Patrick: When I was a kid, I used to think that Jedis were the coolest thing in the whole world. Why wouldn’t I? The only examples I had of Jedi were either too old or too young or too evil, but I loved Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. They’re so rare that we never saw a Jedi in their prime — and that scarcity made them precious. Of course, that all changed in 1999, with the release of Phantom Menace. As the prequels rolled out more and more Jedis, I became less and less enamored with them. This is obviously a function of a lot of things — I was getting older, the movies were getting shittier — but chief among them was that the Jedis just weren’t a valuable commodity anymore. I feared the same thing would happen with Owls and Talons in this series, but instead I find myself overexposed to a different type all together: the hulking man-monster.
This is the story of two escapes — one more successful than the other. On Santa Prisca, Talon and his team fight their way off the island. Bane teases Calvin about how his most effective survival technique is retreat, but it doesn’t really phase our hero (who is, after all, an escape artist by training). They highjack a supersonic jet and head toward the mainland. Meanwhile, in Gotham, Sarah has escaped into the hands of the GCPD, but then escapes from that so she can head up to the roof and turn on the Bat-signal. This summons the Batman, but not before attracting the attention of The Butcher. What the Butcher does to her is particularly gruesome, so let’s make sure we get the language right:
Basically, he’s pulverizing her shoulder here. <<shudder>> Anyway, Batman comes to the rescue just long enough to whisk Casey off to the hospital and inform Calvin that she might not make it through the night.
One of my favorite jokes from the TV show Doug comes from a Quailman segment. Quailman is fighting Klotzilla (a Godzilla/Roger hybrid) and Quailman says “I may not be big, but I am small.” This philosophy is on display throughout the issue as our heroes alternately try to escape from Venomed-out madmen and Harmon. There’s Bane, there’s the Brute, there’s the Butcher (all B names, oddly) — and all of their strengths seem to lie in their bigness. Further, they’re all evaded by our heroes being smarter or cleverer or just smaller than their attackers. This all reinforces the idea that escape is the only viable course of action, but it sure does feel same-y. Especially as both Bane and the Brute are on Santa Prisca, it’s like Tynion just wanted to copy and paste the threat that Bane represented so he could be in two places at once.
That’s not to suggest that Tynion isn’t telling an inelegant story here. In fact, I really like the sequence wherein Calvin leads Bane into the dungeons of the island, and Bane calls him out on trying to do some Batman-level psychological warfare. Bane’s too tough a nut to crack by simply reminding him of childhood trauma. Calvin didn’t take the fight there for psychological reasons, but for tactical ones. Tynion has tapped into a Batman cliche I hadn’t ever verbalized — the trope of luring the villain to a place where they are psychologically vulnerable — and turned it on its head, tricking Bane and the readers in the process.
Hey, so I am super worried about Casey. It makes me incredibly nervous to have that character in a hospital bed and to have Batman suggest that she might not survive. It seems unlikely that Tynion would kill the character in one issue by injuries sustained in another, so maybe I should just relax. I just started warming up to the idea of Casey being the hero of this title, and if she goes, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot here worth sticking around for. I’ve never ever rage-quit anything before just because a character I liked died, but come on man.
I’m also finding less to love about Szymon Kudranski’s art this time ’round. He still delivers a product that’s moody as hell, with characteristically rough borders and gutters, but the action sequences lack a lot of clarity. There’s no sense of space in his fight scenes, which makes our heroes’ eventual escapes sorta lackluster. If I can’t see where the characters are going, I can’t be excited about them getting there. Plus, is it just me or do a bunch of these close-ups of Bane look like Spawn?
Shelby, my friend, how are you feeling about Talon overall? There’s always something I really enjoy in this series, but maybe it’s the Bane stuff that’s not really doing it for me. Actually, strike that — Bane’s just fine. It’s Casey’s team. Not only do I forget who’s who between issues, I forget that they even exist. An editor’s note suggests that there’s some connection to Red Hood and the Outlaws (via Ra’s al Ghul), but I stopped reading that a few months back. Can you pin down what you like about this series that keeps you coming back?
Shelby: Drew: Oops! Not only am I not Shelby, I’m also not publishing this discussion in a timely fashion. Listen, this issue fell through the cracks with our schedule last week, but we still wanted to talk about it.
Anyway, Patrick, I’m probably not the best to answer your questions about what keeps Shelby coming back to this series, as (in addition to not being Shelby) I actually stopped reading this title a couple months ago. It actually fares better than I remember it — this is a thrilling, albeit not entirely clear, reintroduction to the series — but all of your criticisms are right on point.
Kudranski is fantastic at composing striking images — it’s why we like him in the first place — but he seems totally inept as a storyteller. Patrick is right to chalk the lack of clarity in Kudranski’s fight sequences to a lack of a sense of space, but more specifically, Kudranski is sacrificing that sense of space so he can deliver dynamic closeups. When he finally pulls out the camera for equally dynamic medium shots, it’s rarely clear what’s actually going on.
After rereading this sequence several times, it’s clear to me that the middle panel features Calvin throwing some kind of flash grenade as a diversion while he orders his team to run, but that’s based more on context cues than anything in the panel itself. Confusingly, we never see the consequent to the antecedent of that panel — we just cut right back to more closeups as if the yelling and throwing never happened. The effect heightens the sense that Kudranski’s art is more like a series of images than it is a sequence of images, often forcing the reader to do the heavy-lifting in terms of clarifying the narrative.
I’m a little less worried about Casey, Patrick. We never see her receive any kind of “you’ll probably die” prognosis, which makes me suspect some kind of subterfuge on Batman’s part. Sure, it might just have been left out for storytelling economy, but I feel like we would at least see her in the hospital if she was in mortal danger. Obviously, Tynion wouldn’t kill her off-camera, but I feel like almost killing her off-camera is just as cheap. I could be wrong about that (and I have to admit, I can’t really think of a reason why Bruce would lie about it), but my gut tells me that, not only will she survive, she’s not even as bad off as Bruce made it sound.
Patrick, you mention that Casey’s death would leave you little to care about on this series, but I think this issue makes a strong case for Calvin as the title’s emotional center. His win over Bane is largely a tactical one — which is particularly impressive given Bane’s skills as a tactician. For me, it’s that tactical victory that rescues this issue from hulked-out monster fatigue. Bane’s monologuing reveals that Tynion is holding on to much of Bane’s pre-flashpoint origin, which makes him as much a thinker as a fighter, which works to really sell his suspicion of Calvin’s choice of venue. Of course Bane wouldn’t take the location for granted — in fact, he might actually read way too much into what was really a simple higher-ground tactical advantage.
I think the other monsters in this issue lend a beautiful contrast to just how intelligent Bane is — an important element when one of the key parts of the story is Bane being outsmarted. The Brute is all brawn, and the Butcher is even brawnier, but without Bane’s brain, they don’t pose quite the same threat. Of course, Harmon is ultimately the biggest threat of the issue — and the one that is most pointedly left hanging in Calvin’s world (or, should I say NOT left hanging). Bane is married off to the Secret Society at the end of this issue (in one of the few issues I’ve seen tie into Forever Evil before the event happened), but Harmon escapes yet again into the Gotham night. We’re not done with him yet, and there’s still a whole other Washington girl to threaten.
As a reintroduction to the series, I think this issue acquitted itself quite well — Tynion clearly has a handle on how to make a fight scene emotionally resonant, and can goose the tension like a pro. It certainly makes me want to pick up the next issue, which is always the goal — and more than Phantom Menace ever did. Maybe that’s a low bar, but hey, we all saw all of the prequels anyway, right?
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?