Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book Review: The Court of Owls (Batman Vol. I ) by Scott Snyder

The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder
Batman Volume I (The New 52)
DC Comics
New York, NY; 15 May 2012
176 pages
4 Stars 

Barnes & Noble; Book Depository; Goodreads

After a series of brutal murders rocks Gotham City, Batman begins to realize that perhaps these crimes go far deeper than appearances suggest. As the Caped Crusader begins to unravel this deadly mystery, he discovers a conspiracy going back to his youth and beyond to the origins of the city he's sworn to protect. Could the Court of Owls, once thought to be nothing more than an urban legend, be behind the crime and corruption? Or is Bruce Wayne losing his grip on sanity and falling prey to the pressures of his war on crime?

Disclaimer: My reviews of the Batman comics will come from a background of very limited knowledge of any back issues. Therefore, I won't be comparing Snyder's work to anything previous.

Batman has always been my favorite superhero. I grew up watching the cartoons and movies, and I've always admired his resourcefulness and genius in lieu of superpowers. I've also always been drawn to his darkness. So, when I started getting into comics, I was overjoyed to find out that DC had relaunched Batman as part of The New 52. What otherwise would have been a daunting series to begin had become accessible.  This first trade binds up issues #1-7 and requires no former knowledge of the Batman story to understand, though a little research will reveal non-plot essential information. 

The story grabbed me right away. There was action right out of the gate, as well as surprises. Snyder caught me off guard within the first few pages and set the tone for his writing right away. He kept me guessing the whole time. I found the whole idea of an ancient group that watches over Gotham fascinating, and I could never decide if I thought they were real or a front for another villain.

The flow was excellent.  Though it wasn't completely linear, it wasn't confusing at all, and the time jumps only added to the overall story.  The pacing was good, as well.  It didn't lag at all, but it also wasn't hurried, so I had time to digest everything that was happening.

Snyder made me really happy by showing off some of my favorite characters, both heroes and villains.  Though few of them have any substantial role in this volume, it was exciting just to see them.

This volume is Batman-centric, though, with very few scenes with the other characters.  And I really love the way Snyder writes Bruce Wayne.  His public face is charming and hopeful, but the man who spends most of his time in the Batcave is prideful to a fault, thinking that he owns Gotham.  Watching him break down and be humbled was painful, but it will make his character more interesting in later arcs.

One thing that I really loved was the way Snyder revealed how loved Bruce is by the Bat Family without ever showing it in his actions.  Rather, it was done in a few expertly written and illustrated panels.  There is a particular one where Robin is worried about Batman that actually got me choked up.  All of this shows that, behind his cold exterior, Bruce cares perhaps more than anyone else does.  I find this essential to remember with a character who has so many walls up.

The other character who gets quality airtime is Dick Grayson, who is currently Nightwing.  He's sarcastic and bold.  The closeness of his relationship with Bruce is obvious, as he's not afraid to speak his mind, but there is also a certain tension there due to how withdrawn Bruce is.  In the few moments he gets, a good deal of wisdom is showcased, and he balances out Batman's stubborn demeanor quite well.  I really hope to see more of their relationship as I progress through the series.

The writing in this is fantastic.  Besides an enthralling plot, Snyder really knows how to script believable dialogue.  I loved Bruce's "voice overs," as well.  It all created this dark, dubious tone that kept me on edge.

Snyder's story would be severely lacking without Greg Capullo's illustrations, though.  He is absolutely the perfect artist to have been paired with Snyder.  His style is dark and, at times, gruesome, which greatly enhances the tone and plot.  The way he chooses to lay out his panels is so artistic, as well.  I can tell that every choice is deliberate and meant to add to the story.

Upon finishing my first Batman trade, all I wanted was more.  I was so impressed by the team Snyder and Capullo made and what they had done with a character I love that I immediately started the next volume.  And I don't see myself stopping any time soon.

I gave The Court of Owls 4 stars.

Who is your favorite superhero?  Have you read any of The New 52 or Marvel NOW! relaunches?  Give me recommendations in the comments below.

As always, you can find me on Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, and Bloglovin.

Happy reading!

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