Talon 2

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Talon 2, originally released November 28th, 2012.

Patrick: We spend an awful lot of time on this site unpacking different histories: publishing histories, character histories, creator histories and the bizarre intersections between. Talon is uniquely positioned embrace as much real or imagined history as it possibly can, all with a plucky young hero at the center. But also at the center? A stuffy old man who thinks he knows better. But before it all gets too heady, let’s melt a room full of gold treasures!

Issue #2 is our first proper mission: Calvin breaks into the Orchard Hotel in an attempt to infiltrate Eden — the Court’s primary vault. Calvin’s mostly interested in destroying the files on his friends (and thus protecting them from any future reprisals). Sebastian, on the other hand, wants to cut off the Owls’ largest source of income, which appears to just be this absurdly adorned treasure room.

"Now where did I leave the Ark of the Covenant?"But there’s a hiccup. A few, actually. First is that the vault is guarded by Talon — one that shares the Orchard name, and a desire to uphold its legacy. Second is that there aren’t any Court of Owls records stored here; Sebastian wanted Calvin to retrieve a mask that served as a symbol of power within the Court. Calvin begrudgingly does his job, but also extends an olive branch to the Orchard Talon after hearing his sob story. Talons are a proud people, so Team Fight The Owls doesn’t get a new member that evening.

The conflict here isn’t really between the good guys and the bad guys, but between the good guys. Both Sebastian and Calvin agree that the Court needs to be taken down a peg, but they disagree wildly about the most prudent methodology. Sebastian, as the disconnected academic, has markedly less skin in the game, so he aims for targets that are most damaging for the Court, while Calvin is emotionally invested in every step of this take-down and plays more defensively. So the operative question isn’t “are they going to get the job done?” it’s “how are they going to get the job done?”

You might argue that this is just the way team books are written (even if we only have a team of two here) — the heroes always have to learn to set aside their egos and work together to blah blah blah. We’ve seen it like a billion times before. But this dynamic feels distinctly different. Calvin and Sebastian both express totally valid reasons for making the decisions they make and no one is motivated by the ultra-shallow “it’s my way or the highway” mantra that gums up the works of the Team 7s and Justice Leagues of the world. I don’t know much about the writing-relationship between Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, but it is interesting to consider the story of Talon has two daddies, just as the quest to wipe out the Court has two daddies. In writing the tale and actually performing the actions, both parties share a common goal, but their individual tactics vary.

There’s also the matter of the huge amount of new history on display in this issue. The affluent Orchard family is purported to have huge sway over the Court of Owls and their resources, but they also subscribe to this insanely socially stratified world-view. Benjamin (the Talon in this issue) may have run away to escape the responsibilities of his family name, but through the magic of Haly’s Circus, found his way back into the Court as a Talon. But his father — ever the asshole — conspired against Talon-Ben, even though he was still doing fulfilling a purpose for the Owls. It’s a cool little history in its own right, and its nestled in the middle of an issue trying to make  sense of a lot of other power dynamics. It seems that in the Court, just as in the two-man mission against the Court, there are some differing opinions on how to best achieve their goals.

I was relieved to see the slightly cartoonier art of Juan Jose Ryp. While Tomeu Morey’s colors carry over much of the drab grayness that turned me off to Guillem March’s work in the first two issues, Ryp’s drawings appear cleaner and more vital to me. The man uses an active camera, expressing a lot with the height of the angles he chooses, but the images are never muddled. I find this particularly impressive considering how ornate Calvin’s costume is – especially that chain-mail on his sleeves.

Calvin Rose examines a clueOne thing that I do notice about Ryp’s art is that I think he’s drawing Calvin’s face in the mask too convincingly. So it always kinda looks like it’s awkward for Calvin to be wearing this thing that comes over his nose. (Maybe I have unresolved issues with the Talon design…)

It was fun how this issue felt a little bit like an entry in the Night of the Owls — not only did we meet a new undead Talon, we got to see his fun little backstory and gruesome death (by gold-melting!). This series’ back of tricks is starting to widen impressively, and I’m in no way worried that our semi-dysfunctional team will get caught up in a search ‘n’ destroy rut. Which is something I had been worried about going into this series.

Drew, how are you digging the Sebastian / Calvin dynamic? Too much pointless arguing? Or do you see their motivations as clearly established enough to justify it? And either way, does it make for a more compelling conflict than taking out the Court? Also, are we ever going to see Batman in this series? And what would be the point of that?

Drew: I like their dynamic, but I’m not sure their motivations are clear enough to totally justify their positions here. Like, I get that Sebastian doesn’t really care about Casey and Sarah, but it was inevitable that Calvin would discover that he’s lying, right? I wish he offered some better reason for his actions than that Calvin’s friends aren’t important (or someone willing to manipulate Calvin into doing things, you’d think he might be better at keeping Calvin happy). It’s not unreasonable to assume that Casey and Sarah are bait, or that the Court would have locked down the vault if Calvin had moved on them first. As it stands, Sebastian’s motives for lying are shortsightedly selfish enough to actually work against his best interest.

