"Beware the Court of Owls,
That watches all the time,
Ruling Gotham from a shadowed perch,
Behind granite and lime,
They watch you at your hearth,
They watch you at your bed,
Speak not a whispered word of them,
Or they’ll send the Talon for your head.”
Well Jesus Christ, this is a comic where I don’t know what to say. Why? It’s so fucking awesome that there really aren’t many words to describe it. Scott Snyder has sown the seeds for a series with the potential to topple his run on Detective Comics. Some people have started complaining about his habit of including the superhero’s habitat as a main ingredient in their stories, but I love it. Gotham City has started feeling alive to me after The Black Mirror and Gates of Gotham, and it really wants to chew up Bats here.
Bruce is brimming with overconfidence, and you can feel its really going to come back to bite him hard. For once, he’s actually being the one to limit himself, his claiming of Gotham means the city’s pushing even harder to shatter his confidence.
The story opens with some narration with Bruce talking about the iconic Wayne Tower of Gotham and its twelve gargoyles, or guardians. He then talks about the observation deck, the glass of which is unbreakable- till he goes flying out of it with throwing knives lodged in his arteries. The pain and blood is too much for him to move, and the last of his thoughts is him commenting its impossible to do anything other than fall… and then we cut to 24 hours earlier.
A damaged helicopter carrying a bunch of crooks and kidnapped women is moving just over the train tracks, having been damaged somewhat by an earlier skirmish with Bats, who is chasing them. Bats having damaged their helicopter too much for it to go any faster, they decide to start lugging the women out of the chopper, and one goes into the back to start- and a hand bursts through the window, pulling the guy halfway out.
Batman rides the Batcycle along the train tracks- only to suddenly stop pulling the guy and instead speeds on ahead. And then an approaching train appears, which the Batcycle jumps onto. As the oncoming train speeds towards the helicopter which is just above it- the Batcycle crashes through the windows.
There’s a lot of glass breaking in this issue, if the past few paragraphs didn’t clue you in.
We then cut to an autopsy for the victim of last issue. Through cameras and scanners, Bats is joining the autopsy from the Batcave with a virtual body appearing before him. On his wisdom tooth, Bats and Gordan discover the same emblem as was on the knives used to kill him. Batman calls it an Athenian owl, a symbol of wealth and power in Ancient Greece, but Gordan is convinced it’s something a little closer to home, reciting the Gotham children’s rhyme, something Batman simply refers to as simple legends.
As Gordan asks about the tissue that was beneath the fingernails of the victim, he says forensics came back empty-handed. Bats says he’ll look into it, as Nightwing appears. Dick is initially quite impressed about the scanners set up in the morgue, although he says Bats will miss having to go through the ventilation shafts to sneak into that place.
Bruce, all business, just tells him about the victim who had his DNA under his fingernails, and it’s revealed that the Bat-family’s DNA is kept protected, hence why Gordan’s forensics couldn’t find anything. Nightwing identifies the victim, who about a week ago, met him at a public event. The man grabbed onto his arm, babbling about how they’re real, they’re everywhere, and how they’re sending him for all of you. He offers to show Bruce the scratchmarks still left in his arm as a result of security dragging the clinging man away.
Batman says that’s enough, and Nightwing just realises Bruce probably just checked the footage beforehand and already knows his alibi. Bats says “You know me better than anyone, except perhaps for Alfred… of course I checked the surveillance footage.” While that’s what he says, his body language seemed a bit off. I kinda got the impression he was lying, and had instead chosen to take Dick’s words as truth because he trusts him so much.
We then cut forward, as Bruce Wayne is stepping out of the lift into the being-renovated Old Wayne Tower, having had a meeting with Lincoln March. Bruce offers a donation, but March states he’s actually after his vote rather than his money. March then also talks about how he also lost his parents young, and how the strange details stay with him, like a ceramic pin his mother was wearing (if you need me to point out the parallel, you haven’t been reading Batman comics that long, *cough* pearls *cough*). March then talks about Gotham saved him after his parents’ deaths, and how he sees Bruce as a genuine ally- and then the conversation changes mood when he talks about an old evil having returned to Gotham.
As Bruce asks him what he means, a wounded guard falls out of the lift, revealing the arrival of a strange assassin with an owl motif. March starts talking, but gets a throwing knife through him for his troubles, and then the assassin (who’s believed to be called Talon) raises his knife towards Bruce.
At first Bruce tries to restrain himself, going for moves that look like lucky strikes, but as he gets a knife through his arm, he changes tact and tries to choke the guy.
Fun fact: It takes eleven pounds of pressure to collapse a windpipe.
Fun fact II: Bruce is applying over a hundred to Talon, who’s not even affected in the slightest.
Bruce’s thoughts is that the guy must be on something like Venom when Talon cuts his way lose and states the Court of Owls have sentenced him to die. He kicks Bruce out of the window, and he misses the first lot of guardians he mentioned, and also states he’ll be at terminal velocity by the time he reaches the second.
Talon joins him in falling out of the window, and after commenting “How I love killing Waynes”, the two fight in mid-air.
I’m not going to spoil the ending, it’s that awesome.
Batman has cemented itself as the best of the current New 52, and if you’re not reading it, pick it up. You won’t be disappointed.