Batman New 52 Vol 1: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder – Comics Review [Bane of Kings]

Court of Owls Vol 1

Bane of Kings reviews the first seven issues of Scott Snyder’s Court of Owls storyline, published by DC Comics, and with artwork from Greg Capullo.

“Wow. A dark, gritty and awesome look into Batman that serves as not only a great starting point for new readers, but also Snyder manages to offer something fresh for the older ones. Some superb stuff here – Snyder’s New 52 run is one of the best.” ~The Founding Fields

As I was only introduced to comics recently, I missed the initial launch of DC’s New 52 reboot in 2011, and probably would have still passed it by were it not for the wonderful app known as comixology, which I pretty much use to get all of my comics nowadays. They’ve got some great prices on there for single issues, and the first issues of most of DC’s New 52 titles are only £0.69 each (in the UK, For the  US folks, I believe they’re $0.99 – correct me if I’m wrong), which is a real bargain as far as I’m concerned (hence why I brought a large chunk of New 52 first issues a few days ago).  Snyder’s Batman was the first title that I brought (well, largely because Batman’s my favourite superhero), and I thoroughly enjoyed the first issue, and it wasn’t long before I followed it up with some more issues. Snyder didn’t disappoint, and the tale is awesome. It’s not just my favourite of New 52 so far, but one of my favourite Batman titles yet.  Even though I have read all of the titles in Snyder’s run that are currently released individually, I am grouping them into Volumes 1 and 2 (which will have two separate reviews), for the purposes of reviewing them.

Following his ground-breaking, critically acclaimed run on Detective Comics, writer Scott Snyder (American Vampire) alongside artist Greg Capullo (Spawn) begins a new era of The Dark Knight as with the relaunch of Batman, as a part of DC Comics—The New 52! 
After a series of brutal murders rocks Gotham City, Batman begins to realize that perhaps these crimes go far deeper than appearances suggest. As the Caped Crusader begins to unravel this deadly mystery, he discovers a conspiracy going back to his youth and beyond to the origins of the city he’s sworn to protect. Could the Court of Owls, once thought to be nothing more than an urban legend, be behind the crime and corruption? Or is Bruce Wayne losing his grip on sanity and falling prey to the pressures of his war on crime? 

Collects issues #1-7 of Batman.

Having been mainly used to A-List, well-established Batman villains such as the Joker, Two-Face and others, I was interested to see what impact the Court of Owls would have on Batman’s storyline, and the answer is quite simply – a huge impact. There are several scenes in these issues that make Snyder’s run seem darker at times than even in Nolan’s take of Batman in The Dark Knight, and Bruce is put through his paces in these issues both mentally and physically. The storyline is wonderfully constructed, and provides a great episodic tale that leaves almost each individual issue ending on a cliffhanger. Coupled with the fast pace, you’ll breeze through these issues as quickly as you can.

The artwork’s great, and the dialogue is down-to-earth, realistic and Snyder manages to get each character spot on. One of my favourite scenes in the whole volume is a particular standout scene in Issue #2, involving a Batman/Helicopter Chase which really shows how creative Snyder can be when it comes to using each issue to its full potential. The pace is bombastic right the way through, there being very little plot holes that I noticed. Snyder informs the reader that Batman isn’t invincible, and that he can be defeated – adding that extra tension that I find in Batman and other DC comics that is lacking to an extent in most of the Marvel ones. The writing is also very strong in The Court of Owls, and Snyder weaves a convincing plot that makes use of a wide variety of Gotham’s dramatis personae, and although not every character may not get a long appearance, they’re still there, even if only for one or two panels.

The Court of Owls saga, although ongoing, is a great way to get into Batman for new readers (even if I still suggest picking up Year One and The Long Halloween first, as they’re classics), and Snyder will drag you in and keep you hooked right the way through. The team of Snyder and Capullo have got everything nailed, right down to Gotham City itself. There are elements of noir with Snyder’s take on the city, and we get to see several locations of Gotham from Wayne Tower right down to sewers. Capullo has risen to becoming one of my favourite comic book artists, as has Snyder.  The Court of Owls does a great job of showing that Batman doesn’t know Gotham as well as he thinks he does, and there are still elements of it that can surprise even the Caped Crusader. Even though the Court are a recent addition to the Batman mythos, Snyder’s storyline makes us think that they’ve been around for a whole lot longer. The Court of Owls fits under a variety of genres other than just the simple label of a “comic book”, as there’s elements of not only noir, but also horror and obviously action in here as well.

Just be warned that if you’re reading this as a collected volume, The Court of Owls does not tell the complete storyline – by the end, you’re going to have to get the next graphic novel volume, entitled The City of Owls, in order to find out what happens next to Batman. And believe me, you’ll want to. The Court of Owls was superb, and it only gets better with The City of Owls. I won’t spoil anything for you here, but you’re in for a treat. Snyder and Capullo’s take on Batman may just be one of the best yet.

A superb re-introduction to Batman, and I look forward to when/if Snyder pits Batman against either Two Face, The Joker or even Bane in the future. I loved every second of The Court of Owls, and you should too.

Individual Issue Titles: #1: Knife Struck, #2: Trust Fall, #3: The Talons Strike, #4: Face the Court (P1), #5: Face the Court (P2), #6: Beneath the Glass, #7: The Talons Strike. 

Collected Volumes: The Court of Owls, The City of Owls, 

Verdict: 5/5

Bane of Kings is one our most senior book reviewers here at The Founding Fields, based in England. He’s a prolific reviewer that has contributed to many things here and around the internet.


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