Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Talon 7-8, originally released April 24th and May 22nd, 2013.
Shelby: We need to remember that the Talons are bad guys. I know, we’ve got Calvin here fighting the good fight against the Court, and we’ve got Mary working with the rest of the Birds; that makes it easy to forget that we first met the Talons as a sweeping wave of indestructible killing machines, hellbent on assassinating whomever they were pointed at. This title started out with Calvin’s unique position of being a Talon on the lam, a man with all the training needed, but unable to go through with the final process that would truly transform him into the Talon he was meant to be. In issues 7 and 8, all that is going to change; hold on to your butts, because things are getting complicated.
Casey has discovered Sebastian’s secret. He tries to lock her in his base, but she is way too smart for that. She and Sarah try to bug out, but are picked up by Harmon before they can rendezvous with Calvin. Calvin, meanwhile, escaped from the Owl’s nest with some help from O’Malley. He has a brief encounter with Batman, but unsurprisingly escapes, and rushes to find the girls. He finds Sebastian instead, with his partner Bane. With very little effort, Bane kills Calvin (for real), which is what Casey, Sarah, and Harmon find.
Everyone is taken to an Owl’s nest, where Casey gets the shit kicked out of her while being interrogated, Sarah is subjected to reconditioning, A Clockwork Orange-style, and Calvin gets resurrected as a full-blown Talon. After seeing what’s being done to the girls, Calvin knows the Court has him in their back pocket; he’ll do whatever they want him to do. Step One: Tell the Court Sebastian’s been working with Bane. Step Two: Take the Talon-killing serum the Court has developed and use it on Mary for her activities with the Birds of Prey.
This title continues to defy expectations. It was unique from issue 0: a brand-new character defecting from the ranks of a brand-new villain. It’s never settled down into any sort of predictable routine, and now things are a whole new level of complicated. How much is this still a title about a defecting Talon? Calvin still hates the Court and wants nothing to do with them, but he is a full-fledged Talon now. As he suits up, he tries to remember what the weight of his armor felt like; that is how drastically he has physically changed. Even if he can somehow get away from the Court again, he is not the man he was, and there is no reason to believe he ever will be again. James Tynion and Miguel Sepulveda have really raised the stakes these last two issues. They both are invoking a lot of powerful images: Bane speaking to an army ready to take down all of Gotham, Casey’s battered face, Sarah being tortured, Calvin kneeling before his new masters. Shit just got real, folks, and no where is that more clear than in Calvin’s dream (?) sequence while the Court is transforming him.
Sepulveda is new to art-duty on this title, and while his pencils lack some of that dynamism I’ve come to love in Guillem March’s work, this spread is pretty striking. The Owls loom over Calvin, both inside his head and out, and the red spatters of ink speak to the messiness of what is being done to him. Most heart-breakingly, in the middle there’s an image of Calvin sleeping peacefully with Casey, only to be ripped out of her arms by some Talons. That is really what has happened here, isn’t it? What kind of relationship can those two ever have again? The Court will never let Casey go, because they need her to control Calvin. Calvin will never escape, not while Casey is imprisoned. At the beginning of issue 7, Casey and Calvin had the Court by the short hairs; they destroyed the data that both Sebastian and the Court had, and had managed to get away from both factions. Then, faster than you can say, “How does Bane fit in to this?” everything is reversed. The Court has Casey, Sarah, and Calvin exactly where it wants them, and there doesn’t seem to be a way out for anyone.
So, how does Bane fit into this? Why has he teamed up with Sebastian? He seemed to be doing just fine building his Venom-fueled army on Santa Prisca, what is he getting out of this partnership? Every time I think I have this book figured out, it changes course, and I think I love it. I was beginning to grow a little cold towards this title, but issue 8 is such a game-changer; I’m excited all over again. What do you think Patrick? Were you as shocked to see Calvin become a true Talon? Do you have any ideas how he’s going to escape from this one, or is this really the one trap from which he cannot escape?
Patrick: That’s obviously the trick this series had to work up to: a trap Calvin can’t escape from. We like to recognize tropes around here, and then call them out like assholes – it makes us feel smart. One trope that we identified early in this title was “Calvin always escapes.” In fact — if I may be so vain as to quote myself from September of last year:
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.
And while the reasons to entrap Calvin were never convoluted, the solution was always obvious – he just escapes. Because that’s what he does. The idea that this is final transformation is immune to takesies-backsies is intriguing, but I don’t know how much I buy that. CONSIDER: Calvin’s current mission — to assassinate the Talon, Mary — will put him in contact with the Birds of Prey. The Birds of Prey (or at least one of them) are in league with Mr. Freeze. Mr. Freeze’s technology is partially responsible for the Court’s Talon-zombification process – maybe he can develop a way to reverse it? I’m just saying: let’s not rule anything out.
I’m not the biggest Guillem March fan, and I usually cast more than my fair share of despersions on his colorist, Tomeu Morey. I stand by my criticisms, but I missed them both in issue 8. Sepulveda has a good sense of staging, but can’t quite tap into that same grim vein that March taps so effortlessly. And the colorist, Rain Beredo, has some strange ideas about textures and shadows that occasionally make the backgrounds look like poor photocopies of themselves.
As far as how Bane fits into all of this: I actually have an answer for that. Bane is not unlike Calvin, in that Sebastian is taking advantage of their mutual hatred of the Court of Owls. One of the four stories in the not-so-secret 900th issue of Detective Comics (issue 19), was a Bane story written by Tynion. In it, Bane recounts a masterful plan to bring the citizens of Gotham to their knees which was thwarted by a trio of Talons. Bane didn’t know what they were at the time, but he assumed they were Bat-Allies (a pretty safe bet, when you think about it). Then, after the events of Batman: The Dark Knight 7 (wherein Batman shoves Bane off a seaside cliff), Sebastian appears to tell him that his real beef is with the Court. Interestingly, Bane seeks to destroy the Court of Owls because he sees them as a stabilizing element in Gotham – and that’s just not good for the particular brand of chaos that he likes to sow.
And that’s an interesting concept: the Court of Owls does a lot of bad shit, but they do so to establish and maintain order in Gotham City. That’s no mean feat. Consider how many organizations have infiltrated every level of city governance that don’t have even mildly altruistic aims, like Leviathan or the Religion of Crime. Given the options, I’d much rather be ruled over by a shadowy secret society than have Bane’s venomed-up goons decimate the city’s infrastructure. The morality here is getting seriously layered and complicated, and turning Calvin into a card-carrying member of the Court makes those layers all the more confounding. This series may never find a singular identity, but as long as the moral dynamics at the center remain this fluid and interesting, I’ll keep coming back to it.
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