Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Batman: Night of The Owls (Batman #7-8 & Nightwing #8)

As I've noted before, Batman isn't just the best of the current run of Batman titles - it is the best Batman book we've had in years. 

In a relatively short span of time, writer Scott Snyder has established The Court of Owls into a credible and unique threat.  This uniqueness is the important thing, given how thick the Batman universe already is with organizations like The League Of Assassins, The Brotherhood of the Monkey Fist and The Order of St. Dumas among others. It would have been all too easy for Snyder to make The Court of Owls into a generic secret society.  Thankfully, Snyder isn't that lazy and the first six issues of his Batman run have done much to weave The Court into the history and lore of Gotham City. 

Issue #7 is something of a prelude to the Night of the Owls storyline that will be running through several books through late April and into May.  In it, we get some answers to some of the mysteries raised in the early part of Snyder's Batman run, such as how The Court of Owls is seemingly bringing the dead back to life to serve as their "Talon" assassins.  We also get our first glimpse as to just how badly his time in the Owl's nest has affected Batman, as both Nightwing and Alfred note his unbalanced state. This issue is a bit of a breather, summing up what we know so far before the new storyline begins but Snyder keeps things moving despite the relatively sedate tone.  Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion continue to spoil us with their unique mix of precise penciling and atmospheric inking.   

Issue #8 officially kicks off the Night of Owls as The Court of Owls send an entire legion of Talons into the streets of Gotham to go after a number of important civic figures, including Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne.  As Bruce Wayne fends off the Talons swarming stately Wayne Manor, Alfred barricades himself in the Batcave and sends out an SOS to the rest of the Bat-Family, asking them to protect Gotham City.  The later half of this issue, which focuses upon Alfred as he delivers his message, is illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque, whose style is jarringly different from that of Greg Cappullo and Jonathan Glapion, but not bad. 

The story picks up in Nightwing #8, as Dick Grayson moves to protect Gotham City's mayor from the Talons.  Kyle Higgins tells a good tale here, mixing the action of present with a flashback detailing the life of a particular Talon soldier.  The art by Eddy Barrows, Ruy Jose and Eber Ferreira was a good follow-up heading out of Batman #8, resembling the work of Cappullo and Glapion only brighter and less stylized.  This seems fitting, given how Nightwing is generally a brighter character than Batman. 

Having not been reading the Nightwing title, I can't say whether or not the crossover is disrupting the current storyline - a promise that was made when the Night of the Owls was original announced.  However, I am delighted to confirm that the story here is self-contained and that Nightwing fans who don't read Batman on a regular basis need not feel obligated to pick up Batman #8 to enjoy this issue.  Conversely, Batman readers can pick this issue up without being confused. 

Given that, I would suggest giving all the parts of this crossover a shot, if you can afford to do so.  It appears that the quality of Batman is rubbing off on the rest of the line.

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