Monday, June 8, 2015

Batman: "The Court Of Owls" Review

Ever since The DC Comics Reboot after the events of "Flashpoint" which resulted in The New 52, I've been shying away from The DC Universe more and more (sadly, the same can be said for it's attempted cinematic universe as well). But while I've been staying away from DC Comics, I've still had my eyes and ears to the "streets" to remain informed about the latest goings on. This brings me to everyone's favorite from The DC Universe, Batman and The Court Of Owls story arc that was introduced in The New 52. In my humble opinion, this story was crap, granted this is my opinion, therefore it's subjective crap and not objectively crap, which is good for people who liked it. I did not and I'm going to explain why.

For starters The Court Of Owls are a very old secret society that has operated in Gotham since it's founding and has influenced various political decisions from the shadows through criminal activity and assassinations, specifically through highly trained assassins they call Talons. The Court Of Owls have such a massive influence on Gotham's blue bloods that there is even a nursery rhyme about them;

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 in your bed.
Speak not a whispered word about them, or they'll send the Talon for your head

and here begins my problem with The Court Of Owls. And I'm specifically talking about The Court Of Owls as a group at the moment. My problem with them (and pretty much all secret societies) is that if they truly were secret societies THEY WOULD BE SECRET! Bare in mind that I understand The Mafia is supposed to be secretive but the thing with the mafia is strictly legal, The FBI needs evidence to capture anyone in the mafia, and evidence is a b*tch to obtain, especially if the crime is organized enough to leave very few traces. The general public may know organized crime exists but proving it legally is another thing entirely.

For The Court Of Owls these are the wealthiest blue bloods Gotham has to offer and in that regard they more than likely have a hand in every political glove in Gotham and probably have people in high places who are getting good kick backs to look the other way or cover something up. While the mafia may have a dirty cop here or there, The Court Of Owls would have Senators, Governors, Attorney Generals and Mayors on their payroll. Basically, people who can make things go away. Make things go away to the point where there wouldn't be any mention of The Court Of Owls by anyone. The less people know the more a secret can be kept, and if The Court Of Owls are the wealthiest people in town, they wouldn't risk exposure by slumming to keep their stuff covered up, they'd have someone who was onboard 110% to do their dirty work.

So the fact that there is a nursery rhyme (an extremely awful one at that) is just irksome. Who came up with it? Did they? Did they leak that? Was that a running joke between little rich kids of Gotham? Were there informants that leaked that The Court Of Owls actually call their assassins "Talons"? Seems a little too specific for my taste, and while it's a good idea in theory, in practice this just makes me wonder who was the moron that blabbed. Was this made up by someone who witnessed a Talon assassination? If so how'd they know they were called "Talons"? Am I over thinking this or did Scott Snyder under think this? Not insulting him, just saying, sometimes ideas come so fast some writers hardly stop to REALLY think about if they're good or not, I'm guilty of that. I know it.

Setting that aside let's talk about the story it's self and boy oh boy are there some problems. For starters, this story is less about Batman and unfortunately more about Batman, what do I mean by that? Well, Batman is the main character of the Batman comic books, that goes without saying BUT he's not supposed to be the main focus, the main focus is the problem at hand, Batman's job as main character is to solve the main focus. While Batman CAN be the main focus of the story if the threat is of a personal nature, the main focus of the story is often ALWAYS stopping a villain from doing X. Unfortunately "The Court Of Owls" made Batman the main focus of the story and that came off EXTREMELY forced and I'll explain why in a bit, but let me address something. As I've mentioned before The Court Of Owls maintain power through political assassinations carried out by Talons.

They're extremely wealthy and have strong ties to Gotham's founding. In The Night Of Owls story arc, The Court Of Owls sends out all their Talons to carry out assassinations IN ONE NIGHT! Do I need to explain why tactically this is an incredibly stupid move? For starters after this happens The Court Of Owls will be exposed. That many high ranking government officials (Police Commissioner, City Councilor, State Comptroller etc. etc.) getting murdered in one night is bound to end up all over the news and then at that point there is no way to cover up THAT much death WITHOUT there being a massive conspiracy. The Court Of Owls claimed they were doing this to "take back Gotham" (which begs the question of how exactly did they lose Gotham?), but they're taking back Gotham and THEN WHAT?

Let's back up for a bit and talk about The Black Glove, another shadowy group that made their debut in Batman R.I.P. The Black Glove was also a secret society consisting of 5 extremely wealthy people, but unlike The Court Of Owls, The Black Glove's sole interest was in messing with people, ruining their lives and placing bets on how or if their victim will overcome. Batman R.I.P was an interesting story because The Black Glove wanted to push Batman to the limits for their own amusement and considered Batman to be the ultimate test of their abilities. In a story like that Batman is allowed to be the main focus as The Black Glove has no other interest but him. The Court Of Owls, according to the story have been operating in Gotham under Batman's nose for a long time now, why risk exposing themselves now in such a grandiose way? If they were never on Batman's radar, unfortunately, THEY ARE NOW!

