Monday, May 26, 2014

[New 52] Scott Snyder's The Court of Owls vol. 1

I was happy about DC's decision to release The New 52 line-up particularly on how they were going to re-define Batman (and his other titles like Detective Comics, The Dark Knight and Batman and Robin). I have just gotten back into comics by 2009 because of The Sandman and some other minor Dark Horse titles, so I was excited to get into the superhero genre again, and start with my childhood hero foremost. I bought this tradeback copy of Snyder-Capullo's The Court of Owls from the Manila International Book Fair last year, and since I've heard some really great things about it, my expectation limit was through the roof--and in many ways, this book did not disappoint.

First, I'd like to talk about Greg Capullo's artwork. It's definitely the first thing that astounded me as soon as I started reading. There was something about the way he depicted Batman in the landscapes of Gotham City that truly spoke to my modern sensibilities in a positive way (because I actually preferred my Batman drawn in a less sophisticated art style; something incomprehensible most times with dotted or washed-out colors). Capullo's imagery, however, is painstakingly lavish; there are no vague shapes to be found in his artistic interpretations of all scenes, and everything looks precise and clear-cut. I did, however, spot some inconsistencies in the action panels here and there but overall his art leaves plenty of room to the imagination while also giving off an almost cinematographic vibe for both avid and novice readers alike. Page after page, Capullo has delivered an eclectic vision of what Batman and Gotham City are supposed to feel visually, and his ultimate accomplishment for me was definitely the topsy-turvy scenes where Batman is hallucinating inside a clinical sort of labyrinth that truly made me terrified for the first time for this supposedly Dark Knight and his sanity.

Next is Scott Snyder's writing. From the first page down to the last, I wanted to read other comics of Snyder's Batman already. His Batman was sleek and reticent; confident as Gotham's self-appointed hero. He had fought the good fight for a long time and believed that there is nothing about Gotham that he doesn't know. I certainly appreciated that right from the get-go, the fact that Snyder crafted a premise where Batman is not nearly as accurate about his version of Gotham; and that Gotham City feels like it's a character of its own right. The very first panels have shown this, and it gave readers a sense of eeriness to this place that I have never associated it with until now. To be able to interpret Gotham as a damned, fickle and inscrutable territory as oppose to just a location where the superhero can defend it and do whatever it wants with its criminal element was a refreshing narrative in a Batman comic book. Suddenly, Batman is not at all the all-around expert of his city as he thought; that there are darker forces and a lot more experienced predators lurking in Gotham that he should not discredit.

With that said and as the title implies, this book introduces the bat's natural enemy in the wild: the owl. Batman (and Bruce Wayne himself) has to reconcile and recognize the fact that the secret society Parliament of Owls is not just an urban legend but a formidable foe for this caped crusader. It is truly an exhilarating reading experience to watch Batman struggle with this uncanny foes; to witness his indestructible will to fight for Gotham be worn down and corroded within. Suddenly, Bruce Wayne realized that his family may have built the city from its ruins before; but not without the competition and hindrance from this legion of dark things. Batman has to understand that Gotham City does not belong to him and face the terrible truth that perhaps his city--the one he strove to maintain for the sake of his parents' legacy--may in fact be the living testament of its villains after all.


*For those who wanted to start reading the Dark Knight in the comics medium for the first time, Snyder and Capullo's breathtaking two-part issues are both complex enough to be engrossing and yet accessible enough to be easily consumed.

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