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Comicscape: Night of the Owls

Batman vs Hooters

By Joel Rickenbach     May 16, 2012
Source: Mania.com

If I had to pick a character who consistently has the best stories in the comic world it would have to be Batman, hands down. That’s not to say I don’t identify with the real world problems of Peter Parker, or dream of riding a seahorse like Aquaman, but the inherent mystery in Batman’s stories gives the character’s books that something extra. Batman can’t just punch his villains in the face, he must track, deduce, peel back layers of obfuscation… and then punch them in the face. The other feather in Batman’s storytelling cowl is Gotham City, there’s not a single place, real or created, in comics as alive and pulsating as Gotham. Secrets woven into the very buildings that make up a city that rests on the crimes and achievements of famous and infamous Gothamites. All of this is there, waiting for you, from the very first panel of any bat book you pluck off the shelf.

 

Batman also has a continuity deeper than just about any other character from any publisher, and you’d be hard pressed to find one as interesting. Sure, the character has been subject to unfortunate retconning over the years, just like everyone else whose books bare a “DC” on the cover. For example- Batman’s entire motivation could be boiled down to one man- Joe Chill, the thug who killed Thomas and Martha Wayne, and set their son, Bruce, on a life-long mission to rid Gotham City of crime. After the 1994 DC event “Zero Hour” that was suddenly no longer true, the Wayne’s murderer became a mystery, and the current writers started architecting new pieces of Bruce Wayne’s and Gotham’s past. Over a decade later, in 2006’s “Infinite Crisis”, Joe Chill is once again established as the Wayne’s killer. Just when you think you’re out, DC editorial pulls you back in. Despite all the ridiculous, crisis-induced changes, the modern Batman writes have done a good job of creating new and interesting pieces of Gotham’s history that were never a concern of the Golden and Silver age scribes. Thomas Wayne’s importance to Gotham’s structure and politics were fleshed out, and new players, such as Thomas Elliot (AKA Hush), emerged from Gotham’s shadowy past.

 

But screw all that, why keep changing things when you can just scrub all the decades of blood off your hands and start the fight over? Last year DC comics decided to give their line of books the biggest shake up yet. Forget a crisis, DC literally closed the book on their current universe, and started on page one of another. I’m not here to judge that decision just yet, but its effect on the bat books is fascinating to say the least. Most characters in the “New 52” are starting from the beginning, new origins are being told, and new mythology is being canonized. Batman and his family of books (which make up about 1/4th of the DC universe), on the other hand, are pretty much in the same place as they were before the New 52 re-launch, except how they got there is unknown to the reader. Damian is the current Robin, and is Bruce’s son, but did the events play out the same way as before? We just don’t know, but we hope the writers have a solid plan, or else the giant retcon monster will eventually awaken from his slumber, and before you know it Harold the mechanic will be Batman, and Jack Nicholson will be the Wayne’s killer.

 

 

 

 

Fortunately we’re not at that point yet. In fact, Batman writer Scott Snyder has engineered a deeply rich story that is setting the stage for Gotham from page one, and it’s invading the whole line of bat books this spring. “Night of the Owls” is the first crossover of the New 52, and I have to admit- it feels perfectly woven into the story of the Batman corner of the universe. It would have been very easy for DC and Snyder to try and boost sales with an arbitrary villain that requires the combined might (and issues) of the bat family to defeat, but not here. Rarely has a crossover felt so natural, and it’s escalation made as much sense. Snyder has been expertly building this story from the very first issue of Batman, and all the while giving us the history of Gotham and it’s families. The story revolves around an old Gotham myth- that there is a secret order known as the Court of Owls that run the city behind the scenes. They are watching your every move, and if you do not match their vision of what Gotham is, then they will come for you. Children in Gotham grow up singing a nursery rhyme-

 

 

“Beware the court of owls, that watches all the time, ruling Gotham from a shadow perch, behind granite and lime. They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed, speak not a whispered word of them or they'll send the talon for your head.”

 

What they don’t know is just how real that rhyme is, and that it’s literally imbedded in the architecture of the city they call home. Speaking of, Bruce Wayne has just unveiled his plans to add to Gotham’s skyline, and totally revamp its public transportation system, to the cheers of Gotham’s elite. However, It’s not long before Batman arrives at the scene of a sadistic murder, and finds a proclamation that Bruce Wayne will die the next day. Has Bruce really caught the attention of the rumored Court of Owls, or is someone using the power of myth for their own purposes? The Dark Knight isn’t convinced, but as he delves deeper into the mystery the true Gotham slowly reveals itself, and Bruce begins to question everything he thought he knew. I don’t want to spoil the mystery and mythology, it’s much more rewarding if you discover it for yourself.

