Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Batman 9 originally released May 9th, 2012. This issue is part of the Night of the Owls crossover event. Click here for complete NotO coverage. Not caught up on Batman? No problem! Get up to speed with our video Cram Session.
Patrick: In the margins of this whole kerfuffle with the Court of Owls, there have been literal manifestations of the battle between Bats and Owls. And the bats have been getting this asses handed to them. The symbolic defeat has always been the more devastating side of the equation for Bruce — yeah it sucked that he took a knife through the back, but that’s a back that’s been bent over Bane’s knee. Last month saw Bruce stepping up to defend his home, an empowering scene, for sure, but this issue saw him standing up for his legacy. And that’s a different animal all together.
The Bat Cave is at War! With Alfred still barricaded up in the armory, Bruce takes on the Talon hoard his his Exo-Squad-style Batman suit. And while he’s kicking owl-ass, there’s just so many of them. Alfred’s lowering the temperature in the Bat Cave at a super-natural pace, and Bruce deploys a handful of cave-tricks (including stomping Talons with HIS DINOSAUR). But Batman still seems hopelessly outmatched. It’s not until the lowering temperature drives the cave’s bats out of their hidy-holes that Batman grows a pair, discards the mech-suit and clears out his home BY HAND.
Naturally, Bruce gives Alfred the job of keeping all those Talons on ice while he goes out to protect whoever he can from the hit list. There are only two names left on the list: Jeremiah Arkham (you can read about it in Detective Comics 9! Or save yourself some heartache and DON’T) and Mayoral Candidate Lincoln March. He zooms off to March, but is too late — probably because he wasted all those pages being a dick in DetCom. March has several blades sticking out of his chest, but he managed to shoot the mutha that got him. As he dies, he offers some advice to… Bruce Wayne (by name): he might have some names of Owls.
There’s something really refreshing about seeing the Court of Owls story restored to title that spun it out into the rest of Gotham City. Talons look cool and have a fun set of abilities, but they don’t have any extra pull in, say, Batwing or Detective Comics. I suspect many of the other titles will carry that unfortunately impersonal quality as well. I know that it’s my own damn fault for committing to covering every nook and cranny of this event, but Owl Fatigue is a real thing. I’m already happy for the recharge in a book I actually respect.
I’ll let you discuss any of the details of the cave-fight, because I was way more interested by the later portion of this issue: the look on Bruce’s face when he thinks Lincoln March had his identity figured out is golden. I also love the idea of regular citizens of Gotham uniting to fight these motherfucking Owls. OWLS! We get wrapped up in the cape-and-cowlry that I tend to forget that even the most down-to-earth characters have to deal with this same insane super villains. Gotham Central covered this idea pretty well, but I feel like I don’t get to read many stories willing to spend a bunch of time away from the Heroes. And I’m not convinced that this is something Batman wants to focus on, but just think about the implication of Lincoln March using Batman to get a message to Bruce: he’s not excited to see Batman, he’s excited that he might be able to get a message to Bruce.
The art in this sequences is also really striking. Greg Capullo does a really great job of showing us just enough to not understand what’s happened until immediately after the smoke clears. It’s like a page and half of artful misdirection. For a second, I thought March had drawn down on Batman.
There’s also a backup here: the story of Jarvis Pennyworth being guilty of… something that fucked up the Wayne legacy. Honestly, there’s not much here. Just some teases at interesting history, but not much actual interesting history. I don’t hate it, but I’d be willing to bet that parts II and III will be much more exciting. Drew? Owls? Backups? You feeling overwhelmed?
Drew: The trouble with owl-fatigue is that it makes it very difficult to judge each issue as its own entity. Even here, the plot resembles many other Night of the Owls issues out there: the hero rushes to protect one of the targets. Granted, Snyder and Capullo do it with unparalleled pinache, but even with that symbolic victory in the cave and the tease at the end, this issue feels pretty light.
Then again, that assessment may be suffering from another piece of baggage — that the previous eight issues have been so damn good. For an issue that devotes the majority of its pages to a single fight scene, this is fantastic, but it’s hard for anything not to look a little slim when held up against the reich, dense storytelling that this title has made its baseline. That fight scene really is fantastic, though. Last month, we saw the Big Penny come in handy, and this month, it’s that other batcave staple that gets its due (honestly, it would be unfair to the universe if we were too hard on a comic book that has BOTH Batman AND at T-rex attack). My favorite moment has to be Bruce’s reaction to the assist from the T-rex:
We can just make out Bruce’s teeth through the grille of his mecha-suit — even in the midst of battle, Bruce can appreciate how awesome that was. Early in their run, Snyder and Capullo were careful to demonstrate Bruce’s gleeful abandon when beating up baddies, usually by closeups of his sly smirk just before he did some serious ass-kicking. This image is cut of the same cloth, but that our view is obscured by Bruce’s armor is significant. He’s done so much to protect himself from the Court, that he’s actually started to lose his own identity. This isn’t the first time that the Court has caused this kind of question in Bruce’s security at the top, but it very well may be the last.
When the bats arrive (hilariously reducing the Talons to a mass of flailing ninnies), Bruce discards his armor, adjusts his cowl, and we get that signature smirk:
And just like that, Snyder has managed to reinforce Bruce’s defining motivation — vengeance — completely out of left field. With that reinforcement, Bruce is back in control, as belied by his actions that carry the rest of the issue. Aside, of course, from that moment where it looks like Lincoln March has the drop on him. In a way, Lincoln did have the drop on Bruce, supplying him with just the information he needed to track down the Court of Owls. It seems Lincoln has been trying to give Bruce this information for quite some time, but they’ve either been interrupted by Talons or Bruce’s sudden realizations. At any rate, this is just the information Bruce needed to make yet another vow of vengeance: to take the fight to the Court’s door.
That may mean another issue fighting Talons, but I’ll be damned if Snyder and Capullo haven’t gotten me excited for that prospect again. Stripping down Bruce to a helpless and impotent coward has been fascinating, but this return to form has never had me so excited to see Batman just being Batman. Of course he beats up all the bad guys and leaves Alfred to clean up. Of course three names on a scrap of paper give him all the information he needs to find the Court. Of course he’s going to go there to bring those criminals to justice. He’s the Goddamn Batman. It’s the redundancy of redundancies to say I’m pumped for next month’s issue, but OH MAN AM I PUMPED.
Yeah, the back-up is a little light — more one long cock-tease than an actual story — but it’s hard to judge it on its own. It’s also hard to judge it objectively after that lead, which on closer inspection is really fucking good. Surprising us with a reminder of why Batman is so badass is a neat trick, and Snyder continues to stick his landing with a nonchalance that is as hard to believe as it is charming. Batman is Batman; what more could you want?
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?