THE COURT OF OWLS HAS SENTENCED YOU TO SPOILERS.
We all remember Night of the Owls, right? It was a big deal.
Of DC Comics' fifty-two regular titles at the time, eleven focused on Batman himself, Gotham City, or members of Batman's adopted crime-fighting family. That's more than a fifth of the entire company's titles, for those indifferent to math. Night of the Owls was a massive crossover spanning ten of those eleven titles as well as spilling over into unrelated books like All-Star Western and even (briefly and unofficially) Justice League: flagship title of DC Comics. Big deal.
The story itself covered only a single disastrous night in Gotham City, but for those of us collecting, it took three months to complete. (It felt longer.) The 'for dummies' version is as follows: Batman and his former partner/adopted son Nightwing discover a powerful secret society called the Court of Owls that has been active, building itself into Gotham's economy, politics, society and infrastructure, since before Gotham was wholly built. The revelations that ensue compromise the entire Wayne legacy and, in essence, the Court of Owls declares war on the House of Batman. The rest is a bloody, boot-to-the-groin showdown against the Court's undead assassins—known as the Talons.
Back to present. Two months ago, spinning out of Night of the Owls, DC gave us Talon, the first original title about an original character to come out of DC's New 52 reboot. The book features the exploits of renegade Talon Calvin Rose: an anti-hero bent on foiling his former masters. Teamed with fugitive member Sebastian Clark, Rose is on a quest to destroy the Court of Owls, one Talon at a time, and escape their grasp forever. So far, he's managed to mess it up royally at every turn. But the violence that follows is, of course, what we pay to see.
Written by James Tynion IV, whose Batman Annual #1 unequivocally blazed with promise, the issue continues to lay Calvin Rose's path of destruction as he blows things up and faces down the deadliest warriors of the Court. Under Scott Snyder's direction, the plot is solid and enjoyable. The execution of said plot sometimes gets bogged down in Tynion's unnecessarily verbose exposition, which can sometimes choke the pacing of the story. All said, however, it's well-written and nicely laid out. Tynion's strength is in the comprehensiveness of the immersive scenes he can set. The results are always more satisfying than not.
Juan Jose Ryp's art on this issue was gorgeous. No exaggeration. Such a visible consciousness of narrative progression is rare, but it is vitally necessary for a story this involved and Ryp nails it. But the best part is the intricate detail he puts into it, filling the bigger picture with minute treasures that continue to pop from the pages in the third and fourth readings. Here's the sad part: Guillem March was really good too. The inconsistency that results from switching artists in the middle of an arc always puts me off. Here's hoping Ryp will remain the penciller for the rest of the arc.
This is a solid, worthy issue in the context of the story it follows. The downfall is that it's inextricably tied to its predecessors. Nobody who picks this issue up will be able to jump into Talon and immediately enjoy it. As a single issue, it has difficulty standing autonomous. My two cents? It's worth picking up issues #0 and #1 of Talon. It takes a couple reads, and it isn't a fast read, but it's solid, it's sexy, and it's got the kind of classy, swashbuckling action you don't see in many comics anymore.
The Court of Owls may have sentenced him to die, but Talon gets a pass in my book.