Mr H and Alex Discuss: Batman: The Court Of Owls
What started as Mr H and Alex talking about their Batman #49 minireviews quickly evolved into a full blown discussion about Scott Snyder‘s entire run on Batman from the outset of the New 52 all the way through to the fiftieth issue. Originally conceived as a single post, they quickly realized something: Mr H and Alex have a lot to say about this run, so they’ll be tackling it an arc at a time.
Up first the story that kicked the run off, The Court Of Owls. Originally running from issues #1 through #12, the story also included several tie-ins with most of the other Bat-family titles as well.
There will be spoilers so if you haven’t read these stories yet (why not?) and you want to avoid spoilers, then you’ve been warned!
Alex: Shall we get started, then? When the New 52 started, I think the one book that I was looking forward to the most was Scott Snyder‘s Batman. It remains the only New 52 book I haven’t dropped, partly because it’s Batman, but almost entirely because of Snyder‘s writing and Greg Capullo‘s art. But the first arc, The Court Of Owls, I honestly think that in another ten years we’ll be holding it next to books like The Long Halloween in terms of it’s quality. Am I delusional there?
Mr H: Not at all Alex, it was a fantastic arc. Snyder is so good at characterization that it evolved into much more than just another new Batman story. It served on a multitude of fronts. First off it was a great jumping on point for new readers as well as a treat for long time fans. People were clamoring for new and we had just got a lot of that in Grant Morrison‘s spectacular run. However Snyder didn’t just ride off Grant‘s coattails and go the wildly zany route, he decided to leave his own Mark on Batman and more importantly Gotham.
He made the city a central character almost sentient where it would throw the worst at Batman because of what challenge he presented. So instead of just a brand new shiny foe, we got to see how the Dark Knight handled battling against his own history and Gotham itself. What we got was pretty wild.
Alex: I think what I loved about the arc is that Snyder wasted no time in breaking Bruce down mentally (and physically), really establishing early that this version of Batman is fallible. He’s very beatable in comparison to the near omniscient Batman we’ve seen before.
Mr H: Very true sir. Especially in issues 5 & 6 when Bruce is lost in the Court of Owls underground labyrinth. The reader gets the feeling that Batman is truly at someone’s mercy and he could very well fail this time. The characters of the Owls were done brilliantly as well as their designs. I like how Snyder picked the mortal enemy of bats to be the protagonist. It sort of gave them the superior high ground in their war. Plus I thoroughly enjoyed the back story on the Wayne family and not just Bruce’s parents but his great grandfather as well. Morrison did a little delving into the history of the Wayne’s but Snyder deeply excavated it here. Plus the artwork by Greg Capullo was just masterful all the way through. How cool was that Thrasher Batman Armor in issue 8?? (So cool I bought the collectible from DC Collectibles, that’s what!)
Alex: I honestly think that this is one of my favourite Batman arcs… I mean I enjoyed Morrison‘s run, but I can take or leave at least half of it, but the past 49 issues of Batman have been some of the best. What I really appreciated though, was how Nightwing‘s past was given a deeper connection to Gotham, and to Batman himself.
Mr H: Like Grant [Morrison] did Snyder excelled at taking some of the more hokey and far out there parts of Batman lore and making them work. Specifically for this storyline, the long lost brother of Bruce Wayne; Thomas Wayne Jr. Along with the return he seeds doubt in the readers minds and let’s us almost formulate our own conclusion. I think Batman works when it’s mixed with some fantastic elements as well as being grounded in the noir genre. To your earlier point, I am a big fan of Dick Grayson and I appreciated his extra thread being tied to the mythos even more. However I was a huge fan of Snyder‘s Detective Comics run with Dick Grayson as Batman. I was at a time hoping Bruce would never return. Scott Snyder made me retract that quickly. He writes the most human balance of Bruce/Batman that I’ve ever seen.
Alex: That’s the nail on the head, there, mate. Snyder has been able to humanize Batman in a way that’s not really been done before.
Mr H: To me Snyder‘s Batman is a lot like a Nolan Bat-Film, it’s grounded in reality while allowing some very cool over the top comic book moments. Plus in the aftermath he gave us another great character who would be important to the Bat family later on: Harper Row. His contributions are plentiful and long lasting which is what every great writer should strive to do, and not have their work waived away by the absurdity of a “retcon punch” down the line.
Alex: The elephant in the room at this point being Rebirth. Although we don’t know much of anything about it right now [editors note: this discussion happened the day the Rebirth titles were announced], honestly, I’m hoping that the retcon punch doesn’t wipe away Snyder‘s run from continuity.But Rebirth is a subject that’ll come up elsewhere, and so getting back to this run, the fight with Batman in the Thrasher Armour verses the Talons in the cave was fantastic. It was great to see Batman cut loose and not pull any punches (after all, you can’t kill what’s already dead).
Mr H: Ohhhh I thought the attack on Wayne Manor was off the charts and like you said was pleasing to see Bruce cut loose on the Talons. He knew they were essentially zombies so he didn’t have to abort his moral code. I also liked the quieter moments too like when Thomas Wayne Jr. remembering his mother’s broach. Snyder handles characterization better than almost any writer. This storyline while a bit longer than most was chock full of moments and just so well balanced.
Alex: Yeah, it’s funny. I didn’t realize just how long the arc was until we started talking about it. For some reason I was thinking it was about half as long as it actually was. Goes to show how good it was, I guess.
Mr H: What think speaks volumes is that for as long as it was it felt surprisingly smooth. The final issue with the reveal and big battle felt more than just a “boss fight” and was done so well. I think the epilogue was even better. This team has been on the book for almost 50 issues and they made Batman feel fresh again. I would argue they are the best Batman creative team of all time.
Alex: I agree with you there, mate. Between Capullo‘s artwork (which I’m sure we’ll focus more on in later installments of this series) giving us a clean yet incredibly dark vibe and Snyder‘s incredible character analysis, it’ll be a long time before we get 50 issues of a Batman comic this good. And it all started with arguably one of the best Bat-stories in a long time – although the same can just as easily be said for their net arc, Death Of The Family. But that’s a discussion for another week.
That’s it for this week folks. Next week Mr. H and Alex will be talking about the phenomenal Death Of The Family so tune in next week at the same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!