Graphic Novel Review: Batman vol.1: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
Series: Batman vol II #1-7
Publisher: DC Comics
Wendy’s Rating ~ 4 of 5 stars
What is Gotham? Well, according to Batman, Gotham is Batman. This is how the first issue opens, with Batman’s conceit on full display. All the corruption and depravity that prevails within a city that seems to birth villains daily from its loins belongs to the Bat, and he takes pride in that. Batman’s hubris has never been in question, but it’s pretty impressive to have him so blatantly express it himself. Being so high on himself, it implies that there is only one place for Batman to go: down.
But first, we flip over to Bruce Wayne who, in a rare moment, is using his powers of wealth to help Gotham, instead of just his powers of punch you in your face because I’m the goddamn Batman. At a gala event, Bruce Wayne isn’t simply playing the playboy, he is genuinely investing in his city and inviting the other one percent to do the same to create a bright future for their dark city.
This is where I became a bit sceptical. I’ve already read the Batman: Hush series of books, where a significant new enemy—one who knows all there is to know about Batman, is shoehorned into his life. I wasn’t looking forward to that here. But Snyder does an excellent job, first by building Batman’s conceit and his insistence that the Court of Owls does not exist. He writes off the brutal attack and all the signs. Not that he’s letting his guard down and not doing his proper detective work. Batman simply refuses to believe the Court of Owls to be a greater threat than they are, because his detective work has never proven their existence beyond the circumstantial. It doesn’t register with Batman that the reason why he knows so little about them is because they are better than him. And they know a Gotham that goes well beyond Batman’s knowledge.
It’s no secret that Batman is a sociopath, whether or not he realizes that himself, and I love the writers who aren’t afraid to reveal the full extent of his assholery, which often comes through the eyes of his companions (in this case, Dick Grayson).
I was also a bit thrown by Greg Capullo’s art. I love his art, but initially, his Batman seemed too… cute. The bright blue eyes and boxy face worked well enough for Bruce Wayne, but, somehow, the style wasn’t working for me as Batman. But as the story progresses, and the Court of Owls digs their talons more deeply into the Batman’s psyche, Capullo’s crisp, clean cut Batman starts to fall apart, both inside and out, and his art perfectly reflects that disintegration.
Panels begin to twist and tighten as Batman navigates the Court’s torment, forcing the reader into the depths of the labyrinth with him.
What initially began as a three star story, earned itself another star toward the end as Snyder tears Batman apart from the inside. I definitely need to read on to find out how Batman manages to make it out of this one.