When the New 52 started, I sampled a large number of books I thought were interesting and found some more interesting than others. I had to quit after a few months due to finances, but I have to say that Scott Snyder’s Batman run was one I somewhat regretted not continuing.
So, let’s try a bit of that again with the first trade for his New 52 run, The Court of Owls.
The book opens with Batman in Arkham Asylum dealing with a mass escape, with most of Batman’s most recognizable foes trying to get past him and out to freedom. He gets a partner in the form of the Joker (who later turns out to be Nightwing in disguise) and then is off to do Bruce Wayne type stuff that include a major construction project to make Gotham a better city. But then a body is found, a man murdered by very precisely-thrown knives. The crime is reminiscent of an old Gotham legend about the Court of Owls, a secret cabal that supposedly ruled Gotham from the shadows. They even had an assassin/agent in the form of an individual known as Talon. It gets worse for Batman when the dead man’s fingernails show DNA traces of the killer, but the traces are identified by the Batcomputer as belonging to Dick Grayson.
Now, to the book’s credit, Batman never for a minute thinks Dick actually killed the guy. But what he does do is search the Gotham underworld and his own family history for hints as to whether or not the Court actually exists. He’s personally always doubted it, but it turns out he is very wrong. The Court is real. Talon is real. And now Batman has to stop them while saving his own life.
This was a fun story, but the book doesn’t complete it. It ends on a cliffhanger, and I do have the second volume though I probably won’t get to it any time soon. I was reminded of the Court while recently reading Snyder’s Black Mirror storyline where Dick Grayson was Batman and had to go undercover to where rich people in masks were up to no good. Were they the same as the Court of Owls? This book doesn’t say, but it does establish a theme to Snyder’s Bat-work. Not every wealthy Gothamite is as much a philanthropist as Bruce Wayne. Many have sick cravings that can only be appeased through violence, mental manipulation of those who displease them, and control of others. I will eventually finish this story, but for now, between Snyder’s zippy writing and Greg Capullo’s fine art, let’s say this one was nine out of ten weird drug trips in a death maze.