The Court of Owls: a terrifying, mysterious organization believed to be the true lords of Gotham City. But ever since about issue #6 of Batman they’ve only gotten less and less scary as we’ve learned more about them and just how limited they really are as villains. They have the resources and the look, but none of the personality or motivation. What do we know about them? They’re rich folks with spooky white masks and a seemingly endless supply of obedient undead henchmen. Their assassin recruitment program begins at Haly’s Circus and ends at an underground maze where the Owls spectate and talk about how they want to take over the city even though they are already Gotham’s wealthiest, most powerful citizens. Does that about cover it? Issue #15 by Marguerite Bennett and Jorge Lucas essentially runs through all those details again without adding anything new.
Here’s a Talon, here’s a maze, and here’s the story of how the Talon ended up at the circus that eventually brought him to the maze where the men and women in spooky masks watched him. It was disturbing and suspenseful the first few times we saw it play out over the past 3 years, but I’m anxious to see the Court do something new and maybe, just maybe show some signs of a motivation beyond the ambiguous “We want Gotham.”
Bennett tells the story in a non-linear fashion that begins and ends in the maze while continuously rewinding flashbacks by hours, days, months, and years to illustrate how “Jonas” wound up in a bad-ass owl assassin uniform. There’s some frightening imagery of his childhood life on the family farm, but other than that it’s the same Talon origin as everyone else. Bennett does a fine job telling this story, but it is a story that readers of Talon will know all too well. I mean, if every Talon is chosen and trained in the exact same fashion, why are we being told that same story again and again? Skip over that bit. That’s why the scenes of Lucas’ life before meeting joining the circus were far and away the most interesting.
Jorge Lucas does a fine job of giving the book a dark and uneasy atmosphere and the action plays quite well too. The childhood memories/hallucination sequences were by far my favorite because, let’s face it, even though Lucas does a fine job of drawing the giant owl fountain, the visions of transforming into a bird, and the walls of the labyrinth itself– it’s all lost its visual splendor since Capullo did all these same tricks years ago. The Talon himself has a very different look from any other assassin, he’s more scaled and armored-looking but he’s surprisingly more terrifying without the mask thanks to a highly disturbing self-mutilation sequence.
- You hate chickens, but love owls
- You want a repeat of the Court of Owls labyrinth trials
- You like a non-linear narrative
- You’re okay with another almost identical Talon origin
It’s okay, but definitely not something I would rush out to pick up. If you read Calvin’s upbringing in issue #0 or William Cobb’s story from the pages of Nightwing or the trials of the labyrinth in issues #5 & #6 of Batman then this story will feel all too familiar. Its told well enough and the artwork is decent, but it offers nothing we haven’t seen before.