Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Talon 6, originally released March 27th, 2013.
Patrick: The Empire Strikes Back came out two years before I was even born. That means I never lived in a world where “No, Luke, I am your father” was a surprise. It’s not even like there was a specific moment that it was spoiled for me: these character relationships were communicated to me through osmosis. But shock-value be damned, I still think it’s a killer scene. The lightsaber fight, the screaming, the music — it’s a powerful conclusion to the best Star Wars movie, no matter how many times you see it. Whenever I encounter these Big Reveal scenes now, I always wonder how I’ll feel about them when the shock wears off. In case my musings don’t make it obvious: spoilers ahead.
Calvin Rose starts the issue in a cage, surrounded by three generations of O’Malley Talons. Those suckers don’t realize that “in a cage” is about as dangers as AN ESCAPE ARTIST can be, so they’re easily overpowered as Calvin makes a break for it. The youngest O’Malley — ready to prove his mettle — chases after Calvin, even though it means navigating the cavernous sewers of Securitus Island, which are rapidly filling with ice-cold water (reminder: frozen temperatures are Talon Kryptonite). When the youngest O’Malley catches up with Calvin, they fight for a second, but then Calvin does something interesting: he asks the Talon to help him. We don’t get to see the end of that conversation, and the next time we see Calvin, he’s unconscious and draped over the Talon’s shoulders. The O’Malleys take Calvin to John Wycliffe — the so-called Grandmaster of the Court. Wycliffe tells Calvin that he’s been working for the Owls the whole time because Sebastian Clark is the former Grandmaster. Then Wycliffe drops the mic and struts off stage.
Man, these Owls have got a serious morale problem. By my count, this issue features four different people who have either defected from the Court or are in the process of defecting in this issue alone. There’s Calvin — that one’s obvious. There’s Harmon, who so badly wants his freedom from the Court that he digs the cryobombs out from behind his own eyes so he doesn’t have to obey their orders. And there’s Nathaniel O’Malley — the only O’Malley who couldn’t/wouldn’t bring an heir into this world. We can’t be certain exactly what kind of deal he struck with Calvin, but I’m expecting Nathaniel to turn on the other Talons next month. But then there’s the big one: Sebastian Clark.
Sebastian was the Grandmaster of the Court of Owls, which makes him the sonofabitch responsible for basically everything bad that’s ever happened to Calvin. He recruited Calvin as a young man, then ordered him to kill Sarah and Casey and then set another Talon on Calvin when he refused. But it’s bigger than that — Sebastian also started the fight against Batman and then offed 23 of his own Owls after the attack backfired. Plus who KNOWS what else? I do think that Wycliffe is characterizing Sebastian’s current actions incorrectly, and that Calvin has been targeting the Court for nobler reasons than reclaiming Sebastian’s fortune. So many of their missions have been destruction-based anyway, what would Sebastian stand to gain from that — other than damaging the Court? I guess that’s a question that will have to be answered in future issues: has Sebastian changed or is he simply using Calvin? This issue doesn’t make a clear statement either way, but I will assert that he has the patience of a saint to listen to Sarah as she talks him through all the Pokemon or whatever she’s going on about.
And while all that’s interesting character work, I find even that super-dramatic reveal to be upstaged by the little moments with the supporting cast. I can’t put my finger on what’s so instantly fascinating about three generations of O’Malleys frozen in time at the peak of their assassining and forced to work together and live out family drama for eternity, but I just love those characters. And then there’s Harmon, whose murderous handiwork Jim Gordon credits to “gorillas at the Gotham zoo or something.” This is a guy who sees Batman and thinks to himself “Ooo! He’d be fun to murder.” Part of that may be that both of those characters — Felix Harmon and Nathaniel O’Malley — have a clear history of being betrayed and disappointed by the people that support them, Maybe the series we’re reading right now will prove to be that character-defining act of betrayal for Calvin. I don’t like speculating too much, but I love seeing Calvin’s trust wind up in the hands of such a dangerous man.
