular story or visual style?  Surprise–you the reader now have new creators to keep an eye on in future series.

Becky Cloonan’s Batman from Detective Comics #1000.

You might find your next favorite creators in “Batman’s Longest Case,” with writer Scott Snyder and artists Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion, the kind of story you think of when you see Batman as master detective.  Writer Kevin Smith pulled out the stops for his team-up with Jim Lee and Scott Williams in “Manufacture for Use,” including one of those great splash pages Lee/Williams fans can’t get enough of.  Artist Becky Cloonan delivered the biggest visual win with a flawless Batman: Year One-inspired Frank Miller style in one panel and a cool Bernie Wrightson caped crusader in another, matched nicely with Jordie Bellaire‘s colors in the story “The Batman’s Design.”  Tight writing and story make for an exceptional contribution from writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev called “I Know,” probably the best writing of the book.  I’ll admit I was hoping for a Jim Aparo, Gene Colan, or Marv Wolfman homage (they defined the look of the Batman of my youth), but it wasn’t to be this time.  But based on this issue, who would I like to see in an ongoing monthly?  Brian Michael Bendis and Becky Cloonan.  And my favorite part of the book?  That goes to Mikel Janin‘s take on Batman with Joker and the Riddler in his one-page pin-up, which stopped me in my tracks, and should have been a variant cover option.  More, please!

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The third book in the new series of hardcover novels based on Batman stories from DC Comics, following The Killing Joke (reviewed earlier here at borg) and the Harley Quinn story Mad Love (reviewed here) is on its way to your comic book shop and other bookstores.  The Court of Owls is relatively new to Batman and DC Comics.  It’s a storyline that emerged from the New 52, the big DC reboot from seven years ago, created in the pages of Batman comics from writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo.  Just as DC was re-creating origin stories and restarting some story lines for various characters, The Court of Owls became the latest subversive crime unit, a mix of a secret society like Skull & Bones and the mid-century Mob, infiltrating every part of Gotham City, controlling everything from the police to the banks, business, and the government.  It was an entirely new creation, so Snyder was challenged with establishing a foundation of events no reader had encountered in Batman’s then 72 years, but thenceforth became a part of established Gotham City history and lore.  This is the focus of a new novel edition of the storyline, Batman: The Court of Owls, written by tie-in author Greg Cox.

People are catching fire, human spontaneous combustion style, across Gotham.  As Bruce Wayne aka Batman investigates with Commissioner Gordon, it becomes clear crime scene information is similar to crimes of record from Batman’s past sleuthing.  An element is common among the remains, tying these deaths to a secret society that Batman previously encountered and confronted in the underground Labyrinth lair–The Court of Owls.  The Court of Owls consists of a small but far-reaching group of the wealthy and powerful who meet in secret and wear a sort of Eyes Wide Shut face mask system, and their henchmen, called Talons, also wear masks, and possess unnatural regenerative qualities.  They are fierce and possibly unbeatable.  Enter the missing Joanna Lee, rescued in a shoot-out in Gotham years ago by Batman, she was an art history student studying a historic Gotham sculptor when she vanished.  As Bruce, butler Alfred, and ally Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon piece together the history of the city and this sculptor’s strangely pervasive art, they learn the impossible has happened: This 19th century artist created works depicting future events decades before they happened.  What they have in common opens up a past that was in front of Bruce Wayne all his life.

As a standalone novel, Batman: The Court of Owls is a solid, worthy Batman story, a complete adventure that doesn’t require much prior knowledge from the reader.  It’s not an adaptation of the New 52 story, but incorporates various elements from the original, comic book version of The Court of Owls story, plus elements from related stories, Night of the Owls, City of the Owls, Fall of the Owls, and Scourge of the Owls

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Probably the second best-known work writer Alan Moore is known for in the U.S. outside of his Watchmen series, Batman: The Killing Joke was both a retelling of the origin story of The Joker and the story of his using a physical assault on Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl to attempt to torture and ruin Gotham police commissioner Jim Gordon.  The book is one of the 1980s big four revolutionary comics (along with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One, and Watchmen) that caused a shift in how superhero stories are told (and it was the only comic director Tim Burton had ever read, setting the tone for the dark 1989 Batman movie featuring Jack Nicholson’s version of The Joker that Burton would begin filming only weeks later).  It’s a controversial graphic novel–the sexual assault and gunshot that resulted in Barbara Gordon losing the use of her legs and resulting in her change of persona to the deskbound computer whiz called Oracle angered many readers, and the ending is ambiguous and perplexing–why is Batman laughing at the end of the story?  Following the lead of the Marvel Comics new library of novelized adaptations of comic books and graphic novels, Batman: The Killing Joke is now the first of at least three new hardcover novel adaptations of DC Comics stories (to be followed by Batman: The Court of Owls on November 13, 2018, and Harley Quinn: Mad Love on February 12, 2019) published by Titan Books (also the publisher of the Marvel paperback novels).  Written by Christa Faust (Peepland, Fringe, Supernatural) and Gary Phillips (Violent Spring, Peepshow), their adaptation is a straightforward, faithful take on the graphic novel with a few updates.

The impact of the graphic novel cannot be overstated.  A key draw was the prestige format and the fact the book was a one-shot story, not like the three big predecessor books mentioned above that were monthly single issues compiled into a trade comic.  At the time we didn’t think the story would be absorbed into the regular continuity of DC Comics, but it slowly became a reference point even beyond its impact on Batgirl stories for the next 30 years.  (The book was so popular we couldn’t wait a minute to read it–one of my oldest friends was reading his copy on his music stand during our high school band practice, prompting the band director to throw it across the room, to our horror).

So how is the new novel adaptation?

You can’t really come up with enough synonyms for vile and despicable to describe The Joker in the original story and in this adaptation.  Before this story–and only about nine months before DC Comics would use fans to allow The Joker to kill Batman’s sidekick Robin with a tire iron in the pages of the Batman monthly comic book–The Joker was a bit of a silly villain.  Sure, he was always dastardly and Batman’s age-old key foe, but readers never saw him in such “true crime” acts so explicitly.  This is commonplace in the Batman stories now, but before you wouldn’t find a character shot, stripped naked, and photographed and another one stripped naked and tortured, both as plot devices ultimately used by The Joker to get Batman to show-up for the battle.  Authors Faust and Phillips do the most justice to Commissioner Gordon’s character, whose focus during his torture in a revived old amusement park is only the thoughts of his daughter’s safety and survival.  By the end of the book readers have learned that they couldn’t blame Gordon were he to walk away from these events as a destroyed pool of a man.  On the flipside, Barbara Gordon’s attack is handled partially from her viewpoint trying to understand what happened to her in real time, and partially from the view of one of The Joker’s stooges.  Barbara plays a more active role here in saving her father (and surviving), and instead of seeing herself as the victim she uses the bystander stooge to help further her superhero self into a new persona in a smartly conceived update via a coda to the story.

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Batman Night of the Owls hardcover cover

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.

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