Talon 4

talon 4

Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Talon 4, originally released January 30th, 2013. 

Shelby: Starting a new comic book has got to be a tricky affair. Your story, your character, could potentially end up part of cannon forever and ever; there’s a lot of pressure to get it right. As a creator, you have to balance between giving the book the time it needs to grow roots and keeping the readers interested long enough to have that kind of time. Take too long getting to the point of the book, you’re gonna lose your audience: slap something together, and you don’t have a character with any sticking power. With all that in mind, is it a problem for Scott Snyder and James Tynion that I’m still not sure where this book is going? More importantly, does it matter if I’m enjoying the ride? 

Things are not looking awesome for Calvin. He drew the short straw, and has to deal with the Gotham Butcher while the rest of Casey’s team wipes the Court’s bank accounts clean. After getting the crap kicked out of him, Calvin barely escapes with his life. Things take a turn for the worse back at Casey’s homebase, when a tracker on Calvin’s suit leads the Butcher to their doorstep. Casey insists she will stay behind to scramble the computers and protect the identities of the people they’ve saved. Calvin insists he will actually stay behind and lure the Butcher into a trap so Casey can get away. Together, the two of them dump a large portion of the Hudson River on the monstrous Talon.  Just when it seems all hope is lost, Calvin emerges from the river, and promises to take Casey and her daughter to Gotham so they can defeat the Court together. Good thing they don’t have to worry about The Butcher anymore…or do they?

the butcher lives

I’m not sure how I feel about this issue. It’s a fine enough conclusion to the bank heist story, and there are some nice character moments, but the ending doesn’t make a ton of sense. Calvin knows that Casey and Sarah are the TWO people in the world the Court could use against him. One threat against either of them, and he will do anything in his power to save them. So, maybe bringing them to Gotham, Home of the Court of the Owls, is not the smartest idea in the world? I get the “yay, teamwork!” moral of the story, but seriously, that is where the Court lives. Calvin left Casey and Sarah in the first place to keep them safe, I just don’t think bringing them back is the wisest choice. 

That being said, I like the way the relationship between Calvin and Sebastian is developing. I think this issue marks the first time Sebastian told Calvin to forget the plan and just bail. Once Sebastian figured out who it was the Court had unleashed, his top priority was getting Calvin out of there in one piece. Granted, he still told the rest of the team to get the job done, but they weren’t facing a seven foot behemoth. Actually, while having Casey and Sarah around is more dangerous for them, it will allow Calvin to focus completely on taking down the Court. Now that he doesn’t have to worry about their safety, they can all just buckle down and get the job done.

The thing I’ve come to appreciate the most with this title is Snyder, Tynion, and artist Guillem March’s attention to detail. There’s a point when Calvin executes the classic grappling-gun-to-stop-a-fall move, and in the process dislocates his shoulder. That in and of itself is a detail you don’t see often: of COURSE that would dislocate shoulder! Not only is Calvin taking real damage, he doesn’t use that arm for the rest of the fight; March makes a point of drawing him cradling it.

talon vs the butcher

March’s style has really grown on me these past issues. This issue especially, I really appreciated his panel layouts. During the fight with the Butcher, the panels showing Calvin’s face getting smashed into a car were askew, as if the impact of the blow knocked them out of place. My favorite, though, is the way March superimposes figures over the action.

glider suit

Instead of a static series of panels showing Joey climbing out a window in a glider suit, March puts the window on top of the existing panels, as if the character is climbing out of the page itself. It’s a trick that would get real old, real quick, but March uses it very effectively to bring the action forward. Also, it just looks sweet as hell.

Like I said in the intro, I’m still not totally sure where this book is going. We’ve got a pseudo-family now: doting father-figure who tries his best, tough-as-nails mom, adorable daughter, and crotchety grandpa. This will certainly change the dynamic of the story, but in what direction I have no idea. What do you think, Patrick? Do you have a clearer idea of where this book is heading? If so, can you maybe explain it to me?