But Calvin’s gullibility doesn’t make that much sense, either. If the Court knows where Casey and Sarah are, why would they still be alive? They tried to have them killed years ago. Why would they wait until now to try it again? Sebastian’s story doesn’t make enough sense for anyone to believe it so blindly. Like, why go into recover anything (files OR mask) if the bombs he’s already placed are going to seal in whatever is in that room FOREVER? Wouldn’t not going in have virtually the same effect with WAY less risk?

My bitching aside, I actually liked this issue quite a bit. Patrick is absolutely right to single out the quasi-combative patter between Calvin and Sebastian — it’s a total treat. Hilariously, Calvin is even more passive aggressive in his voiceover.

"I knew about guards BEFORE it was cool."Sure, it’s a tangible, practical instance of experience making a difference, but does Calvin have to act like such a know-it-all? It feels like a perfectly natural reaction to an amateur horning in on your area of expertise.

Patrick’s also right to single out Ryp’s pencils, though I believe inker Vicente Cifuentes deserves a great deal of credit for the clarity of the art in this issue. Still, Ryp is surprisingly efficient in his storytelling here, delivering an effective origin for Benjamin in less than a page.

Benjamin's OriginI love that Benjamin and Calvin are fighting through and on top of this sequence. It would have been all too easy to make those voiceover boxes, but staging it this way adds a bit of dynamism to the scene, and suggests that Calvin may be having a profound effect on the way Benjamin perceives himself. It’s a simple detail, but it speaks volumes.

All in all, I thought this issue establishes a pretty effective status quo for the series while also promising to shake things up with this new Gotham Butcher Talon. I hope that establishes a longer arc coming up (a Talon per issue is rapidly shortening this title’s lifespan), as well as introducing a little motivational ambiguity on the villain’s part. I loves me some Court of Owls, but it will be nice to see a villain whose loyalty to the court might be less than absolute. In short, this series seems to be headed in all the right directions.

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?

12 comments on “Talon 2

  1. Did not much touch on the Tomb of the Unworthy. (God damn, the Owls are cool) I like the idea that the Court is starting to get desperate, and is therefore tapping resources it doesn’t totally trust. When an all-knowing organization starts to panic, you know shit’s about to hit the fan.

    • The idea that some of these Talon’s can be turned back to the light is interesting to me. I’d like to see Talon become more of a Team Talon. I wouldn’t mind a Batman and Robin kind of scenario but it wouldn’t have to be that way either. Talon could simply assign other Talons to other parts of the world in order to take the Court down more effectively. That way this book could continue to focus on Calvin and Sebastian. I guess what I’m saying is that I really like Ben and I was actually hoping that he’d join the team. I’m hopeful something like that will happen later on.

      • Yeah, it’s weird that the Court inspires any loyalty from the Talons. Wouldn’t these guys rather kill their masters, steal their money, then live forever in paradise? Getting them to rebel should be a pretty easy sell.

        • Except that we’re dealing with people who have been brainwashed since they were children, and many were children who were tramautized and broken to begin with. I think it’s less a conscious loyalty and more “I don’t know any other way to be.”

      • It’s amazing how many interesting Talons there are out there in Blackgate (or as evidenced in the Batgirl Annual, running free in Gotham). I don’t know how the Night of the Owls – and now the Talon series – managed to generate so many compelling characters from throughout Gotham history. Perhaps keeping ‘Talon’ in present day does a disservice to all those poor unfortunates that found a home killing for Haly’s Circus.

        • Oops. You just made it clear to me how this title will last longer than the few standing Talons — those locked up in Blackgate will be released. That’s a task the Court, with it’s deep roots in the city — is uniquely equipped for. That’ll be a fun storyline when it happens (and will also open up the possibility of Talon’s we’ve already met returning), but I kind of wish I hadn’t seen it coming.

  2. Patrick raises a really interesting question: what would Batman think of Calvin? Are we talking a knee-jerk hatred, or begrudging admiration for fighting the Owls?

      • Patrick, I’d like to see what he does on his off time but it’s probably just more Owl hunting. That’s my assumption anyway but I’d like to see if he gets up to anything else. I’m sure if something presented itself to him (like a couple getting mugged or something) he’d stop it. I don’t know why I think that exactly, I just think he’s a good guy at heart.

    • Well, you know this meeting is inevitable Shelby. I imagine Batman would attack Calvin in a second but then explanations would be had and a team-up would no doubt begin. I do wonder though, what does Calvin know about the relationship between Batman and the Court? What information would he have as an outsider of the Batman family? He’s got some news reports I’m sure, but I’d imagine that would just tell him that the Court fought against Batman and his allies and that is why they are in their weakened position. I think this would be a very interesting (and most likely bruise inducing) meeting.

  3. The thing I’ve been wonder is this: in having a series that focuses on systematically attacking the Court where we get to see a lot of the inside details of their organization while they’re not being used in the main Batman title, does this compromise the ominous nature of having an illuminati in Gotham that could rear its head when Bruce least expects it? Could we, eventually, be too familiar with their organization to find them as frightening as they originally were?

    • That’s a good point, I wonder if Snyder was thinking of bringing it up again in the future much or if this title is going to dismantle the court so as to justify that they no longer have influence over Gotham in the future. Time will tell I suppose!

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