Of the three recent Batman novels published by Titan, one is based upon a comic, one is a retelling of an animated series episode, and one is completely new and original. Batman: The Court of Owls is the latter, telling its own story that draws upon the events of Scott Snyder’s first story on Batman following the New 52 revamp.
One of the advantages that writer Greg Cox has here is that he’s able to draw upon the source material without having to feel shackled to it the way the writers of the other Batman novels are. For example, in Harley Quinn: Mad Love Pat Cadigan has a destination set out for her, having to build up to the events of the animated series; yet this is something that Cox can sidestep. He doesn’t have to incorporate the work of another writer, or shape his story to fit.
The result of this is a book that works in complete isolation as its own entry into the Batman mythos. Yes, it draws upon the events of the Snyder comics, acting in some way as a sequel to those events, but you don’t need to have read the comic to understand anything that happens.
Batman: The Court of Owls gives readers a mystery story, one that relies more on Batman in the role of the ‘World’s Greatest Detective’ than martial artist vigilante. When an art professor at Gotham University is killed Batman discovers that the mysterious Court of Owls, a group of wealthy and powerful people that have controlled the city from behind the scenes for generations, is behind the brutal slaying. Investigating into why an elderly scholar would become the target of deadly assassins Batman discovers an even bigger mystery, one that involves a missing young woman and her research into an artist and his muse from the turn of the last century.
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To say much about this central mystery would be unfair, as it’s a very well written story that deserved to go unspoiled, but it’s not what you expect. There were several moments throughout the book where you may imagine where the story is headed, but each time expectations are subverted. Unlike some mystery stories, which throw in twists that don’t quite work in order to surprise the reader, Batman: The Court of Owls is surprisingly consistent, with unexpected turns that work logically within the universe and don’t draw you out of the narrative.
Whilst the story centres on the mystery of the missing student, and explores the history of both Gotham and the Court of Owls, it also contains a lot of action. Utilising the deadly and highly trained Talons, the Court is able to dispatch foes that test Batman to his limit. In the comics these assassins were augmented by chemicals that meant their wounds healed almost instantly, and even allowed the Court to revive Talons from centuries past to fight for them once again. The Talon within this book is close to unstoppable thanks to these advances, which means that Batman has to fight harder, and dirtier, that we’re used to seeing.
With a central mystery that explores the history of Gotham, an adversary that pushes Batman and his allies to the limits, and a story that moves at a brisk pace and packs in dynamic action Batman: The Court of Owls is a faithful follow-up to the comics that still stands on its own as a fantastic adventure.
Batman: The Court of Owls is now available to buy.