 

What’s so impressive about this whole arc is how Snyder is weaving Batman and the history of Gotham with the mythology of the Court of Owls, and somehow adding in the zoology of owls themselves without it feeling corny or forced. It’s actually all quite brilliant. One of the advantages of the New 52 I must concede is that this story is being woven into the Batman mythology from the ground up, instead of inserting new pieces of lore into 60 plus years of fractured continuity. The hindsight is certainly 20/20 when hints of other stories make brief appearances as Batman digs up the past. Names like “Cobblepot” and “Elliot” waft their way through the halls, no doubt to be unearthed and fleshed out at a later date. As I mentioned earlier- there’s nothing better than a Batman story that takes the time to flesh out its best character- Gotham City.

 

I’ve read a lot of comments recently about how tough it is to add new books to pull lists, and the extra expense of crossovers. Believe me, I hear you. “Night of the Owls” is not as bad as the big company-wide crossovers, and there’s a good way to lessen the financial blow. This story has been building since the first New 52 issue of Batman, and leads directly into “Night of the Owls” proper. The trick is the build up issues (Batman #1-7) are the really good stuff, and probably more interesting than the action packed crossover that follows. The good news is the collected Batman arc (#1-7) is released today, and you can pick one up at your local shop, or over at Amazon for around $13. Batman #8 and Nightwing #8 serve as direct preludes to the escalated action, and the unleashing of the owls hits all the #9 issues of Bat Family books, and culminates with Batman Annual #1. There’s two weeks left in the crossover, so the iron is most definitely hot. I highly recommend “Night of the Owls”, it’s what all good Batman stories should be, and it’s exciting to get in on the ground floor of the new Gotham. And besides- this is the first of a planned three arc epic by Scott Snyder, so there’s plenty of good, wallet-stretching Batman stories ahead.



“Night of the Owls” reading order:

 

PRELUDE:

 

  • BATMAN #1
  • BATMAN #2
  • BATMAN #3
  • BATMAN #4
  • BATMAN #5
  • BATMAN #6
  • BATMAN #7
  • BATMAN #8 (NIGHT OF THE OWLS PRELUDE)
  • NIGHTWING #8 (NIGHT OF THE OWLS PRELUDE)

 

NIGHT of the OWLS:

  • BATWING #9
  • DETECTIVE COMICS #9
  • BATGIRL #9
  • BATMAN #9
  • BATMAN AND ROBIN #9
  • NIGHTWING #9
  • BIRDS OF PREY #9
  • CATWOMAN #9
  • RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #9
  • All-Star Western #9
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #9
  • Batman Annual #1

New Comic Book Releases for 5/16/12:


DC COMICS
BATWOMAN #9 $2.99
BIRDS OF PREY #9 Night of the Owls $2.99
BLUE BEETLE #9 $2.99
CAPTAIN ATOM #9 $2.99
CATWOMAN #9 Night of the Owls $2.99
DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS #9 $2.99
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #9 $2.99
GREEN LANTERN THE ANIMATED SERIES #2 $2.99
JUSTICE LEAGUE #4 3rd printing $3.99
JUSTICE LEAGUE #9 $3.99
LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #9 $2.99
NIGHTWING #9 Night of the Owls $2.99
RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #9 Night of the Owls $2.99
SHADE #8 (of 12) $2.99
SUPERGIRL #9 $2.99
WONDER WOMAN #9 $2.99
BATMAN BRUCE WAYNE THE ROAD HOME TP $17.99
CATWOMAN TP VOL 01 THE GAME $14.99
GREEN LANTERN BRIGHTEST DAY TP $19.99
GREEN LANTERN HC VOL 01 SINESTRO $22.99
SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER VILLAINS HC VOL 02 $39.99

