Today, Patrick and (special guest writer) Pete Pfarr are discussing Talon 0, originally released September 19, 2012. Talon 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.
Patrick: I like the feeling of being in on the ground floor. Every fall, I make a list of new TV shows that I’m going to start watching from the pilot. That list always starts out slim but gets increasingly generous as we get closer and closer to shows returning to TV. I realize that most shows will fail within their first year, and many of those that last will not be very good (show biz, man: simultaneously fickle and not conducive to making a quality product). But it’s worth the risk if it means you can be a vocal supporter of something new. DC launched four “new” series this month — one a retread of Amethyst, another reviving an old Wildstorm team, and another re-introducing one of the weirder characters from DC’s past. Hardly new. But then there’s Talon…
Meet Calvin Rose.
Calvin was abused by his father when he was a child because what’s a superhero without daddy issues. Papa Rose’s preferred method of abuse is locking his son in an outdoor kennel overnight during a thunderstorm (classic). But Calvin escapes this cage and stumbles into Haly’s Circus. Haly’s is always accepting runaways, so lil’ Calvin becomes a master escape artist. One day, a man from the mysterious Court of Owls appears and Calvin puts on a private escape-show for him. Sufficiently impressive, Calvin begins his training/indoctrination into the Court. This is your typical superhero training stuff: fighting, sneaking, target practice, futzin’ with technology. BUT the final stage in all Talon training is a fight to the death with a previous Talon in a giant subterranean maze. Calvin’s able to defeat his opponent, and escape the maze (much to the Court’s surprise). Now a fully-fledged Talon, Calvin goes out on his first mission: end the bloodline of the Washington family. But when he arrives at the Washington household and discovers that his marks are a young mother and her two-year old daughter, Calvin bails on the mission and on the Court of Owls in general.
There’s a story that frames this origin-flashback, but it’s fairly insubstantial. Calvin’s trying to lead a normal life (working… I guess that’s all that real life is), but is attacked by a new Talon. Maybe this new assassin didn’t get the memo on Calvin’s origins, but he tries to kill the MASTER ESCAPE ARTIST by chaining him up in the trunk of a car and pushing it off a bridge. Calvin escapes (because duh), and leaves the Talon for the police.
That framing story takes place “5 years ago.” So I will definitely be interested to see what Calvin Rose is up to in the present day — especially if it means him dealing with the fact that the Court recently when on this very public killing spree. Oh! A word on that: if you need any catching up on any of the events of the Night of the Owls, we’ve got a page full of resources and video recaps. It’s a pretty interesting landscape to drop a former Talon into, it’s just a shame that James Tynion’s take on the Talon origin story feels like well-tread territory.
During the Night of the Owls, we got to know eight Talons. Between the stories of these eight wayward-children-turned-assassins, I kinda got the gist of what it means to be recruited by the court and trained to be a Talon. I guess this is the inherent danger of getting in on the ground floor: as I found Calvin Rose’s story less inspired than some of those one-off characters from the cross-over months ago (in particular, Mary, from Gail Simone’s Batgirl or Xiao Loong from Scott Lobdell’s Red Hood and the Outlaws). But this is a point on which reasonable people can disagree. Pete, I know you’ve been reading Batman, but that series doesn’t dwell on the origins of individual Talons, so I’m guessing a lot of the stuff with the Circus was new to you. What’d you think of it?
The one notable thing about Calvin is that he’s an escape artist and not a gymnast or aerialist. It makes sense that this skill-set would still make him valuable to the Court, but it also provides a handy bit of thematic unity for the series and the character. If there narrative thrust of the series is Calvin Rose trying to escape his past, you can’t really do much better than to make him an escape artist. My only fear is that Tynion will have to find increasingly convoluted reasons to make the villains tie him up every month. But escape artistry has its history closely intertwined with that of stage magic, and that’s all a fertile ground for mystery and lore. As long as the creative team focuses more on that aspect of his history, and less on “doesn’t like killing” (YAWN), I see a lot of potential for the character.
I’m less excited about the art, as handled here by former Catwoman artist Guillem March and colorist Tomeu Morey. March’s characters have this perpetual scowl on their faces, which may be suitable for a story like this, but can be wearying issue-after-issue. Morey’s colors don’t to anything to lighten this pervasive gloom, as he tends to favor cool, muted colors with the occasional red accents (usually for blood!).
Calvin Rose may have a tortured past, but I feel like the point of the series is that he has the power to escape this past — a little visual optimism could go a long way to expressing that.
Pete Pfarr, as my oldest and dearest friend (and primary drummer), I cannot wait to hear what you thought of this issue. Do you feel like you know Calvin Rose at all? Does he seem like a fun hero to you? Does the origin even matter or is the connection to the Night of the Owls enough to get your attention?
Pete: My consumption of music may be somewhat atypical. My focus has always been on the writing. I require a base competency of performance and recording quality, but flashy playing often gets lost on me. My heroes are my heroes because of what they write, not how they play.
I mention this because I think it carries over to the way I read comics. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I rarely, if ever, stop reading the dialogue and actually look at the art beyond what my peripheral vision takes in. That’s weird, right? What’s the point of reading comics that way? However, because I’m taking this project seriously, I had to actually force myself to slow down and take the art in. And I have to say, Patrick, that I disagree with you about Guillem March and Tomeu Morey’s work for the exact reasons you’ve listed. To me, the scowls, pervasive gloom, and muted coloring you mentioned are an extremely refreshing change of pace from the bright, danger-free Marvel books I’ve been reading since my somewhat recent entry into the world of comics. I’m learning that this is a general difference between the two publishers, which is why I’m slowly being won over to DC.
A little visual optimism? No thanks. I’m sick of vibrant and happy comics.
You’re right, Patrick: most of this Court of Owls backstory stuff is new to me. I’m not even sure I was aware there were several different Talons. Did I totally space on that or was that not covered in Batman? I also wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of Calvin’s good guy / bad guy alignment. In part, I was actually expecting to be reading a book centered on a villain. Honestly, I was intrigued and excited by that possibility, so I’m a touch disappointed it didn’t go that way, but that’s my own fault.
Does Calvin Rose seem like a fun hero to me? At this point I’m saying yes. His “powers” as an escape artist are novel and interesting (and realistic!). Their ties to stage magic that you mentioned appeal to me on a personal level and I love the Houdini references. I am particularly interested to see how Calvin’s future relationships with Casey and Sarah Washington pan out. The line “Casey would inform me of a few dozen more [ways to escape the apartment].” seems to indicate that she will play an important role going forward.
I’m especially excited by the promise of “Your work for the Court is far from over.” This sets up an interesting dynamic wherein The Court of Owls are Calvin Rose’s adversaries, plain and simple, but it’s not necessarily a two-way street. It seems the Court would rather manipulate him back into their control. I want to see more of this.
Do I feel like I know Calvin Rose at all? I suppose I’m starting to get to know him. I’ve seen some of his motivations and some of his weaknesses. It’ll take a while to be sure, but I’m in for now. What I want to know is when are we going to see Creepy Bloodthirsty Toddler Owl #0?
Pete Pfarr is an accountant and skeptic. He likes sleeping, drumming, steering dragon boats, playing video games, and going to minor-league hockey games with his wife, Cortnie.
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?