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Batman Issue #10

Review by Paul Bowler

In many ways Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s work on the Batman comics has become one of the most celebrated runs in the titles illustrious history. Together they have taken the mantel of the Bat and crafted a more grounded slant on the legacy of the dark knight, one that is almost comparable with Christopher Nolan’s movie trilogy, successfully drawing on the brooding menace of Gotham City itself to spawn the greatest threat that Batman has ever faced.

The New 52 saw a complete reinvention of the DC universe, and after a brief tenure on Detective Comics, Snyder was the natural successor to helm DC’s premier Bat-Title. Batman has been an essential read from the outset, with Snyder and Capullo slowly drawing us deeper and deeper into the mind of Bruce Wane as he struggles to fend off The Court of Owls. The Court of Owls has pushed Batman almost beyond the limits of his physical and emotional endurance: manipulating him from the shadows of the past, nearly driving him insane in their underground lair, exposing Dick Grayson’s lineage – and filings – to The Court of Owls, and finally culminating with Bruce and Alfred fending off an all out assault on Wayne Manor and the Batcave by a terrifying horde of Talon’s.

Now after almost a year in the making, Batman #10 sees The Night of Owls entering its final act, encompassing the entire Bat-Family in one outstanding crossover event that will thrust them headlong into the threat posed by the Talon’s as they race to protect the leading figures in Gotham City who have been targeted by The Court of Owls.

Batman #10: Assault on the Court is the penultimate issue in this immense story arc, providing as many questions as it does answers, as well as a cliff-hanger to end all cliff-hangers. After repelling the Talon’s attack on the Batcave in his armoured suit – with a little help from Alfred and a handy stomp or two from his T-Rex exhibit – Batman leaves the Talon’s on “ice” to confront one of the Court’s members in her luxury apartment. He intimidates her into phoning her husband, soaring off into the night (Arkham City style) while Alfred traces the call, which leads Batman back to the same property he became obsessed with as a child – Harbour House. The Dark Knight bursts into the building in a furious rage, ready to end the charade once and for all. Instead he finds every member of the Court of Owls dead, all seated as if they were about to eat dinner, having seemingly committed an act of mass suicide to escape justice by taking their secrets with them to the grave.

Some time later, while preparing for a meeting, Bruce Wayne ponders the discovery that the Court members he found had actually been poisoned, their assets siphoned away, coming to the conclusion that they were betrayed by one of their own. Alfred does his best to dismiss his master’s vague suppositions, but as Bruce passes a painting of his late parents he spots a clue, a pin worn by his mother. It is this epiphany that leads Batman to investigate the Morgue where he discovers one of the Court Members bodies is missing. In its place is a note, an invitation for Batman to finally confront his hidden adversary.

And so the final moments of Snyder’s grand design begins to play out within the crumbling walls of the abandoned Willowood Home For Children on the outskirts of Gotham. Once a home for young people with neurological disorders, Willowwood was closed down years ago when a sinkhole opened up inside the property; condemning the building along with the terrible abuse that was later revealed to have been inflicted by the staff on their vulnerable patients. Batman stalks the ruined building before becoming trapped in a net as his tormentor finally emerges from the shadows: Lincoln March, the Mayoral candidate who was attacked along with Bruce by a Talon in the Wayne Tower, he begins to don a new suit of Talon armour – one created to match Batman’s own – while making the astonishing claim that he is in fact Bruce’s brother – Thomas Wayne Jr! The issue ends with Thomas/Lincoln, now fully clad in armour (effectively revealing himself as a new incarnation of the classic DC villain Owlman) leaping from the shadows as Batman frees himself, ready to fight his brother to the death!

Batman #10 is a phenomenal issue, one that exemplifies Scott Snyder’s superb writing and Greg Capullo’s incredible artwork. The Court of Owls has been a tremendous story, Night of Owls has been an equally successful crossover event, with each title getting a fair share of the action and playing a significant part in the overall story without leaving the reader feeling short changed. Scott Snyder ties up so many plot threads this issue that you almost have to read the book two or three times to soak up every nuance and clue that has been right under your nose the whole time. For me the real star of this issue was Capulo’s fantastic artwork. Every page oozes with menace and dread, particularly the Willowwood Home For Children which feels almost supernatural in nature – the setting capturing an almost palpable sense of horror as the buildings shocking history is gradually revealed as Batman walks its derelict halls.

To say that the revelation that Bruce Wayne had a brother, Thomas, a character introduced and discarded in the seventies, offers up a wealth of possibilities for this new “Owlman”. He stands as the opposing symbol of everything Batman stands for, a tarnished mirror image of The Dark Knight, one who is not only Batman’s natural predator – but one who also seeks to invade the very foundations of everything that Bruce Wayne stands for.

The Fall of the House of Wayne (Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, & Rafel Albuquerque) continues to gather pace across what almost feels like a parallel timeframe, delving into a previously unheard chapter from the Wayne’s families past, nicely complementing the main story. With the multiverse now restored to the DCU, it is possible that the Owlman introduced this could have even derived from Earth 3 – a locale many readers would more commonly associate with the character.

However, it is the game-changing reveal of Thomas Wayne Jr that makes Batman #10 so remarkable and enticing. I must admit I initially found it a little hard to except this issues remarkable conclusion. There is still something about it that just doesn’t sit right with me. Perhaps its because I was left completely blindsided by the facts that have been in plain sight the whole time, Snyder has weaved an incredible story, one that felt like it had boiled up from beneath the very bowels of Gotham City itself, and I was left feeling a little cheated after the ominous secrets of The Court of Owls were then superseded by this twist in the story.

The Court of Owls has crawled into our consciousness just as it did Bruce Wayne’s, playing with everything we thought we knew, and then throwing it back in our faces. Snyder still has one more issue to wrap things up, but the legacy of this story will resonate for years to come – whatever the eventual outcome may hold. I am secretly hoping that Lincoln March has somehow been duped by The Court Of Owls into believing he is Thomas Wayne Jr, it will ensure The Court of Owls remains an elusive adversary from Gotham’s past, always watching and waiting for its chance to strike back, because the reality of Thomas and Martha Wayne abandoning their “hurt” child in an institution like Willowwood is really the most unthinkable act imaginable. The questions that still remain will no doubt be cleared up by Snyder next issue, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my doubts about reintroducing Thomas Wayne Jr into the New 52 continuity of Batman will prove to be unfounded.