VERTIGO
HELLBLAZER #291 $2.99
SAUCER COUNTRY #3 $2.99
SCALPED #58 $2.99
DEADENDERS TP $29.99

MARVEL COMICS
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #682 2nd printing $3.99
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #683 2nd printing $3.99
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ENDS OF EARTH #1 $3.99
AVENGERS #26 Avengers vs X-Men $3.99
AVENGERS ACADEMY #30 Avengers vs X-Men $2.99
AVENGERS BLACK WIDOW STRIKES #2 (of 3) $2.99
AVENGERS VS X-MEN #0 (of 12) 3rd printing $3.99
AVENGERS VS X-MEN #4 (of 12) Avengers vs X-Men $3.99
AVX VS #2 (of 6) Avengers vs X-Men $3.99
DAREDEVIL #13 $2.99
FANTASTIC FOUR #605.1 $2.99
FURY MAX #2 $3.99
HULK SMASH AVENGERS #3 (of 5) $2.99
INCREDIBLE HULK #7.1 $2.99
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #517 $3.99
JOHN CARTER GODS OF MARS #3 (of 5) $2.99
NEW AVENGERS #24 2nd printing $3.99
NEW MUTANTS #42 Exiled $2.99
THUNDERBOLTS #174 $2.99
UNCANNY X-MEN #12 Avengers vs X-Men $3.99
VENOM #18 $2.99
WINTER SOLDIER #5 $2.99
X-FACTOR #236 $2.99
AVENGERS CONTEST TP $16.99
DEADPOOL MAX PREM HC SECOND CUT $24.99
GENERATION HOPE END OF A GENERATION TP $15.99
MARVEL UNIVERSE VS WOLVERINE TP $14.99
MOON KNIGHT BY BENDIS AND MALEEV PREM HC VOL 02 $24.99
NEW AVENGERS BY BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS PREM HC VOL 03 $29.99
NEW MUTANTS CLASSIC TP VOL 07 $29.99
WOLVERINE AND BLACK CAT CLAWS 2 TP $14.99

ICON
SECRET SERVICE #2 (of 7) $2.99

ABRAMS
BEST OF ENEMIES HIST OF US & MIDDLE EAST RELATIONS HC VOL 01 $24.95
BUT I REALLY WANTED TO BE AN ANTHROPOLOGIST GN $24.95

ACTION LAB ENTERTAINMENT
PRINCELESS TP VOL 01 $14.95

ANTARCTIC PRESS
GOLD DIGGER #138 $3.99

APE ENTERTAINMENT
RICHIE RICH DIGEST GN VOL 02 PURSUIT OF PESOS $6.99
SCOUTS DRAFTED GN $6.99

ARCHIE COMIC PUBLICATIONS
ARCHIE DOUBLE DIGEST #229 $3.99
JUGHEAD #213 $2.99
SONIC UNIVERSE #40 $2.99

AVATAR PRESS BOUNDLESS
LADY DEATH ORIGINS CURSED #2 (of 3) $3.99

BIG DOG INK
URSA MINOR #1 $3.50

BLUEWATER PRODUCTIONS
FEMALE FORCE CARRIE FISHER $3.99
JOHN SAULS GOD PROJECT #2 $3.99
MISADVENTURES OF ADAM WEST #3 $3.99
QUATERMAIN #4 $3.99

BONGO COMICS
SIMPSONS COMICS #190 $2.99

BOOM! STUDIOS
PLANET OF THE APES #14 $3.99
STEED AND MRS PEEL #5 (of 6) $3.99
SUPURBIA #1 (of 4) 3rd printing $3.99
VALEN OUTCAST #6 $3.99

KABOOM
ADVENTURE TIME #4 $3.99
WORDGIRL GN VOL 04 FASHION DISASTER $7.99

CUTTING EDGE PRESS
100 MONTHS HC GN $29.95

DARK HORSE COMICS
BPRD HELL ON EARTH DEVILS ENGINE #1 (of 3) $3.50
BRIDE OF THE WATER GOD TP VOL 11 $9.99
CONAN THE BARBARIAN #4 $3.50
RESET #2 (of 4) $3.50
STAR WARS DAWN OF THE JEDI FORCE STORM #4 $3.50
EERIE ARCHIVES HC VOL 10 $49.99
HELLBOY TP VOL 02 WAKE THE DEVIL (6th printing) $17.99
PARADOX ENTERTAINMENT PRESENTS KULT TP $12.99

DIGITAL MANGA PUBLICATIONS
CASTLE MANGO GN VOL 01 $12.95
PRIVATE TEACHER GN VOL 03 $12.95
SAMEJIMA KUN & SASAHARA KUN GN $12.95
STARRY SKY GN VOL 01 $12.95
TYRANT FALLS IN LOVE GN VOL 06 $12.95

DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT
ARMY OF DARKNESS #4 $3.99
NINJETTES #4 $3.99
NOWHERE MAN #3 (of 4) $3.99
SHADOW #2 $3.99
VAMPIRELLA VS DRACULA #4 $3.99
VOLTRON #5 $3.99

EAGLEMOSS PUBLICATIONS
DC SUPERHERO CHESS FIG COLL MAG #3 Robin White Bishop $16.00

