Review: New 52. Batman Volume 1 The court of owls
Dealing with the confusion
I love comics, I love the artwork, I love the stories and the characters but what I don’t love, is the hugley complex and sometimes decade spanning story arcs. Or rather, I don’t know where to start. DC or Marvel (the big two) are known for their larger then life superhero’s more then anything else. Many of which have become so loved and adored that over the years hundreds of different writers have had a go at creating their visions of a character, each their own interpretation, unfortunately everyone was their own ideas what a character should be like. What eventually happened was multiple versions of the same characters, some cannon others not, for someone like me who hasn’t been following Batman or the X-Men from the beginning it quite daunting to try to jump into a series that’s been going for years as there could be literally a hundred places to start. Often DC and Marvel can’t even keep their stories straight some stories aren’t cannon for some arcs but are for others.
So when DC announced they would be kitting the reset switch on 52 of their biggest comics I jumped right on it. It was the perfect time for a Noob to jump in.
After the reset
Batman Issue #1 was the first comic I picked up after the reset and thoroughly enjoyed it, the artwork was superb, just what you would expect from a massive publisher like DC. The story was equally good, the opening sequence of tiles was there to comfort all the old fans that their favourite villains were still there and still ready to jump in when its their turn. Lets get things straight, this isn’t a hard reset for Batman, he’s still the same Batman you loved as a kid in the animated series, hes not pink now or Bob Wayne the school janitor, all the reset did was end all currently running arcs and let people who are just starting to get into the comics do so without the need to go and order back issues to understand what’s going on. He already has his car, he’s already met the joker, even their old history still stands, but you don’t need to know it to understand the new 52.
From this point on anything that happens should be easily understood just by picking up the new 52 issues, anything important is explained, for instance in the Batgirl comics, how Batgirl became paralysed is explained.
All was going well until I missed an issue. The curse of comics is that finding an issue you missed can end up being expensive, so instead of spending extortionate amounts on ebay trying to pick up the issues I missed, I was patient and waited for the inevitable compilation.
Volume 1 The court of Owls
Volume 1 The court of Owls is a 88 page collection of the first 7 Issues of the new 52 Batman. Its available in hardback and paperback and is in full colour.
The Court of owls is a new villain for batman to face (as far as I know) and is a welcome addition to batman’s already large list of colourful villains, and one of the cooler ones too. I wont go into too much detail but the court is a secret society living within Gotham that has been previously hidden, now they have a dastardly plan (as opposed to the other kind of plan comic book villans have) and of-course the Dark Knight is on the case. The artwork is fantastic, its gritty and dark as you would expect from a post Frank Millar Batman, each frame is worthy of being blown up and displayed on a wall, the cover art especially is worth mentioning. Batman himself is brutal, all but killing his enemies, right from the outset he is breaking bones and doesn’t pull any punches, there is some gore but nothing to the extent of Kick Ass for example.
The first half of the book is what you’d expect from batman, he’s slowly working his way through Gothams thugs until he uncovers the secrets of the Court, towards the end of the book things get a little weird and the world literally goes a bit topsy turvy for a while. Its an interesting sequence and fits in well with Batman’s new enemy, who are less a physical presence for Batman to fight then one of the Dark Knights more traditional enemies. Of-course they have their brute enforcers, it wouldn’t feel like a Batman story without a bit of a brawl but they are more a distraction from the true threat which is a faceless and invisible power that has had its talons in the city for a very long time.
Fans of Nightwing should also pick this book up as he featured heavily in the stories plot and turns up a number of times and the plot hinges on him at one point, it also begins the set-up for some friction between the two heros for later issues.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) the plot doesn’t end with this volume, to complete the arc you need to pick up Volume #2 The city of Owls and optionally the Night of Owls, which is a collection of parallel running stories featuring Nightwing, Batgirl and other member’s of the “Bat family”, its only a minor irk for someone who was planning to pick them up anyway, but it does immediately put Noobs to the series in a place where they may pick up the second volume first hoping for a complete story and realise to make sense of it they have to pick up Volume #1. It’s understandable for DC to want to start Batman off with a strong story so I won’t hold it against them, I just hope they don’t immediately fall back into their old habits and make batman inaccessible to newcommers.
the plot doesn’t end with this volume, to complete the arc you need to pick up Volume #2
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it was a great start for a refreshed Batman and promises great things to come. Its also the best place to jump in for new readers. You can pick up Batman: The Court of Owls off Amazon for the very reasonable price of £8.96.
For people looking for some self contained Batman stories I’d recommend “Year One” and “The killing Joke”.
“it wouldn’t feel like a Batman story without a bit of a brawl”