Batman #10

After "Night of the Owls," Gotham finds a new day dawning in "Batman" #10. Following the short list from Lincoln March and using his incredible deductive skills, the Dark Knight Detective follows a lead and finds himself in the Owl's nest, ready to put a hefty beatdown on the entire Court of Owls.

Scott Snyder brings back the essential qualities that make "Batman" a compelling read: action, adventure, suspense and sincere threats. Batman has survived the Court of Owls and their attack, but he's not going to let them regroup and stage another run. He's determined to bring the fight to them and put them off their game as much or more than they did by invading his city, his building -- his life. Snyder has taken Batman to the depths of despair in this series and he's empowered Batman to climb out, stronger and more determined than ever before.

Batman backs up the determination with ruthlessness that borders on savagery. Batman has been violated like never before and he intends to never let it happen again. That's where Snyder throws in a couple of masterful plot threads, not only blocking Batman's attempts at redemption, but extending the final confrontation and adding an unexpected twist to the final match-up of bat and owl. A number of Talons have been removed from the battle over the course of the "Night of the Owls" so it remains for the Talon to match up against Batman. This Talon is as close to a dark reflection of Batman as Snyder has ever crafted with any of his characters and their conflict runs deeper than the last few panels of this issue. Everything Batman has held reverentially, this Talon seeks to destroy.

The final result is a shocking end certain to leave readers screaming for the next issue, with a cliffhanger if ever there was one, or at least as cliffhangery as Batman comics can get this close to the release of a major motion picture. After all, they wouldn't hurt Bruce Wayne this close to a major multimedia event, right?

I've praised Greg Capullo's art on this title more than a few times, but he still continues to impress me. I've discussed his lively characters with their animated tendencies and symbolic appearances, but in this issue, with Batman in full cape and cowl, prowling after the Court, shadows, silhouettes, and counterforms abound and take their places alongside the lively characters who now seethe with rage. Capullo uses the body language of all of the characters involved to vocalize Snyder's story. Behind those lively actors are stunning textures and details, perhaps most evident in the scene that occurs in the Willowwood Home for Children, a dilapidated building that once housed mentally ill and neurologically impaired children. Mildew stains and chipped paint, filled with musty colors from FCO Plascencia give that scene an essence that wafts off the page, suppressing the fresh ink and paper odors new comics should exude.

"Batman" #10 includes the second installment of the back-up tale "The Fall of the House of Wayne." Misty, atmospheric tones from Dave McCaig color Rafael Albuquerque's more fluid artwork in the back-up, adding an edge of terror to a deeply mysterious tale involving the Pennyworth family and their charges at Wayne Manor. Snyder is joined here by co-writer and upcoming "Talon" scribe James Tynion IV. This story is less about the Waynes and more about Jarvis Pennyworth's Court of Owls-haunted interactions with the Waynes early in Bruce's childhood.

While much ado has been made of the Batman family of titles being able to maintain a certain amount of pre-relaunch momentum, the Court of Owls has altered the landscape of Gotham City irrevocably. This is not the same Gotham we read about last June. The expansion and modification of Gotham, her legends and her inhabitants proclaim Snyder's love of the character and the comics that Batman has starred in. That is evident through a nod to the history of Batman that can be vetted with a simple internet search, but in the same stroke, introduced through this new lens of the relaunch, it expands Batman's world to make it more compelling. With the revelation contained in this issue, it's safe to say nothing will ever be the same again: not Batman, not Gotham, not the way the two interact or the surprises still unseen.

Snyder has done a masterful job adding depth to Gotham and to Batman. Having such wonderfully talented collaborators as Capullo and Albuquerque certainly helps. Next month wraps up the Court of Owls storyline in the pages of "Batman," but this penultimate chapter really should not be overlooked.

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