IDEA & DESIGN WORKS
30 DAYS OF NIGHT 10 BLOODY YEARS TREASURY ED $9.99
LOCKE & KEY CLOCKWORKS #6 (of 6) $3.99
COMPLETE CHESTER GOULDS DICK TRACY HC VOL 13 $39.99
JURASSIC PARK DANGEROUS GAMES HC $24.99
LAST UNICORN HC DLX ED $50.00

IMAGE COMICS
ACTIVITY #6 $3.50
DANCER #1 $3.50
DANGER CLUB #2 $2.99
FATALE #1 5th printing $3.50
GLORY #26 $2.99
HELL YEAH #3 $2.99
MANHATTAN PROJECTS #3 $3.50
MONDO #2 (of 3) $4.99
SAGA #3 $2.99
THIEF OF THIEVES #1 3rd printing $2.99
THIEF OF THIEVES #4 $2.99

TOP COW
DARKNESS #103 $2.99
HARDCORE #1 $2.99

KODANSHA COMICS
SAILOR MOON TP VOL 05 $10.99

LERNER PUBLISHING GROUP
MISS ANNIE BOOK 02 ROOFTOP CAT $6.95

MOONSTONE
LONE RANGER CHRONICLES SC $19.95

NBM
FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE HC VOL 05 HAPPY PRINCE $16.99

ONI PRESS
SECRET HISTORY OF DB COOPER #3 $3.99
SIXTH GUN #22 $3.99
COLDEST CITY HC $19.99
CROGANS LOYALTY HC $14.99

RED 5 COMICS
ATOMIC ROBO REAL SCIENCE ADV #2 $2.75
DEAD OR ALIVE #4 (of 4) $3.50

RZG COMICS
PHAZER WAR OF THE INDEPENDENTS CROSSOVER #2 $3.99

VERTICAL INC
FLOWERS OF EVIL GN VOL 01 $10.95

VIZ MEDIA
FUTURE IS JAPANESE NOVEL $14.99
SATURN APARTMENTS TP VOL 04 $12.99
SATURN APARTMENTS TP VOL 05 $12.99

ZENESCOPE ENTERTAINMENT
GRIMM FAIRY TALES #73 $2.99


Joel Rickenbach is a curator of cult cinema at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA, and can be heard every week talking film, TV and other geekery on the You’ve got GEEK podcast. Follow him onTwitter and hilarity will no doubt ensue.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 8 of 8
1 
CyanideRush 5/16/2012 9:25:46 AM

I completely agree Joel. I've found the New 52 Batman enthralling. Perhaps they've taken a page from Rocksteady's Batman games, really giving a mysterious and fascinatingly rich history to Gotham. They really have. I'm as interested in finding out more about Gotham as I am about the Owls.

Now I have to snag these cross overs. This is the second time this week you're hurting my wallet buddy.

shac2846 5/16/2012 9:53:36 AM

 I picked up gates of gotham in trade it was excellent and really only a tease at the story to come. I have ordered the first batman trade (court of owls) on amazon. Looking forward to this. I have heard nothing but good things from comic book stores that I go to. 

jedibanner 5/16/2012 10:25:26 AM

Well..I guess I'm in the minority but the new Batman's comics aren't my thing. But the Batwoman books or Batgirl books are great.

vitieddie 5/16/2012 3:53:14 PM

I haven't read any new 52 since I'm not gonna splash out on single comics to read the full arcs ... waiting patiently for the TPBs so will judge then

domino2008 5/17/2012 12:33:37 AM

Ive been following this new BATMAN story on the monthly comics , and gotta say , Batman met his match in such a intersting way. Im on the 9th issue and love this new 52 . looking forward to the next issue.

CyanideRush 5/17/2012 5:51:18 AM

Hey Joel, for the Night of the Owls, is your order above the suggested reading order for the tie ins?

joelr 5/17/2012 6:53:47 AM

@shac2846 That's a good point- the pre-New 52 "Gates of Gotham" story is a hint at what eventually became "Night of the Owls"

@jedibanner Different folks want tdifferent things from their book, I'd love to know what you feel is missing from Batman at the moment. Speak on it, son!

@cyanide Yup, that is the recommended reading order, although when it starts hitting the fringe books- Batgirl, Red hood etc. I think they can be read in any order, they each deal with what's going on simultaneously.

CyanideRush 5/21/2012 9:39:30 AM

Alright, I'm current on the Night of the Owls crossover, with the last few issues dropping Wednesday. So far, it's been uneven. Some of them take the best parts of New 52 Batman, the glimpses into Gotham's distant past, and use that to glaze the action in inetesting ways. Other don't leverage it very well and it comes off flat. Overall though it's a great ark and I can't wait to see where it goes.  (It inspired me to start a new play through of Arkham City)

1 

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