By: Scott Snyder (writer), Greg Capullo (pencils), Jonathan Glapion (inks), FCO Plascencia (colors), Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt (letters), Katie Kubert (assistant editor) & Mike Marts (editor)

The Story: Batman closes in on the Court of Owls

A few things (with SPOILERS): 1). Big reveal at the end! – Remember when internet trolls were all complaining that Greg Capullo made this Gotham politician, Lincoln March, look too much like Bruce Wayne?  Remember that?  “He only seems to know how to draw one face!  What a hack!  Go back and draw some more Spawn!”  Well…now we know why.  Turns out Lincoln is Bruce’s long-lost brother!  That’s an interesting choice and I’m of two-minds about it.  On one hand, I do enjoy Snyder just going for it and reminding us that this is the New 52; this isn’t the Batman we’ve been reading for years.  I also like the contrast between Lincoln and Bruce.  We’ve always thought that poor Bruce Wayne had the worst childhood.  I mean, Bruce’s parents were gunned down in front of him and it so warped him that he turned into this creature of vengeance called The Batman.  Well, Bruce had a pretty cushy life compared to his brother who was DUMPED by his parents into an institution for screwed up little children where he was recruited by the Wayne’s worst enemies.  Basically, similar Daddy-issues to what made Bruce into Batman have turned his brother into Owlman (who has always been a wonderful mirror universe version of Batman).  I think Snyder can have a lot of fun with this.

But it still felt like a retcon to me.  I know that this is the “New 52” and this is a new Batman, so I had no reason to expect that his origins and family history would be the same, but it still felt a little wrong.  In actuality, this sort of story will work because of the talent of the creators.  Snyder and Capullo make it work because they’re so talented and they make it work in spite of “our” instincts that scream, “Nooooo–Bruce doesn’t have a stinking brother!!!  And he wasn’t raised by Alfred’s father either!!!”.  The problems will crop up when lesser creators try to make this same story work.  Good luck with that DC!  It’s like Snyder and Capullo have bought themselves permanent job security.

2). Nice to see Batman on the offensive. – The best superhero stories are the ones where the hero gets some sort of convincing beatdown whether it be physical or psychological, gathers himself…and then brings the pain on the bad guys.  That’s kinda what this issue is.  Now, it has some wrinkles such as the bulk of the Court of Owls dying before Bruce can get there.  Still, Bruce definitely has them on the run and he’s shattered a lot of their infrastructure in Gotham.  The final battle with Owlman doesn’t really matter than much; Owlman will be a new nemesis of Batman, so don’t expect Batman to fully defeat him.

3). The art continues to be nuts. – This issue didn’t give us a lot of opportunities to gasp in awe at the way Capullo draws action, but when you take that away you can appreciate some of the little stuff.  Take the old lady in the opening scene and that panel where the elevator doors are opening to show her.  She’s wearing a fur-fringed coat, but the way the fur fringe is falling across her chest….it looks just like owl wings.  Then on the next page, Capullo shows her hand and it looks like an owl talon.  It’s amazing how he gets these effects because there’s nothing outwardly obvious about why this hand looks like a talon.  I guess the pinky finger and the thumb are a little too long….maybe that’s the visual cue???  Still, it is very important to have this owl-ish sense about this lady because Batman is yelling at her.  WITH these visual cues, Batman is yelling at a nasty old woman from the Court of Owls.  WITHOUT these cues, Batman is just screaming at an old woman.  One action is heroic and the other is not.  Other examples of Capullo’s skill abound: the detailed rooms, the creepy owl masks, etc.

Conclusion: Another great issue.  Not sure how this twist on the Wayne family will play out in the future though.  Of course, there’s always a chance that Snyder is pulling our chain.

Grade: A-

– Dean Stell