Written by Scott Snyder with art by Greg Capullo
I should warn readers that there are spoilers in this post, but frankly if you have been reading Batman since the New 52 relaunch you’ve no doubt read this issue.
If you haven’t been reading, you’ve probably read the spoiler and developed a reaction to the news… this post is actually for those people.
Often this kind of thing gets ‘leaked’ and explodes across the ‘net out of context and receives reactions based not on the work itself but on the news item itself.
The Human Torch is dead! Green Lantern is gay! and Spider-Man is now half black/half Latino! (for example) mean absolutely nothing out of context. These ideas do not exist in a vacuum, they are part of an ongoing story and if you haven’t been investing the time and money to keep up, you’re just not going to get it. If you have been reading, you’ll probably have seen this kind of thing coming a mile away.
In the case of Batman #10, this is one massive shocker of an adventure that has played out in several books, all culminating into a series of stunning revelations changing the status quot of Batman and his world.
To begin with, there exists in Gotham City a mythical Court of Owls that is so deadly that they are only known by nursery rhymes by the general population. After his parents were murdered, young Bruce Wayne investigated their real existence and came up with nothing. One of his ancestors, Alan Wayne, who was found ranting in the streets that the Court of Owls was real and watching them all.
As the wily crew at ComicVine.com pointed out, this idea was not born out of thin air. It’s roots are in the pages of Batman comics several decades old in which Batman discovers that he not only has a brother, but that Thomas Wayne Jr. is an insane killer. Grant Morrison was renowned for reviving ideas from Batman’s past, but frankly they felt far too much to me like attempts to appear clever. Doctor Hurt claiming to be evil devil-worshiping Thomas Wayne who faked his death, etc, was just… odd (even if it was a lie to confuse the dark detective), especially given the topsy-turvy narrative style.
In the case of Batman #10, the revelation is built into the narrative and a large part of the emotional storyline. Lincoln March is introduced early on in the series, appears eerily similar to Bruce Wayne (financially well-off, well-built, dark haired) and is clearly important for some reason… but Snyder leaves it unclear what the reason is. March is running for the position of Mayor, but is a clean and positive politician with an optimistic vision of Gotham City’s future.
As Batman explores the world of the Court of Owls and becomes enveloped in the race to protect the various assassination attempts hatched by the Court’s Talons, March is included as one of the many targets. Bruce visits March while he is recuperating and learns that they have more in common, both are orphans. March paints a tragic image for Bruce, including details that haunt Batman as he further investigates the Court of Owls.
Throughout the course of the story, Batman discovers that not only is the Court of Owls very real, but they are part of the history of Gotham City, a brotherhood that has shaped the people and various industries to the city of today. All of this has been going on in ‘Batman’s City’ for generations and he never knew, partly because their existence would put a neat cap on the death of his parents. Thomas and Martha Wayne could have been eliminated by the Court of Owls as they were philanthropists who refused to tow the party line or play nice with other members of high society.
It is revealed that Dick Grayson was chosen to be a Talon and marked by the Court of Owls, but his tutelage under Batman changed all of that. The Talons are nearly immortal killers that date back to the formation of Gotham City itself, and through mysterious means they are nearly immortal.
The multi-title event has consisted mainly of races across Gotham City to stop the Talons from killing their targets. The chase ends with Batman finding the entire Court of Owls already dead.
Even though Alfred tries to assure Batman that he has won the fight… Bruce knows that he has missed something important. March attached importance to a particular heart-shaped pin that was found by his mother’s body after the car crash that took her from him… the same pin that Bruce can clearly see worn by his departed mother in the family portrait. Only after connecting details from March’s tragic history does Bruce theorize that he is being emotionally manipulated. March is connected to the Court of Owls. A man that Bruce Wayne shares so much in common with, who appears on the surface to be a man of noble character, is actually none of these things. He is a cold-blooded killer.
Given all of the above, throwing another big reveal into this story isn’t all that unusual. Even so, Batman himself refuses to believe the facts that have been staring him in the face all along. March isn’t just a member of the Court of Owls, he has taken them over. Not only that… he and Bruce share so many details for a good reason… they’re brothers.
Owlman, a dark and twisted version of Batman from a parallel reality, was initially Thomas Wayne Jr., the same character exposed as a madman by Deadman many years ago. That Thomas Wayne Jr. suffered after effects from a car accident that Martha Wayne survived, after effects that drove him to Willowwood Asylum. It is this same asylum that Batman tracks March to in the pages of the latest issue of the series, where he and March square off as equals.
The new Batman series has been very violent, very upsetting and intense, but at the same time intelligent. It is also helped by the astonishing artwork by Greg Capullo. While it may not be ‘new reader friendly’ as DC’s New 52 line was intended, it is one of the better runs of Batman I have read in ages, since the last time Snyder helmed the book, in fact.
So if you do stumble upon the latest ‘shocking’ revelation in Batman, you may want to catch up on the series by reading the recently released collection by Snyder and Capulo before you cast judgement.