“It was the owl that shrieked, that fatal bellman.”  So says Shakespeare in the second act of Macbeth, reflecting the belief of his time that owls were heralds of death and to hear one booting on the roof was to know that someone in the house would soon perish.  Gotham City has little in common with Elizabethan England, but rather more similarities with the imagined Scotland of Shakespeare’s cursed play.  Murderous treachery abounds among the elites of Gotham, and it doesn’t take much effort to envisage Lady Macbeth ensconced in one of Wayne Manor’s neighboring mansions.  For that matter, who would be surprised to find the three witches of the Scottish play living amidst the trash of the Narrows?  Most of all, Macbeth and Batman share a sense of darkness in broad daylight, of creeping unease just below the surface of all events and interactions.

The Court of Owls was, under Scott Snyder’s pen, the embodiment of that unease, the ironic but powerful presence of lethal privilege waiting to strike from the shadows.  In Robin War 2, Tom King turns them into much more than that.  First, however, he deals with the confrontation between the Talons of the Court, led by Damian Wayne, and the small army of Robins together with the armored Batman.  At first, it does not go well for the Robins.  Damian displays skills undreamed of in rapidly defeating both Tim Drake and Jason Todd.  It is only when Duke Thomas reminds him of his identity, calling him back to the mantle of Robin, the Damian switches sides.  It seems that he joined the Owls because they threatened to destroy Gotham, along with a currently amnesiac Bruce Wayne.

Damian’s choice is echoed in the confrontation between Dick Grayson and Lincoln March.  March reveals that he regained favor with the Owls by contriving a plan whereby the Gray Son could be returned to Gotham.  All of the events of the Robin War have led to this moment, where March explains that the Owl mask the Court provided to Damian was laced with explosive nanites that have now sunk into the boy’s skin.  If Grayson does not join the Owls, Damian will die.  The Gray Son complies, and puts on the mask of the Owls, revealed now not to be a Gotham-based court, but a world-spanning Parliament.

If there is a major weakness in Robin War 2 it is in the art.  The book boasts almost as many artists as it does Robins, and the constantly shifting styles create a choppy, uncomfortable situation where the narrative can never really develop a smooth flow.




The ROBIN WAR saga, like many crossovers, tries to accomplish too much.  It means to explore the roots and meaning of the Robin identity, and frankly fails, despite the constant repetition of "I am Robin" and "I am not Robin."  It does, however, do a much better job of exploring specific relationships. The mirroring of Damian and Dick, both willing to sacrifice their identities to save whom and what they love, is very effective. So is the establishment of Duke Thomas as a character triangulating between them. Duke has recognised the true identities of both heroes, and his grounded modesty serves to anchor the more flamboyant characters, while the hints of respect between him and Grayson, and actual friendship between him and Damian, provide a basis for a continuing three-way relationship. Finally, the new status of Dick Grayson hints of major developments in the DCU, developments that may be all the more important as signs accumulate of major strategic shifts by DC in the wake of a rather poor year. Perhaps these daring young heroes are just what the flagging company needs.