Tag Archives: Greg Capullo

Batman the Court of Owls: Review

Batman-The Court of Owls

2012

DC Comics

176 pages

$25

I have now managed to read a few of the just-released collections of the New 52.  JLI was bland, and largely uninteresting.  I will read the second volume though, most likely since it will be the last until they continue the now cancelled monthly book in some other form. I have not finished Justice League yet, but will probably post something here when I do. I just could not stay with Animal Man despite its strong start.

For this collection of the first part of the Court of Owls story (issues 1 through 7 of the rebooted Batman series), I was honestly not all that excited about it.  There are a few others of the bunch that I was more eager to read than this, and I was not expecting much.  I knew I liked Scott Snyder’s writing and I have always thought that artist Greg Capullo (inked here by Jonathan Glapion) never got the attention he deserved working on Spawn, but for whatever reason I just could not get excited about this book.  Now I cannot wait for the next volume.  This is the best comic I have read in months, if not longer!

There are hints of storytelling mastery here from Snyder that his previous work has NEVER touched.  Tiny details round out a fairly stock story about a hidden and ancient menace in Gotham City, setting this apart though is a flair for character and pace, as well as the little details.   Small additions to Batman’s tech pay off later in the story and allow the story to skip over what would otherwise be pages of needless exposition.  The complete cast of the Batman family is explored, some members more than others, but it never feels forced like so many books do when they need to catch the reader up on the world.  There are problems though, like when you are reminded of bits in the characters’ past.  For a reboot (I know this was not really a reboot), there is a lot of past history that is still here.  The baggage of the old DCU is felt whenever Nightwing or Robin show up.  There are a lot of old sidekicks running around for this to be only Batman’s fifth year under the cowl.  The entire story is based on a comic book trope I have never cared for.  It is the “raise your hands, anyone who DIDN’T visit Krypton before it blew up.” story premise.  Not only is the Court of Owls cult retconned as something that has always been there, but never noticed, but specific connections to both Batman’s and Nightwing’s past are put into the myth.  The additions are well handled by Snyder, but they do stand out as retcons. Some of the building blocks are not interesting, but what the sculptor does with the clay is always more important that what he starts with.  This is the realization of story elements from the Gates of Gotham story from last year, and taken as part of that series it does work a bit better.  I just kept tripping over the reboot.

Capullo’s art is excellent, but with a few caveats.  His storytelling is not as tight as it could be, and I found certain panels lost in the page layouts.  There are moments where the style employed overwhelms the story.  That said, this is a great looking book.  While he occasionally goes off-model with faces, I am not prepared to say these are not deliberate choices.  There are moments where the style gets very wild and the iconography changes drastically to highlight the situation, so the more subtle instances may simply have stood out more for me than they were intended.  The one complaint I recall hearing from before I read this is the use of the page turnaround.  There is a point where you have to read the book on its side, then upside down.  This is not a new trick.  Dave Sim and John Byrne used it to great effect in the 80’s and there are several others before and since.  (Will Eisner, anyone?)  It is not that hard to navigate and I think the bitching about it was pretty silly.  Deal people, deal.

This is the best Batman book in years.  While I am looking forward to reading the first collection of Tony Daniel’s Detective Comics, it will have a long way to go to impress as much as this story has.

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As the first month of the New 52 winds down…

Well, I ended up buying 13 of the New 52, with 2 more of interest next week.

So far I can safely say, I have enjoyed all of them.  Some much more than others.  Some I will not buy the next issue.  Technically, I will probably only get the first arc for Action Comics, Batman and Detective Comics.  Animal Man and Resurrection Man are still on the bubble.  So here I will do a quick recap for all of the books I have read so far as I may not do full reviews for all of them.

Logo for the DC Edge books

Stormwatch:  This is the only one of the Edge group of books that I have had any interest in, and to be honest, I was disappointed.  I had really been looking forward to this one and found it every bid as bland as most of the old Wildstorm titles.  The various groupings of books is pretty tightly done, with the Edge books mostly being the books brought over from Wildstorm and a few odds and ends.  My high hopes were than they would make Martian Manhunter a little more interesting and less of a fifth wheel.  They didn’t, he is just a dick.

Green Lantern:  I was really not going to bother with this one since I have done just the collected editions of the main series, as well as Blackest Night and Brightest Day hardcovers.  But what the hell.  I grabbed it and it was decent.  I’m not going to get the floppies on a regular basis as I will still just do the hardcovers.  The Lantern books have read better in a single sitting since Geoff Johns started writing them.  A word about the grouping on these.  As far as I know, all of the Lantern books are in their own group, but I don’t recall seeing that officially anywhere.  I may have just missed it though.

Batman group logo.