Guillem March’s art continues to be very dark, but not particularly moody. I think there’s something in Tomeu Morey’s colors that kind of gray-wash everything. Even the yellows in Calvin’s costume don’t pop against the drably colored backgrounds. It is sorta neat to that each of the three main locations in this issue seems to have a principle color assigned to it – Sebastian’s hideout is blue, the sewers under the island are green and the Grandmaster’s room is red. It makes swapping one location out for another alarmingly easy to follow, and your brain kind of instinctually understands the transition before you even see the characters that occupy the space. There are also a few well-staged action beats — like Calvin’s escape from the cage (I love the way the camera stays on the ground as Calvin rises with the cage) and this effective bit of visual storytelling:
Drew, were you as moved by the plights of other Talons as I was? There has always been a tragic note or two in all of their backstories, but these seemed especially well-played to me. On top of that, it looks like the status quo of this series continues its constant state of flux. It’s starting to feel like that’s more by design than because the series hasn’t settled into a groove yet. How’s that variety working for you?
Drew: I think you’re absolutely right that this series isn’t interested in settling into a state of normalcy. It actually reminds me of Breaking Bad in that way — both feature wild changes in tone, and find the characters with new objectives each episode. Sure, everything here has been serving Calvin’s objective of destroying the court, just as Walter’s objective has always been to make money for his family, but there have been so many wrinkles along the way to make gains on those objectives incremental. The ever-shifting focus of this series is thrilling, and I suspect, like Breaking Bad, that details we learned early on in the series will take on greater meaning as we go along.
Patrick, I absolutely agree with you about the reveal. Wycliffe is just flat-out lying when he says that Calvin has been working for the Court. Literally nothing he has done has benefitted the Court in any way. In fact, things are almost exactly what Calvin thinks they are: he’s been working with a rogue former member to bring down the Court of Owls. Certainly, Sebastian played a much bigger — and more recent — role in the Court than he let on, but he’s not currently a member. The Court has a new Grandmaster, and they deployed Talon after Talon to stop Calvin from doing what he was doing. Wycliffe can wave his hands and say “you’ve been working for us” all he wants, but it’s pretty obviously NOT true.
Still, Sebastian’s lie constitutes a pretty sizable breech of trust. It also makes him more personally responsible for Calvin’s shitty life — having acted as Calvin’s recruiter AND ordering Calvin to kill the Washington girls. Actually, those are perhaps two of the most defining moments of Calvin’s life — and the latter has defined Casey and Sarah’s lives since then, as well — so it’s understandable that Calvin might hold a grudge. I suspect the predictability of that grudge is precisely why Sebastian wasn’t upfront about it, and I’m hoping he can make a convincing “I’m the best help you can get at taking down the Court” speech next month. Then again, I can see Calvin and Casey (and Sarah, of course) parting ways with Sebastian, teaming back up with Casey’s old crew to take down both the Court AND Sebastian. But who knows? Maybe the next issue will change things again, and none of the things I’m worried about will matter going forward.
Patrick, I’m glad you commented on just how well we get to know the O’Malleys in such a short time. We met a lot of Talons over the course of The Night of the Owls, but very few were given as compelling a backstory as this. I suppose it helps that they have someone to talk to, and that their service to the Court has some deeper emotional meaning, but I was impressed by just how quickly Tynion was able to get me invested in this little family drama. I also liked the helpful “Thing 1,” “Thing 2” chest symbols they wore to distinguish themselves from one another.
That’s one chest thingy for grandpa, two for dad, and one for the youngest O’Malley Talon. It makes their dialogue easier to follow, but it also gives the symbol a militaristic quality, as if it’s denoting rank a la a kind of inverted sergeant stripe. It paints a slightly more vivid picture of what their servitude of the Court might be like.