Now let's address the elephant in the room, Lincoln March. I love Batman as much as the next guy but can we PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE for the LOVE OF ALL THAT IS BATMAN, CAN WE STOP WRITING STORIES WHERE THE MURDER OF BATMAN'S PARENTS WAS A PART OF A MUCH LARGER CONSPIRACY!! And to be fair, "The Court Of Owls" didn't do that, but they did several things involving Batman's parents which made me roll my eyes. Why am I forgiving this in "Batman R.I.P" and not here? Because most of "Batman R.I.P" were all lies, slander created by The Black Glove to break Bruce Wayne's spirit and The Batman. Martha Wayne was never a heroin addict, Thomas Wayne was never involved in orgies, nor was he an abusive criminal and Alfred is not Bruce's actual father. All of that was character assassination to distort the public's opinion of Bruce Wayne as well as his own.

My immediate reaction

That being said, Lincoln March a.k.a Thomas Wayne Jr. (ugh...) was not clever. Bare in mind, I write a LOT of stories where characters come to the realization that they're related after having never known of each other, but I don't tie conspiracies to them or secrecy. According to Lincoln, he was born "dead" after a car accident (a car accident caused by The Court Of Owls) and was institutionalized in a hospital until The Court Of Owls took him and made him whole. The sad thing is, this revelation came off as exhausting rather than shocking. The thing is with Batman stories, you can always tell who the main villain is going to be because they'll often be friends or lovers of Bruce Wayne in the book's beginning. This was just blatantly obvious to the point where I was waiting for the reveal just so we could get it over with.

Hi Bruce, I'm your new worst enemy.

I'd be fine with Lincoln March being a member of The Court Of Owls, hell, I'm even fine with Lincoln March being a Talon. But once they decided to make Lincoln Bruce's long lost brother, that's where I drew the line. Reveals like this aren't clever. A genuinely clever reveal would be having a character who the audience is familiar with do a 180. This isn't to say I want Alfred or Commissioner Gordon to one day turn on Batman, that isn't what I'm saying, what I'm saying is they need to let a character hang around before they reveal their true nature, like Maxwell Lord. He was a character who was established enough that the audience was familiar with him, but not fleshed out to the point where we wouldn't believe he'd go in the direction he did.

...this bastard.

I can't go on without addressing the fact that "The Court Of Owls" also forced the rest of The Batman Family to be apart of the VAST Batman conspiracy, as wouldn't you know it, The Court Of Owls recruit their Talons from the circus (because when I think world class assassin, the first place I wanna go is the circus) and wouldn't you know it, Dick Grayson a.k.a Nightwing was supposed to be a Talon. This is just irritating, because the level of coincidences in this story is just startling. What would happen if Dick was never adopted by Bruce Wayne and got morbidly obese? I understand I can't ask that because what happened happened, but rather than actually training people to become Talons like The League Of Assassins, The Court Of Owls prefers to kidnap circus children and raise them to be Talons rather than scout potential talent.

Of course, he was...

Another thing that's irksome about this story, and I'm not entirely sure if this was established in previous Batman history, but I hate the lineage of Pennyworths & Waynes. Apparently, Alfred's father Jarvis was butler to the Waynes before Alfred and was assassinated by The Court Of Owls. As interesting of a tale that this could have been, it sadly wasn't as it continued to add more and more false mystique to Batman and his origins. Almost as if he was meant to become The Batman. Let's get a few things straight. Bruce Wayne became The Batman because the murder of his parents was a random event, it wasn't a targeted thing that was solely about The Waynes, it could have been anyone in that alley that night. Turning the Wayne's death into a conspiracy reduces Batman's role in things. After all, all he'd have to do is find the people responsible and find out why. But that's just it, Joe Chill killed The Waynes for a very small why, he just wanted the money, that's far more tragic than saying The Waynes were the target of some ancient Gotham social club with an owl fetish. And now bringing Alfred into this just makes things all the more...convoluted.

I'm waiting for The Batman story that literally does the worst thing you can do to Batman and that's expose his identity. That's the one thing Batman fears that despite several people knowing his identity: Simon Hurt, The Black Glove, The Joker (to some extent), and Lincoln March, none of them have had the balls to expose him or threaten him with exposure of that information. Releasing Batman's identity would be the worst thing you could do to him as he really can't mount a defense against that, not a physical one and it'd force him to reconcile The Bruce Wayne & Batman Personas in a way he hasn't had to before. Batman stories are falling into the trap of WANTING to make Batman cool rather than LETTING him be cool. Anyways, that does it for me. Let me know what you guys think, I'm out.

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