Batman: This book was purchased based entirely on the creative team.  Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo drew me in and did not let me down.  The story had several good twists and made for a fun and fast paced book.  Capullo’s art was exactly what I had expected.  Sometimes a bit cartoonish for my tastes, but he has a strong storytelling sense that works well for this book.  Any anything that gets him away from the Spawn books is a winner in my mind.  Now we will see what he can REALLY do.

Batgirl:  Niiiiice!  This is going to be a really interesting book if the editors at DC allow this to go the way I think it is intended to.  This could get really cool.  I would not have touched this book with a ten foot pole if Gail Simone had not been tapped to write it, and I think she has gotten it off on a great path.  The Killing Joke is now officially canon, even though through some as yet unexplained “miracle”, Barbara Gordon can now walk.  Ardian Syaf’s art is perfect for this book, a good sense of action and pacing, while not being too dark and gloomy.  That is what the next book is for…

Detective Comics:  A great book.  See my review here.  A quick word about the individual books logos.  They have redesigned almost all of the books logo for the New 52.  Action, and the other Superbooks have not changed.  Neither has Swamp Thing.  For the most part, they look very nice.  The Blackhawks logo is awful.  Looks like a hight school football logo.  Just crap.  The others are sharp and modern, with some really standing out.

DC Dark group logo.

DC Dark books group logo.

Animal Man:  This is the first of the DC Dark books I read.  My review is here.  I liked all of the Dark books so far and they were the ones that I was most interested in from the start.  I will be picking up Justice League Dark next week.

Swamp Thing:  This one feels odd.  The fact that Superman appears threw me off, if only because Superman is being almost fully rebooted and Swampy appears to be more of a soft reboot, with much of the history being referenced.  If there is any line wide weaknesses in the New 52 it is that Batman and Green Lantern will maintain virtually all of their history, as the continuity will not change for them, but Superman and all the other books are changing.  Some very little and some quite drastically.  Held on its own, without the rest of the DCU attached, Swamp Thing was a good read and I am interested in the continuing story.

Resurrection Man:  If they keep this up, this could be the sleeper hit of the New 52.  I liked the character when he first came out in the 90’s but there was not much done with him.  This book is tightly plotted and strong with Abnett & Lanning (the character’s original creators) looking like they are one the verge of doing their very best work yet.  I have enjoyed the cosmic stuff they have done at Marvel and this looks like it could top even that.  This book has one of the best of the new logos too.  Very cool with a retro feel to it.

DC Superman group logo.

Supergirl:  A lot of fans were bothered by the creative team shuffling of some of the books.  What they came up with for this book is something that looks very promising.  Writers Green and Johnson have a good handle and a potentially interesting take on the most boring heroine in the DCU.  Mahmud Asrar’s art is inconsistent, but engaging.  Stylization sometimes wins over rendering, but not distractingly so.  There is a lot of promise in this book too.

Action Comics:  Boo-yah!  If you read only one of the new DCU, this should really be the one!  I have re read this since my original review here, and like this book even more.  It is too bad they didn’t launch with this instead of Justice League.  Superman #1 is out next week.  Still have not decided if I am getting it or not.  And NO.  If I do not get it at my LCS, I will not waste my money buying it on ebay.  That’s why DC is happily reprinting the really hot books.

DC Justice League Group logo.

Justice League:   Speaking of hot books, this is on a 3rd printing, and it looks like a 4th coming.  Good for you DC.  I just wish the book had been better.  My review is here.  Just not as strong as it could have and really should have been.  May turn out to be the first book to start losing readers quickly if it does not find its footing fast.  I know this is intended as a prequel of sorts to the rest of the DCU, but so is Action Comics, and it is much better.

Captain Atom:  Of all the old Charlton characters, this is the one I wanted to like the most and ended up not having any interest in.  Since Alan Moore did his version in Watchman, the Captain seemed poorly handled at best.  I was not going to pick up this book.  I’m mostly glad I did.  This is one of the books that I have seen so far (animal Man and Swamp Thing being the other 2) that could actually have a finite run and work well that way.  They are books that seem like a real beginning, middle and end to the run would be in the best interests of the title.  I can see all 3 with a clear arc.  If I thought that they would actually DO that, I would sign up for all 3 without a pause.  That is what would work best for these and serve the characters as started in the New 52 perfectly.  But all creative options aside, I know these are, first and foremost, properties.  They will not take a book to a logical and intelligent conclusion and end it when it could continue for more issues.  It is a mentality I have never wanted in my comics.  Why CAN’T Animal Man run for a finite number of issues and be an end to the character for a while.  Finish telling your story then let the book rest until someone comes along with a new take on things.  But DC, like Marvel, has the quantity over quality model going, despite what they say publicly.  The fact that they are more interested in getting books out on an arbitrary schedule than keeping a creative team is evidence of that.  The way to solve late books is not to replace teams, just hold off printing until more issues are in the can.  If the artist or writer feels like they are getting screwed, then they are in the wrong industry, and it IS an industry.  They do not print these things for fun.  They are there to make money and there is nothing wrong with that.  But there is a middle ground where the creative side and the corporate side CAN meet, they just never seem willing or able to.  Captain Atom is a book with a lot of style, sometimes to its detriment.  The art is sometimes more distracting than it should be, and the visual storytelling is spotty.  There are more positives than negative though.  The characters are still bland, but there is time for fleshing them out going forward.  The art has moments of being very off model, but the dynamic styling is powerful and hard to ignore.  If this WERE a finite story, I can see it really working well.  But I see this first arc being paid off and then just more issue coming where the premises being set up here will get watered down and made on-going.

