How big of a role does last week’s Birds of Prey play in today’s Talon? Not much of one at all. You don’t need to read Birds of Prey #21 to read Talon #9. In fact, this whole crossover is pretty pointless and disruptive to what was shaping up to be a really fantastic arc. I think James Tynion has done a terrific job of incorporating the rest of the Batman mythology into this series. Any appearance by Batman or Bane felt like it arose organically, but this Birds of Prey crossover? It’s definitely forced.

Even worse, this particular issue’s opening even has an editor’s note asking that you read even more Birds of Prey! Our very first scene sums up the fight in last week’s tie-in and then it shows Calvin racing off to fake the death of Strix by desecrating a body leftover from Strix’s fight with Mr. Freeze or something but in order to understand what that’s all about you have to have read Birds of Prey #20 that came out in May… no thanks.

Then near the comic’s conclusion a seemingly new character makes an appearance along with another editor’s note saying to check out Detective Comics #18! I racked my brain trying to remember what that note was talking about because the character in question had such a teeny tiny part (or maybe I’m just reading so many comics lately that my memory is getting shoddy) in Detective all those months ago. Eventually I just Googled the character’s name and found that they had actually shown up in Talon before on a few occasions, it’s just that the artists did a poor job of recapturing the character’s likeness from Guillem March’s run.

And that’s another problem. Besides the rather worthless detour into Birds of Prey territory, Talon #9 is the worst looking issue this series has had. There’s really no comparison in my opinion, this is far and away the ugliest because Talon has always been a really well drawn comic. I’m really not sure what went wrong, honestly. Too many cooks in the kitchen? Rush to meet the deadline? Bad inking? What? Famed Detective Comics artist and co-creator of Bane, Graham Nolan joined the art team this week and is credited with “layouts” while last month’s artist, Miguel Sepulveda, is credited with “finishes.” Now, I’ve seen Graham Nolan’s art (a lot of it) and it’s good. I grew up with his Batman for crying out loud so I definitely have a fondness for his work! And Miguel Sepulveda illustrated last month’s issue and I liked that quite a bit, too! So why does this particular issue look so bad? It’s so scratchy and unpolished. Too many faces lack any definition and the poses by the characters in the cliffhanger of a final page are absolutely laughable when it should be a pretty shocking and scary moment. Even the letter made a mistake at one point!

And now you know what our power can to do to you…

You’ve got to feel bad for letterers, unsung heroes who nobody ever notices until they do something wrong.

Spoiler
Perhaps I should ask around and try and do an interview with a letterer. Hear about their side of the business. I usually steer away from interviews but that might actually offer an interesting and new perspective.

The worst of the visuals take place in the Strix/Birds of Prey crossover pages and you can skip right over those. Let’s just pretend like all of that never happened, yeah? Thankfully, the story returns to its usual level of quality when Strix and her team are behind us. Our attention is again back on Bane and Sebastian Clark and seeing Calvin infiltrate Bane’s private island is a good time. However, now that Calvin is a true undead Talon the series has indeed lost something special: A Calvin with regenerative powers who can only be killed by getting frozen or having his head chopped off doesn’t put me on the edge of my seat the same way a mortal Calvin did.

Overall

The Birds of Prey tie-in is a useless distraction but it only robs our story of 3-4 pages, but unfortunately the artwork takes a nosedive with this issue and it hurt my overall enjoyment quite a bit. No, you don’t need to have read last week’s Birds of Prey #21 and yes, Bane does show up and he’s just as brutal as you hoped. It’s the weakest episode of Talon yet, but now that the messy crossover business is out of the way the artwork is the only thing holding this series back from being really great again. Let’s hope the illustrations return to their usual standard of excellence next month.

SCORE: 6/10