Patrick: I think we see where this series is going, but maybe we want something a little more high-concept. Or at least, we want to be able to more tightly define the concept. Our early impressions of the series had us saying “Oh, so it’s a globe-trotting Talon-hunt” but a few issues later and we were like “okay, maybe it’s a high-tech assassin comic” and then finally “maybe it’s a heist story?” The truth of the matter — the truth that’s making it so difficult to classify — is that the genre of the series changes to match the needs of the main characters. That’s sorta fascinating. We are exposed to enough strong genre pieces that allow the action to define the characters, but Tynion and Snyder seem insistent on letting the characters define the action.

One of the most compelling characters here is absurdly abstracted: The Court of Owls. They’re the sole villain of piece – literally no other bad guys even matter to Calvin – criminals, supervillains, nobody. While there’s no central figure that we can imbue with all the ideology and values of the Court, the sum total of adjectives we could apply to the Owls makes for a pretty compelling bad guy – they’re resourceful, secretive, brutal, greedy, power hungry, smart. It may not make for a simple, graphic, Cavlin vs. The Bad Guy image – look how weird the covers have been on this thing: you just can’t show Calvin fighting his enemy, because it’s such a nebulous thing. Oh, we’ve got the Butcher, sure. But he’s hardly the personification of everything that’s so threatening about the Court.

So, this issue was the action issue. It’s effectively one long chase sequence, where out characters have to resort to RUN THE FUCK AWAY. I also really liked the way March stages a lot of the action in this issue. Shelby, you mentioned that bit where the Butcher smashes Calvin’s face through the car window – the implied motion is so visceral, I kinda winced reading it. There are clever visual touches all over this book – check out how these other buildings here become panels in their own right:

The Gotham Butcher throws Calvin out a window

We’ve seen this technique used in a few other books in the last couple months, but usually in the hands of unquestionable masters (like Chris Burnham and J.H. Williams III).

There’s also something quietly marvelous about this little piece of visual storytelling:

Talon escapes the Gotham Butcher

Simple, right? The falling motion of the Butcher (punctuated with a satisfying THUD), the blinding speed with which the train spirits Calvin to safety, the arm still dangling impotently by his side, and the determined look on Calvin’s face. It’s all depicted in this two-and-half-panel piece. It’s dynamic and clear and I just really like it a lot.

The supporting cast is still a little overloaded, however. Remember all those special agents we met in the last issue? Oops, it turns out, I don’t either. Like, I vaguely recalled the woman that pulls the freeze gun, but only because she was drawn stupidly last month. Dude in the glider suit? Dude with snake tattoos? Sorry, I don’t remember who you are or how you’re valuable to the team.

Hey, so where was Sebastian for all of this? He’s not in the headquarters of Casey’s organization. Which is odd, because it means that even when Tynion and Snyder pull the classic even-the-support-players-are-in-danger move, Sebastian is still safely out of harm’s way. It’s starting to occur to me that it’s a little strange how little he really has personally invested in taking down the court. We know that he’s seen the Court do terrible things, but he didn’t witness any of that until he went looking for it — unlike everyone else, he’s not a victim of the Court. Which I guess sorta explains why he fetishizes them so. He’s got some kind of computer database that has all the information about all the Talons, but when he can’t find information about Felix Harmon (whose cheery sounding name is hilariously ironic), he knows right where he can look him up: in that golden book he keeps under glass! Mark my words, Sebastian likes hunting Owls.

So now our heroes are headed to Gotham… Christ that seems like a bad idea. Well, maybe that increases the likelihood of seeing Batman in a future issue. Hey, that’s a fun game to play: what Gotham City characters would you like to see Talon interact with? Maybe get him involved with villains who aren’t Owls? Or maybe he, that lady Talon in the Birds of Prey and Nightwing all have to go to a support group for retired Talons! I’d read that.

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?

