Now, if you fear no spoilers, read on.
Can we all please agree on a ten-year ban on any more stories involving a lost friend or family member of Bruce Wayne, who is part of some secret society or conspiracy, coming out of the woodwork to make Batman's life a living hell? It was done with Bruce Wayne's childhood best-friend Tommy Elliot in Hush. It was done more recently with a character who may or may not have been a not-quite-dead Thomas Wayne in Grant Morrison's Batman run. And now, in what turns out to have been a nod to both Grant Morrison's Earth 2 and an old World's Finest storyline, we find that the leader of the Court of Owls is Bruce Wayne's long-lost brother Thomas Wayne Jr.
I'll spare you the details save to say that this revelation is something of a shock and the pages leading up to it are well-paced and thrilling. But the idea that this new "Owl Man" is a long-lost Wayne brother smacks of the worst kind of melodrama, even if there is a precedent for it. At this rate, I wouldn't be shocked if it was revealed that Alfred hired actors to play the part of super-villains in order to keep his young master away from real, dangerous criminals and that Alfred himself was The Joker. Don't laugh - Neil Gaiman put forth that idea in "Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?" and it has just as much pedigree as World's Finest #223. Besides, the back-up story - involving a tale of Alfred's father's time as the Wayne Family butler - has hinted at some dark secret that Alfred has been hiding from Bruce for years involving The Court of Owls and his own mother's conflict with them.
Is this issue worth reading? Absolutely. While I detest this "twist", I must admit that the writing around it is well-crafted. And the artwork is - as always - some of the best we've seen on any Bat-book in years. Greg Capullo was born to drawn Batman and the back-up story artwork by Rafael Albuquerque employs the right sort of grotesque distortion. Whatever else I may say about this book, it is not dull and it is not bad.
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