The Court of Owls stand out in Villains Month because the focus isn’t on one single bad guy, but an entire organization that’s been around for hundreds of years. How do you approach that for a one-shot? Well, if you’re James Tynion IV, author of the ongoing Talon series, you tell 4 scary, short stories about the Court throughout different eras in Gotham’s history framed by the Forever Evil chaos going on today.

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That’s right, you’re definitely getting some bang for your buck with this one because it’s something new every 3 or 4 pages. So if you’re up for some quality horror and desire to recapture that sense of mystery and foreboding that came with Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls then you’re going to want to pick this up.

Now, I can’t really go into too much detail about the stories included because they’re so brief that if I were to give a synopsis I would essentially give the game away. But rest assured that each short story showcases some terrifying-looking talons and the Court at their very worst (but in a good way). You’ll see Gotham in the 1970s, the 1910s, the 1890s, and even as far back as the 1860s, which is one story in particular that I believe fans of Talon will be pleasantly surprised by.

Spoiler
My least favorite of the bunch was the story of the 1914 Gotham mayor who was forced to push out the unions or else feel the wrath of the court. After the mayor does so the Court of Owls cast him down into the labyrinth to die but that basically just felt like a convenient way to wrap up the tale and give it a spooky ending. I mean, why kill the mayor when the whole point was to control him and thus take a tighter grip on Gotham City? Now there will be a new mayor and the unions will come back to see if he’ll be cooperative and the Court will have to repeat the process all over again. It really seems to be counterproductive to the Court of Owls’ plan. But besides my distaste for that short story’s end everything else was exceedingly well done and even featured some wonderful references to prior episodes of Talon.

When it comes to the modern Court of Owls, their story weaves in and out as riots rip through the city streets. With their city crumbling, one of the high ranking members of the Court and his daughter seek refuge deep in the Gotham underground where there are secret Owl catacombs (I love that word) and the like. As they trek through the dark caverns the father tells his daughter stories of the Court. It’s a great idea, but I do wish that the stories conveyed a more important lesson for the child in some instances or at least ran a little longer because they do feel cut-short, but for the most part it works– I just wish there was more of it and I would be totally fine with a plus-sized issue like this. More importantly though, this narrative thread leads to something that Talon readers will not want to miss!

One of the biggest highlights of the issue though is the artwork by Jorge Lucas and David McCaig (who also worked on the vibrant and very blue Mr. Freeze issue too believe it or not, talk about a versatile palette). I hope you like black ink because things are about to get very dark! This is a horror comic through and through and a huge part of that is thanks to the camera angles, proper use of close-ups, and shadowy, gritty, bloody, and 100% terrifying illustrations. While I do have my problems with the Court of Owls and their lack of solid motivation, the talons have always looked totally bad ass and the white owl masks are creepy as hell and here in in Batman and Robin #23.2 looks as frightening as they should. But the really terrific thing is that Jorge Lucas draws such expressive faces that a smirk from a mask-less Owl can be just as creepy as the vacant, snow-white guise. I would be A-Okay with Jorge Lucas and David McCaig teaming up for the ongoing Talon series if this is indeed the direction the series is heading.

Recommended If…

  • You’re a fan of Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls
  • You’ve been following the Ongoing Talon series (Anyone can read this and have a good time though!)
  • You enjoy the dark, gritty artistic style of Jorge Lucas
  • You’d like a handful of stories for the price of one
  • Scary stories are your thing

Overall

Well-done. Not only does James Tynion IV do a fine job of reintroducing us to the Court of Owls and remind us of how scary they are, but he manages to get us excited about what’s to come in Talon as well. Not all of the spooky tales about the Court are a home run and we don’t learn any more about the Court’s motivations, but I think most of what you find here is very entertaining and a cut above most other Villains Month titles. And the artwork by Jorge Lucas is absolutely perfect for this collection of horror stories.

SCORE: 8.5/10

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