I first read and reviewed the hardcover edition The Night of the Owls which included the tie-ins from other crossover titles. I came back to this compact collection next since issues 10 and 11 were not included in Night edition at all which was baffling in itself since those are the issues that ended the second arc of the Owls storyline, and wouldn't it be relevant to include them alongside the tie-ins as well? But I digress.
Right off the bat, I was a massive fan of Snyder-Capullo's first volume The Court of Owls because I really enjoyed the way they distinguished Gotham City as a character of its own and not just a setting. I pointed out in my review that the collaborative efforts put in and expressed through Synder's prose and Capullo's illustrations have given the city's well-established atmospheric moodiness a new kind of appeal and gravitas that reeled me in completely. I also think that it was an undeniably great set-up in introducing the Court of Owls to the story, making them so creepily ominous that by the first volume alone, the Owls (and the Talons) could already be considered a formidable addition to the rogues gallery. I also believe that The Court of Owls is one of the new-reader-friendly comic books from DC's New 52; even the most casual Batman reader who may only be familiar with the Nolan movies can get into Synder's writing pretty easily, so this is most commendable.
That said, the sophomore follow-up The City of Owls leaves much to be desired. I've expressed my problem with the second arc of the Owl storyline in my review of The Night of Owls before and I still stand by it. It may include spoilers so I advise not to read the rest of this review then. But for those who have read it and might share the same complaints, here is a direct quote from my previous review:
"The direction of the Owl saga sacking the Gotham City like that was irresponsible and reckless, considering they had operated in the background and subtly at that for decades so I don't really understand why they choose to come to the light after all that hard work. Because they feel Batman is a bigger threat? Perhaps. But the logistics just don't add up. Here is a powerful and historical figure that had been integrated into Gotham City's very foundations and they managed to survive this long because of anonymity. And yet they come out with a force in order to eliminate important people in the city which they could have done easily through the manipulations and control they took pride in. No need for bloodshed, that's what I believe. I think we should all be able to acknowledge how absurd the Owl saga became when Synder decided to play his hand too loosely, essentially undermining the Court's supposedly intimate influence in the process. It had certainly dulled the sharp edge of their intrigue as well."
Those are my sentiments pertaining to Synder's creative decision for this second arc. I felt like the first volume had a remarkably solid foundation that the second volume managed to--I won't say 'undo'--but at least made slightly ineffectual by bringing out the Talons in a very public manner (possibly caused by executive meddling for the sake of a crossover event that would sell more issues?) which sort of cheapens the supposed secrecy and intrigue surrounding the Owl as a centuries-old organization. I'm honestly getting worried about DC's marketing style these days with their New 52 especially with the Batman titles. Another example is The Joker: Death of the Family, yet another crossover event with multiple tie-ins. I reviewed that collection as well and will be reviewing the more compact and commendable third volume of Snyder's Batman soon. I guess my qualms are directed at this annoyance because it certainly feels like Snyder has to adjust his artistic choices in storytelling to keep up with whatever DC feels would benefit their sales more which usually entails crossover after crossover and irrelevant tie-ins in the mix. It's starting to seriously irritate me. I take my Batman very seriously that way.
Nevertheless, let's get back to this second volume's better strengths such as the additional stories The Fall of the House Wayne and Batman Annual 1. They are supplements that were thoroughly enjoyable. I plan to come back to this review and include other links once I finished reviewing these two stories separately next week. Same goes for issue #12 Ghost in the Machine. I wanted to ensure that I'm not missing anything when I read Batman. Besides, why would I even deprive myself more stellar opportunities to talk about Batman?
I didn't mean to make this review some sort of letter that airs out my grievances pertaining to DC's crossover/tie-ins gimmick. I understand that the practice enables them to sell more issues but if the cost would be sacrificing the quality of the stories themselves then I just think they should allow their writers and artists to thrive in their respective titles and stop demanding them to correlate and intersect storylines. Am I overreacting to this or what? I mean, isn't the entire point of the Crisis Saga, that memorable colossal reboot in the eighties, to get rid of the multiple worlds that DC has created over the decades so we're left with a singular plane of reality? So why feel the need to overlap all Batman titles with crossovers when in the grand scheme of things, they actually do not help new readers themselves appreciate the comics medium? I'm relatively new to the game as well and even my patience and love for complex storylines are being tested by DC's insistence to make New 52 Batman more convoluted than it's supposed to be.
Whether or not my sentiments are valid, I'm just glad to get them off my chest. Perhaps Synder would have made the second arc stay true to his original vision from the first volume if DC didn't decide to make him expand his storyline in order for other writers to weave their own subplots. I apologize that you have to read through this crap when this was supposed to be a substantial review for The City of Owls but all these things I typed above are the feelings I experienced while reading this particular volume in the first place. Nevertheless, if you take the crossover tie-ins out of the equation and we are left with this volume alone, then it's actually quite satisfactory. Feel free to read the tie-ins in The Night of the Owls yourself for posterity's sake if you want.
*A gorgeous art style and highly definitive action sequences might be enough to distract you from the questionable aspects of the narrative. Still, a great follow-up.