Justice League International:  This book is a mess at times.  Dan Jurgens can be very hit and miss.  His best, can be classic.  This is not that book.  They have chosen the most B-listy bunch possible to people the group and they are not well written here.  Booster Gold has always been one of those guys with lots of unrealized potential.  So now for this reboot, he seems to have very abruptly realized it.  That does not really work well.  Fire and Ice are a team that have only really worked well when…well…they have never worked well.  If you look at their past stuff, they really are just plot hammers.  Or they are there so someone else can react to something about them.  They themselves were never all that interesting.  Guy Gardner seems like they are playing him as less of a prick, but since I never liked the guy no matter how they played him…  Rocket Red is fun to have here, and so is August General in Iron.  Having Batman at all is just silly.  He is being repositioned in the new DCU to being back to the dark shadow in Gotham, and he is just not a good fit here.  Fortunately, he is not likely to get  much play and can be more or less written out.  His presence here is to add some connection to other characters for the reader, like propping up Booster a bit with the readers as well as the other members of the team.  I can see this book always being in flux until they find the right mix.  With team books though, that is not a bad thing.

All in all, a good start.  I want to see risks.  Like the ones I have seen in other books of the relaunch like Catwoman or Red Hood and the Outlaws.  These are books that will push away long time fans, but maybe they will bring new ones in with stories that are daring and new.  Detective and Action look like they may be off to similar starts.  Here is hoping the New 52 changes the game as much as I think it can.  If it does, we are all in for a Hell of a ride!

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Well, it is certainly hard to ignore…

52 #1’s in September.  The reactions have begun to get at least a little more varied.  Ranging from “Oh boy! 52 jumping off points!” to ” But I actually LIKED where Batman inc was going”.  There have been piles of announcements ahead of the full official list and there are a few interesting things.

George Perez writing and drawing Superman (confirmed).  Just freaking cool.  I’m there.

Grant Morrison doing another Superman book (still unconfirmed).  I loved his All-Star book.  I’m there.

Batman inc is on a break until sometime next year.  I went on a break from a girlfriend once.  That didn’t work out all that well.

David Finch on Dark Knight.  What?  He pumps out 2 cruddy issues in 6 months and they are “rebooting”?  I can see the solicitation for  September 2012 already…”superstar Finch to release 4th fabulous issue!”  Ooh!  Can hardly wait to miss this one.  But since it will not be on time much, we will all “miss” it.  On the whole the Batbooks seem to be getting kind of the short end of the stick.  There is a little shuffling of names from one book to another, but nothing really cool.  Greg Capullo on a Batman book is pretty cool.  He is always a fun artist and getting away from Todd MacFarlane will do nothing bad for his career.  Looks like Jason will still be around, and they will continue to clean him up and make him an anti-hero.  Damian is still Robin, and Dick Grayson will go back to being Nightwing.  The part that bugs me is that Barbara Gordon will be Batgirl again.  Not from a continuity point does it bug me (The Killing Joke was never intended to be in canon), but rather the fact that I liked the Oracle angle.

A couple of things HAVE gotten my interest though.  Justice League Dark looks to be written by Peter Milligan and has a fabulous cast.  Any chance to see Madame Xanadu back in a book, since her great series by Matt Wagner and mostly Amy Reeder on art, is a real treat.

Also looking good is Animal Man.  A possible cover is below, along with the third book that looks super cool, Resurrection Man, a character from the late 90’s being brought back by its creator’s Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.

At least from the odd corners of the DCU, things are looking interesting.  But to be honest, the whole “women need to cover their legs” thing is really stupid, and Power Girl in pants is gonna suck.  It is as if DC thinks that no one will notice the huge boobage on all the femal characters if thier legs are covered.  Take PG out of the mix and the cup sizes are still pretty spectacular.  We shall see, but I’m guessing this last only as long as the readers keep coming.  Sale dip, and off come the pants!

Justice League Dark cover by Ryan Sook

The return -again- of resurrection Man

Animal Man

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