As one of the newer aspects of DC Comic’s the New 52 reboot, the Court of the Owls has a lot of room to play. James Tynion IV and Jorge Lucas offer their take on the Court for DC’s Villain’s Month when they take over “Batman and Robin” #23.2. Although Tynion and Lucas offer some enticing glimpses into the Court’s history, they ultimately fall flat by shaping the book into one long setup for the next “Talon” issue.
When Scott Snyder introduced the Court of the Owls into Batman continuity, he not only gave the Bat-family an exciting new set of villains but left a lot of room for creative ingenuity. Since the Court’s history seems to date back to the very creation of Gotham, this issue had the potential to visit a lot of history; for instance, the story could have tackled formation of the Court and how it viewed the Crime Syndicate’s anarchy. Instead, Tynion opts to focus on random episodes involving Talon assassinations, in order to build up to the awakening of the first talon for this month’s “Talon.” In all, the issue feels like a wasted opportunity. The motivations of the characters’ seemed unconvincing and confusing at best. While it appeared to build toward some great reveal, it left the reader hanging with more questions asked than answered. The story feels as though it were rushed to completion, that little time or effort went into the plot, since so little attention is paid to the issue as more than a setup.
The issue does have some saving graces. From the get go, the story’s tone is set up very well. It feels like a horror movie throughout, which is a very appropriate choice for such an ominous, omnipotent group. The introductory sequence, with the child’s recitation of the Court’s poem, is particularly effective in establishing the group’s insidious nature. Other narrative choices are similarly well thought out; in using the child Court member as the reader’s voice, Tynion is able to address questions that may otherwise have felt out of place if her father had been alone or with another adult member. However, even then, he doesn’t sound like he’s addressing a child.
Lucas’ art, while in keeping with the dark tone of the story, is a little overwrought in this issue; in fact, I would go so far to call it over-detailed. The pencils are extremely sketchy, in that it maintains lines that should have been erased as the issue neared completion. Said lines have unintended effects, like aging all of the characters beyond their years, including the young boy in the very beginning. Overall, the art is so murky that it’s hard to tell what is happening in the story. Although there are a few transitions that come across very well, the art simply does not reflect the cool, put-together nature of the Court of the Owls. Dave McCaig’s colors could have helped clear up this confusion, especially concerning the time jumps, but they ultimately come off as one-note and static.
James Tynion IV and Jorge Lucas’ “Batman and Robin” #23.2 attempts to take on the Court of the Owls, but they fail to capture the dreadful, organized demeanor of the organization through inconsistent characterization and muddled art. Although the issue isn’t actively bad, it does feel rushed and unfinished, going so far as to beg its readers to pick up the next issue. Hopefully, the Court of the Owls will receive better treatment in future Batman storylines.