This series is hard to pin down, but the things I like about it keep being there. More importantly, they keep getting better. This is easily my favorite issue, delivering on our emotional investment in the characters, which I think bodes well for the future of this title. We’re only going to get more invested, which leaves room for higher drama and bigger surprises. It’s that emotional investment that makes the end of Empire such a gut-punch, time after time, and I think this series is well on its way to getting there.
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A friend recently asked me if he should pick this book up and I found myself struggling to provide a simple answer for reason that it is hard to pin down. Ultimately my answer was ‘yes’ but there was a lot of explaining that went along with it. I’m not sure I sold it to him as strongly as I could have, but I ultimately told him that the characters are really making this book work and, if anything, this issue served to highlight that point yet again.
I’m looking forward to Bane in the upcoming issues, and I’m almost willing to read Detective “900” just for Tynion’s contribution since it sets all of that up.
I had the exact same experience recently. I think the ever-changing rules of this title make it exciting, but it sure makes for a messy pitch.
I wonder what Tynion’s pitch for this series was, exactly. Reportedly, Snyder was going to pass on the idea of doing a Talon series when Tynion mentioned that he had an idea. After reading 7 issues of Talon, I’m not sure what that idea would have been (beyond, y’know: there’s a Talon that defected from the Court).
Drew, your comparison to Breaking Bad is interesting. One thing that can certainly be said for both series is that they know how to tell satisfying single stories in one issue/episode and the sum total of all of these single stories is a character arc.
I completely agree with this comparison, but that makes me wonder why Talon is still hard to pin down. Maybe it is just a character study of Talon and his supporting characters along with an exploration of the inner workings of the Court and its members? Was the pitch as simple as that? Is there more to this series? Does there need to be more?
Two things really stood out to me in this issue, one thing I loved and one that made me wonder a bit. First, how does Harmon know about Batman at all? If memory serves, he was awakened after the whole Batman ordeal and his whole briefing was basically: Find Calvin, kill Calvin. Did I miss something or is there a plot hole there.
That other bit is in the very first page, on my second read I noticed how much the spots (age spots?) on Sebastian’s face in the bottom panel kind of resemble the spots in an owl’s plumage. I’m not sure if it’s intentional but it makes for a cool bit of foreshadowing if it is.
I mean, he’s been in Gotham for a little while, waiting for Calvin to show his head, you have to imagine that he would hear something about Batman. Also, if the Court is briefing him AT ALL through that earpiece, they might have mentioned him as being a point of interest in Gotham City. The concept of Batman is still a little strange to Harmon – you can tell by the way he calls him “the Bat-man.”
I suppose that makes sense, though I’d mostly side with hearsay since the Court seems pretty intent on keeping Harmon away from Bats, you’d think they wouldn’t tell him there was much bigger game to hunt knowing his history.
Also, my read into the “23 owls killed” was actually that Lincoln March had killed them (at that dinner we see in Batman 10 at harbor house) to cover his tracks, is there any proof/disproof as to whether this is what’s being referenced and who would likely have killed them?
Well, that’s interesting – in the time since the Night of the Owls, I sorta forgot about Lincoln. I thought the Talon Wycliffe was referring to was William Cobb. But March makes much more sense, and sets a precedent for Sebastian working with semi-rogue Talons. Does that mean — if we can extrapolate a little — that Sebastian was also behind raising Lincoln to believe he was the lost son of the house of Wayne? Maybe he is an irredeemable bastard after all.
Thing about that is, it’s never fully clear whether Lincoln is or isn’t really a Wayne. It does seem a bit far-fetched because it’s a brand new layer on top of a really old painting but it isn’t impossible. Also, I’m not sure March was considered as a rogue element until he actually commited the murders at Harbor House and faced off with Batman, although since we don’t have full insight into the Court’s plans for Gotham during NotO it’s hard to tell what was and what wasn’t a part of the plan. For a while though, planted firmly in the race for Mayor, it seems like he was a good pawn for getting them even more power.
