By: James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder (story), Guillem March (art), Tomev Morey (colors)
The Story: The Court of Owls should consider putting this runaway’s face on a milk carton.
The Review: I must say, it surprises me Snyder has promoted his former pupil as obviously as he has this past year. To me, this reeks of a kind of cronyism, and it just doesn’t seem like the best way to let someone stand on their own merits if you’re constantly hovering over their shoulder, even as a name on a co-credit. It also doesn’t help if your mentee doesn’t demonstrate outstanding talent; Tynion didn’t make the best first impression on me with Batman Annual #1.
Still, getting such lavish support of Snyder is no easy feat, I assume, so let’s sit ourselves down and try to figure out how Tynion earned it. From the first page, you notice right off both the teacher and student share a literary penchant for heavy narration. While Snyder has an instinct for balancing showing versus telling, Tynion leans quite a bit more on the telling. Calvin Rose’s monologues dominate the issue, suffocating whole panels with text.
It’d be one thing if all this wordiness made strides in connecting you to this new character’s history and personality, but Tynion proves a bit stingy in both categories. What we get is a Cliff’s Notes run-through of Calvin’s life: from his (of course) traumatic childhood to his acceptance in Haly’s Circus to his recruitment by the Court of Owls, etc. But relationships never get a chance to develop—or even be seen, as in the case of the escape artist who mentored him and Mr. Haly himself. Tynion tells us what’s going on, but we get little to observe directly.
Calvin also doesn’t exude much in the way of personality, even though you hear his voice throughout the issue. Because he recalls the past from a later point in his life, there’s a clear distance in his emotional connection to the events. We’re supposed to be fascinated with the fact that Calvin of all Talons managed to retain his humanity, but it’s not as if we see him actively resisting the Court’s brainwashing or anything. Instead, his freedom seems like a fluke, rather than any special quality on our leading man’s part.
Perhaps Tynion’s making the case that Calvin’s nature as an escape artist keeps him free from even mental bounds. I’d be down with that explanation, although then it portrays Calvin more as a symbol (a la Grant Morrison’s Mister Miracle) than a living, breathing character. Then again, Tynion’s obviously very big on symbols and themes; almost every page sports some brooding spiel about being “trapped” and need to “escape” and “run away.” It’s a bit repetitive, honestly, which only makes it easier to ignore.
I don’t have much direct experience with March except for his (in)famously oversexualized depictions of women on Gotham City Sirens and the current Catwoman. Perhaps all that time drawing the ladies has given him this ability to make Talon appear both masculine in build, but sensitive in spirit. This, more than anything in the script, is what allows Calvin to reach that balance between strength and vulnerability in the issue. March also is one of the few artists who goes big enough in his figures to stand out against the plethora of text boxes Tynion burdens him with.
Conclusion: A simple and straightforward premise that doesn’t quite convince you this new character merits a whole ongoing all to himself.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – At one point, we’ve got to stop tolerating the innocent casualties that get killed whenever the Court targets Calvin, right?
– The Court can’t be all that smart. If they know they’re dealing with a master escape artist, why in the world would they try to trap him before killing him off? Just kill him off!