Batman is one of the most iconic DC superheroes to date. What draws fans to him are his high intelligence, formidable fighting skills, and the fact that he’s a regular guy in a suit choosing to fight alongside gods and meta-humans. However, another huge draw for fans is Batman’s rogue gallery, a list of villains who are complex, horrifying, and just downright cool. Some are more famous than others like the Joker and the Penguin. However, some have not been featured as much in other popular media, such as the court of owls.
Released by Titan Books, Batman: The Court of Owls attempts to showcase one of Batman’s biggest group of foes. Shrouded by mystery, and considered by most to be only a fairy tale, the court of owls have a strong hold over Gotham’s history as well as Batman’s.
Batman/Bruce Wayne – Batman is the main focus of the story due to his past run-in with the court. After being called to a crime scene involving someone being set on fire, he suspects more and more that they are behind these mysterious deaths.
Batgirl/Barbara Gordon – Barabara mostly helps Batman from the Clock Tower, a base of operations for the Bat-family. She serves as his researcher and becomes deeply involved with the history of Gotham as well as the court.
Nightwing/Dick Grayson – Nightwing is Batman’s side-kick who now operates as his own vigilante. Batman calls him in for back up as he needs someone he can trust to protect Claire Nesko, a target of the court.
Alfred Pennyworth – Batman’s trusted butler who also served as a father figure after his parents’ murder. He mostly gives guidance to Bruce as well as operates the Bat-Cave, Batman’s main base.
Vincent Wright – An acquaintance of Bruce’s who is part of Gotham’s upper class. He runs many pharmaceutical companies as well as clinics across Gotham. He has ties to the mystery Batman is trying to piece together.
Joanna Lee – A college student on the run from the court of owls. Her research into Vincent Wright’s family history has put a target on her back. Batman, having saved her once before, feels it is his duty to find her before the Talons do.
Claire Nesko – Joanna’s roommate who has been targeted by the court as someone who may be able to locate Joanna.
The Talons – Trained superhuman assassin’s hand-picked by the court of owls as children. There are many of them, and they are kept in suspended animation until they are needed.
Percy Wright – Vincent’s ancestor and a member of the court of owls. He hates his upper-class duties as well as anything having to do with the court. As an artist and scientist, he’d much rather spend his time with his beloved Lydia, a model he has been seeing behind his wife’s back. The mystery surrounding him and Lydia holds the key to the events happening in the present.
Lydia Doyle – A young art model who is in love with Percy. She is known in the present as “Miss Gotham” as many of the works of art, created by Percey, present through Gotham are of her likeness.
Margaret Wright – Percy’s wife who is also a member of the court of owls. She is vindictive and cold, only caring about moving up in the ranks of the court. She sees Percy only as a pawn and uses Lydia to push him to do as she wants.
Instead of being a retelling of the comic, as was the case in Titan Book’s Batman: The Killing Joke, Batman: The Court of Owls takes place within the Batman universe but as an original story. Batman has already had a run with the court prior to this book’s events, which took place during the Night of Owls comic book storyline. Due to these events, Batman successfully escaped the clutches of the owls as well as put several of the members behind bars.
Things begin with an investigation of a professor at Gotham University being burned to death. It appears to be spontaneous combustion, but the cause is unknown. As Batman dives deeper into the investigation, he has a run-in with a Talon, an assassin of the court. His suspicions confirmed, he and his team must find the court’s target and uncover their plans.
I found the story to be really refreshing and engaging. I hadn’t read the Night of the Owls comic but I am familiar with who they are due to their inclusion in the Gotham TV show and Batman VS Robin animated movie. They are one of Batman’s lesser-explored villains, but they are one of his deadliest. Throughout the book, Batman just barely lives through each fight with the Talon the court has doing their bidding. Very few villains are able to hold their own against him, which makes them both frightening and interesting at the same time.
I also liked how the author focused on both Batman and the original characters. In Batman: The Laughing Joke I felt as though the authors struggled to find a real balance, and in the end, a lot was left to be desired. In this book, however, I found Greg Cox was able to tell a compelling story without taking the focus away from Batman.
With so many characters featured in the story, it’s easy to struggle to feature all of them enough that they feel relevant to the story. However, Cox did a wonderful job focusing on them enough that we see actual growth. We slowly see Percy and Lydia’s tragic story play out and his slow progression into madness by the end. We get to witness Batman doubt his ability to stop the court, but ultimately finding the strength within to push through.
My only gripe is that I would have liked to have seen more progression from Nightwing and Batgirl. I understand they weren’t the focal point of the story, but I feel like there were other characters that didn’t need to be featured in a whole chapter only to have them die by the end of it. That time could have been better spent focusing on one of them, in my opinion.
Cox’s writing style was one that I found to be enjoyable. Although at times, I felt like he was a little heavy handed with the exposition, I think he balanced it nicely with engaging dialogue that felt like it actually mattered. As stated prior, there was an entire chapter dedicated to a character who ultimately died at the end of it. I felt like it didn’t really add anything to the story, and there were a few moments like that which could have been used to focus more on the actual plot. I just really wanted to know more about some of the characters, especially the one from the early 1900s.
The author also tells the story from two time periods. One is taking place in modern times while the other takes place starting in 1918. Flashbacks are hard to due in books because they can feel messy and disjointed, but I found that Cox did a good job balancing it out and making it work.
The book is 325 pages long, which makes it a bit on the short side. However, I found that the author did a good job filling those pages with effective content. As stated previously, the story left me wanting more, especially at the end. I felt like at that point it felt a bit rushed and I would have liked to have seen more of the character that is showcased at the end.
The book is left a bit open, maybe to nod back to the comics. Cox also did a great job weaving the events of the book to the existing universe. He referenced back to many of Gotham’s past events and villains, such as Poison Ivy, the Joker, and the Scarecrow. It wasn’t done so much that I felt like it was excessive, so it was a nice way to tie Cox’s version of Gotham in with the one seen in the comic.
Overall, I really enjoyed Batman: The Court of Owls. The story was interesting and engaging, the characters were fully realized, and it left me wanting more in the end. There were a few bumps along the way, but nothing major that took away from the overall experience. You can grab your copy of Batman: The Court of Owls from Titan Books.
If you’re interested in getting your own copy of Batman: The Court of Owls, you can pick it up directly from Titan Books’ website, that will direct you to a local retailer for your region!
Want to read more of our Titan Books reviews? Check out Batman: The Killing Joke here!