9 comments on “Talon 4

  1. I’ve always held that the best way to introduce a new character is to have him/her repeatedly guest star in more popular titles, in order to drum up interest before he/she gets his/her own book. This trial period must be quite long, because it’s the only way to define the character better. Also, the publisher must be 100 % sure that the character is popular enough to carry a title on his/her own for more than a few months or years, before launching his/her solo series.
    As Shelby pointed out, nothing of this happened with Talon. This title has been thrown in at the deep end, and it’s not the first time that I see a New 52 series launched this way: characters like Voodoo, Grifter, Mr. Terrific, Static Shock and so on passed from being unknown to the 99 % of comics fan to having their own solo title. Of course they lacked the bases to avoid failure.
    Also, DC didn’t advertise them enough: for example, when I read that Mr. Terrific was among the first New 52 cancelled titles, I didn’t even know who he was.
    Maybe DC thought that, being a Bat – title, Talon would have been a product that automatically sells itself. Well, this is true for the titles that have a strict connection with Batman (for example, Nocenti’s run on Catwoman has been atrocious from the very first issue, but the title is still making huge numbers each month), but the ones whose connection with Bruce is barely recognizable, like Talon and Batwing, aren’t that lucky. In fact, Talon passed from being the 13th most sold DC series to be the 27th in only 4 months.
    As you know, I am a nerd – rage – free commentor, so I always try not to criticize anyone and anything, and, even when I do it, I try to end my comment with a softening sentence. This time the softening sentence is:
    Anyway, I’m still grateful to DC for all the great series they have been giving us since the reboot started.

    • It’s unfortunate, because it’s a pretty good book. Every character is defined somehow by the Court of the Owls, and the fact that Talon, the title of the book, refers to both the hero and the baddies he fights is actually kind of complex.

      • Yeah, a sort of “I was part of them, but now I’m one of the good guys” plot. Pretty much the same starting point of Spawn, one of my favorite comic book characters ever. Thank you for your reply! : )

    • 27th is still pretty good for a publisher that runs over 50 titles each month. Like, it’s not their top seller, but it’s not doing poorly enough to be on the chopping block (yet).

      • If the hemorrhage in sales stops now, this series is in a pretty good position indeed. The problem is, Talon’s sales are in a free fall, and you really couldn’t tell how many readers are going to buy it regularly in the next months. If they’re at least 20k, Talon is safe. Since all of you are liking it, I hope so. Thank you for your reply! : )

    • I maintain that The Court of Owls IS a main character in this series and, in that way, that’s exactly what DC did – The Court is featured prominently in 11 issues of Batman (plus the annual), 3 issues of Nightwing, 3 issues of All-Star Western and single issues of Catwoman, Birds of Prey, Batman and Robin, Batwing, Detective Comics, Batman: The Dark Knight, Red Hood and Batgirl. PLUS the Batgirl annual and the future appearances of Mary the Lady Talon in Birds of Prey.

      But I can see where Calvin is still something of a mystery (unfortunately).

      • Talking about westerns, 2 years ago I started reading western novels, and since then I’ve been reading a lot of them. Some of you may think they are boredom at its purest form, but I assure you that, generally speaking, they have a very intriguing plot. For example, “Gun Smoke at Dawn” by Norman A. Fox and “Night of the Gunmen” by Steven C. Lawrence definitely are among the most thrilling novels I’ve ever read. But, if you ever decide to read a western novel, the ideal starting point would be “From Where the Sun Now Stands” by Will Henry. It is one of my favorite novels, along with “The Power of the Dog” by Don Winslow. Thank you for your reply! : )

  2. Patrick, I’m really happy you included the panels of Calvin’s escape; I was torn between included that one and the one with the guy in the glider suit. Calvin’s unrelenting stare really helps to involve the readers in what he’s thinking. We’ve got the very personal, “this isn’t over” resolve without compromising the action of the getaway.

  3. Patrick, I think Sebastian’s detachment from the action might actually cancel out the danger of bringing the girls back to Gotham. Sebastian is literally the only person who isn’t in danger in this issue. Keeping the people you want safe next to him makes sense (though I’m sure they’re just waiting for the opportunity to put him in danger because that NEVER HAPPENS.

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