Just went back to issue 10 and counted; exaclty 23 are dead at the table, the only question now is was Lincoln or Sebastian responsible.
Wycliffe suggests that they were working together right? They could be equally responsible.
Quite possible, perhaps the next few issues of Talon will shed some light on what exactly the Court’s plans for a bigger move on Gotham was and how Sebastian was involved.
This is so fucking cool – one of our primary concerns with this Talon title was that the Court of Owls would lose its mystique, but it’s clear that there’s still a TON about this organization we don’t understand. The fact that there’s this HUGE dissent in the ranks (both on the Talon-level and at a managerial level) only helps to raise that mystery. This series has been slow to win my heart and my imagination, but I think it’s starting to really have a hold on me.
Thank you for including that Pokemon panel, Patrick–as a kid who was exactly the target demographic for that phenomenon when it started and who is still addicted to the video games to this day, I laughed so, so hard at that scene. Considering that Tynion is the same age as me (Tynion, Superman, this is getting depressing), I imagine the same might go for him.
(And Tynion can change the little monsters names all he wants, it’s obvious these are the guys he’s referring to: http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Lillipup_(Pokémon) http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Stoutland_(Pokémon) )
My little sister (Courtney) and I played Red and Blue when they first came to the states (in fact, we thoroughly ruined a family vacation by taking our Game Boys and the Official Pokemon Strategy Guide with us everywhere we went – including the pool). My taste for it went away after the TV show gained some traction and the whole world knew what Pokemon was. A fucking contrarian at such a young age! I still love them abstractly, but I don’t know that I can ever get back into actually playing the game (though I have been told that the card game is stupid-addictive).
I confirm, the card game was stupid addictive; I played the hell out of it when I was 11ish. I dropped the games after Gold/Silver because they just kept adding on more and more pokemon who’s design didn’t really attract me anymore but I still think those first games were fun and actually still give them a go every few years.
I’ll be honest, I still have all my cards in a binder in my closet, and if any of my friends still played with theirs, I’d totally still play the game. It was a lot of fun.
But of the anime, card games, and video games, the video games are the only ones I’ve really kept up with. The anime got pretty childish, but there is a surprising amount of depth to the video games (silly designs or not).
Patrick, I think we’ve all done that on family vacations. These games got me through a lot of long road trips.
I think I was a little too old when the card game came out — I was also sorta burned out on CCGs from 3 years of intense Magic: The Gathering study. Seriously, I couldn’t think without seeing little manna symbols flying around my head. That’s a tough act to follow (I tried the Star Wars CCG and War Hammer, neither of them did the trick), and I never did find another game that weaseled its way into my heart like that one.
I played Magic after I grew out of the Pokemon ccg and have to agree that it’s a tough act to follow. The only thing I hated about MTG was how expensive it got if you wanted to remain competitive in a type 2 setting :S
Magic is definitely too expensive, but War Hammer puts them all to shame in the dollar front. You can drop over a thousand dollars on an army and have basically zero guarantee that it’ll be any good at all. Plus building terrain – it’s like having a model train hobby in addition to playing a game.
That does sound brutal. Good thing I didn’t get into that then! I still own an old MTG deck but I have no one to play with, I guess I’m just too nostalgic to get rid of it.
The only Magic cards I still have are in a joke deck that I made toward the end of my time playing the game (I’m guessing 1998?). It’s an all-black deck filled with rats and as such, I used to beat the SHIT out of those cards and shuffle by almost folding them in half (it was therapeutic after being so nice to the cards that actually had value). Those cards still exist, but everything else wound up at Chadwicks or Rockheads in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
What I have left has essentially no monetary value so I just hold on to it for old time’s sake. It’s a just an all green stompy style deck, 8-10 lands and a bunch small creatures, it’s basically win within 10 turns or be crushed.
Hey I was just thinking, if Harmon is blind from next issue on because of his most likely less than stellar surgical skills, can we call him Dared’owl?
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