Book Review: Batman: The Court Of Owls Saga – DC Compact Comics Edition

Batman: The Court Of Owls Saga, plus “The Call” and “The Fall Of The House of Wayne”
Writers: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV (co-writer on “The Call” and “The Fall Of The House of Wayne”)
Artists: Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion with Rafael Albuquerque (“The Call” and “The Fall Of The House of Wayne”)
Color Artists: FCO Plascencia, Nathan Fairbairn (“The Call”), Dave McCaig (“The Fall Of The House Of Wayne”)
Letterers: Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt, Pat Brosseu “The Call” and “The Fall Of The House Of Wayne Pt. 1), Dezi Sienty (“The Fall Of The House Of Wayne” Pts. 2 and 3)
Review by Steve J. Ray

Batman: The Court Of Owls Saga is the second collection to be released by the DC Compact Comics imprint (the first was Watchmen, check out my review on DC Comics News).

As far as Batman tales go, this is definitely one I’d recommend as a first read/intro to the Caped Crusader. It’s brilliant because (apart from a few pages at the beginning of the first chapter) it doesn’t feature the Dark Knight’s classic Rogues’ Gallery, but instead has our hero facing the brand new, and extremely deadly, threat known as The Court Of Owls.

This dynamite little volume collects Batman (vol. 2 – 2011-2012) issues #1-11, all the main covers, a selection of variants, and two backup stories, “The Call” and “The Fall Of The House of Wayne.”

Scott Snyder is and has always been a horror writer, and that’s felt on every page of this collection. This book’s an action-packed thrill-fest of explosions, superheroics, mystery, intrigue, and some extremely fine detective work. All in all, it contains everything a Bat Fan could desire in one tidy little package.

Greg Capuulo’s pencils are awesome, Jonathan Glapion’s inks stellar, and FCO Plascencia’s colors exemplary. The two extra tales are drawn by the wonderful Rafael Albuquerque and colored by Nathan Fairbairn and Dave McCaig.

The story follows the now-familiar formula of Batman facing a foe he seemingly has no hope of defeating… yet he overcomes insurmountable odds, learns valuable lessons, and finds a way to do so. This isn’t a spoiler as such, because this is a superhero comic after all, and the good guy always wins in the end. The beauty of this tale, though, is that all the way through the reader shares Batman’s pain, dread, and self-doubt. We also have no idea how he can possibly get through this.

I’m probably the biggest Batman fan I know, yet I don’t prescribe to the whole “Bat-God”/Batman can’t be defeated theory. His greatest stories frequently show him getting his tail handed to him at first, and then seeing him find a way to win. This formula started with Batman: The Cult was the basis of the now legendary “Knightfall”, and is also the backbone of tales like “Batman: RIP”, and, of course, “The Court Of Owls”.

To my mind, what makes the Dark Knight fascinating, and the reason he’s my favorite superhero is that he does get hurt. He bleeds, he falls, and he can be beaten. The one thing I will say is, yes, you can take him down, but if you don’t kill him… RUN!

This is vintage Batman. Yes, The Court Of Owls were a new threat in this story, but they’ve gone on to be a consistent thorn in the sides of both Bruce Wayne and Dick (Nightwing) Grayson many times in the 12+ years since their debut. This is the power of Scott Snyder’s imagination. Not only does he write fascinating and entertaining stories, but he creates characters and situations that live on for years, or decades after he moves on from the books he writes.

I must also give credit to FCO Plascencia. His colors over Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion’s art are sublime. They’re rich, dark, and atmospheric. They add to the feelings of dread and horror and complement the writing and visuals perfectly. The same has to be said of Nathan Fairbairn and Dave McCaig. The backup stories also benefit greatly from their work.

Richard Starkings is the letterer’s letterer. He and fellow Comicraft talent Jimmy Betancourt provided all the text for the main story… and it’s gorgeous. From the explosions and onomatopoeia to the scary white-on-black speech of the Talons, they knocked it out of the park.

The backup strips were lettered by veteran talent, Pat Brosseu and Dezi Sienty. Both gentlemen produced sterling work.

All in all, this book’s a winner… but it’s not perfect. Thankfully, I can actually help new readers with all of my niggles.

Firstly, while reading this you may wonder who the heck the teenage girl Batman meets, and seems to know, in chapter seven is. No… you haven’t missed a thing. The tale of Batman’s history with Harper Row is explained in Batman #12, the issue after “The Court Of Owls” tale concludes. Let’s just say that she’s helped the Dark Knight before, but we all know that Batsy’s never been great at making new friends.

This is actually Harper’s second appearance in this book, though… she’s also in chapter one (the girl in the red dress, on page fifteen, panel three).

Now, that’s just a minor niggle.

As I’ve already said, this book also collects “The Call” and “The Fall Of The House Of Wayne.” The latter tale works perfectly as an epilogue, but the first has absolutely no business being tacked on at the end of the book. It’s jarring and pointless, particularly when it has a time stamp that makes it fit perfectly at the end of chapter eight!

What makes matters worse is that all the previous collections I’ve seen of this saga do exactly that! DC, why oh why didst thou break that which was not brok’n? To all new readers, read chapters 1-8, then “The Call”. Continue with chapter nine and then finish off with “The Fall Of The House of Wayne” after finishing chapter eleven.

Gripe session over.

Conclusion

Despite the first nerd problems mentioned above, this book’s still an absolute winner. Firstly, let’s talk about value for money. The two original hardcover collections, “The Court Of Owls” and “City Of Owls” retailed at 25 bucks a piece, while the trade paperback collections sold at 15 dollars each! Yes, they contained issues #1-12, but getting the 11 important ones for only $9.99 is an absolute steal!

Batman: The Court Of Owls Saga is a well-made, beautifully printed, and superb value collection. Highly recommended.

Paperback – $9.99
Available now – ISBN 9781779527271

Review Copy Courtesy of Penguin Random House. Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment


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