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Battle for the Owl,
This review is from: Batman HC Vol 01 The Court Of Owls (Batman (DC Comics)) (Hardcover)
The book starts with the inmates of Arkham Asylum being set loose and I groaned, thinking Scott Snyder had fallen into using the template Batman story of the Dark Knight playing roundup with the villains but thankfully Snyder disposes of this tired trope quickly, almost as if he were winking "just kidding" before starting on something better. Bruce Wayne is threatened by an assassin called the Talon, a seemingly indestructible villain, used as hired muscle by a shadowy organisation called the Court of Owls, kind of like Ra's Al-Ghul's League of Shadows but creepier as they all wear blank owl-shaped masks.
The book is similar to "The Gates of Gotham" where the history and architecture of Gotham plays a big part of the story, with more background info on the Wayne family history and the history of Gotham. I like that Snyder is building up Gotham as a substantial character in itself as it is a fascinating place that's always shrugged off by most writers as just a background element. Snyder plays on the gothic features of the city and the centuries it's been around, crafting a story deep in mystery.
I'm not entirely sure how this book is placed within the current Batman story arc with Grant Morrison; it seems that Batman Inc. is up and running but I thought Dick Grayson had left the Nightwing persona behind and was now Batman full time, alongside Bruce et al. so it was surprising to see Nightwing back in this book. Maybe he moonlights as both?
There's an excellent Morrison-esque trippy sequence where Batman is trapped in a labyrinth beneath Gotham where nightmares become reality and the shadows offer no respite. I thought Greg Capullo's layouts in this section were especially inventive and well put-together to give the feeling of unease and dread that Batman was going through. I especially liked the single crazed eye of Bruce Wayne as he went through this sequence, very "Telltale-Heart". Capullo's artwork throughout is great, though I thought his design of the Talon was a bit similar to the main character of the "Assassin's Creed" video games.
Scott Snyder continues to write interesting, thoughtful, and gripping Batman books and the only reason I don't give this 5 stars is that there is much left unrevealed at the end (though it is a tantalising finale), but this is "Volume 1" so there is more to come. Snyder has begun an excellent series and any Bat-fans will find plenty to enjoy with this book. Can't wait for volume two-oo (couldn't resist, sorry)!