I went to the library again! Last week I read around 10 trade paperbacks, but most were so generic that I can’t even remember what they were, other than a Myspace Presents anthology that can only be described as “What if Flight had better talent but was somehow even worse“.
After that batch of nothing, I was informed that three of my reservations had come in. YEEEEAH! Comics I am curious about, but don’t have to pay for! I love the library.
So, here’s an even-quicker-than-planned (WordPress crashed and lost the first draft) review of One Month to Live, Batman: The Court of Owls and Wildstorm vs. DC: Dreamwar
BATMAN VOLUME 1: THE COURT OF OWLS by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion
Bad owls, bad owls, what you gonna do? What you gonna do when they hoot at you? You’re going to do what the story asks of you, I suppose, if you’re Batman.
I can feel my interest wane as I write this, so I do apologise. “Snyder might be the defining Batman writer of our generation” claims lad’s website Complex Magazine on the cover of this trade. I can only assume ‘our generation’ is the generation Fred Durst sings about, as this feels a lot like it’s for ‘edgy’ nu-metallers who think Fight Club has a coherent philosophy to live by.
I mean, I’m falling asleep just thinking about it. That could be due to this ludicrous Scottish weather (it’s really fucking warm), it could be my medication, it could be that I’ve not had enough coffee, but this comic has to take some of the repsonsibility.
I CAN’T go to sleep, though, or the OWLS might get me. OR I SHOULD go to sleep, so I’m awake at night and ready for the owls, the nocturnal bastards? I don’t know. Owls, y’know?
I lived on a farm for fucking YEARS, and there were a ton of owls. You know who is afraid of owls? No-one. Even the mice and the bats just found them sort of adorable.
In this Bat-comic, Scott Snyder introduces the idea that there’s a secret gang of people that dress as owls and assassinate people, and they’ve been there, hiding in Gotham, right under the noses of the citizens. Snyder even introduces a nursery rhyme that Gothamites all apparently know, making them scared of owls from an early age.
“Beware The Court of Owls, that watches all the time, ruling Gotham from a shadow perch, behind granite and lime. They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed, speak not a whispered word of them or they’ll send The Talon for your head.”
What a shit nursery rhyme.
So, yeah, owls. One of them shows up (it’s been hiding in a Wayne building for years, like owls do, I guess?) and starts harrassing Batman, and is obviously better at fighting than Batman for a while as he’s new and has to look tough, like Hush.
Owls, they are TERRIFYING, and not just cute at all with their big eyes, disgruntled eyebrows and tiny beaks.
There’s a secret Court of Owls (I thought the collective term was ‘parliament’?) under Gotham, and Batman discovers them, and he’s all frightened, and then he’s in a maze where he gets weak and poisony because the owls are trying to break his will because they’re owls or something, and this pretty much works as the story says it does and Batman is shit, I guess. Oh, and the owls live in coffins and can come back to life, just like real owls.
There’s a good bit where Batman punches an owl (sadly not a real owl, Seaguy/Seagull-style) and says “I AM SICK…TO DEATH…OF OWLS!” and I thought this was maybe Snyder being self-aware, but then I think there’s six more issues and a whole bat-crossover of Owl-balls still to come after this? And a comic dedicated to one of the owls?
Maybe the owl conspiracy ties in with Snyder’s hyperdull previous Bat-work ‘Gates of Gotham’, which was a turgid look at the origin story of some Gotham buildings? There’s certainly a lot of things written about the history of buildings in this owl comic, anyway. Is this how New Comics work? Snyder’s got architecture, Hickman’s got diagrams? THRILL-POPZ!!!
This comic, it’s for people that aren’t me. I’d like to say it’s for 13 year olds, but it’s probably for 36 year olds. 36 year olds that really enjoy boring things.
The art by Greg Capullo is quite nice, infinitely superior to his 90s Spawnfarlane art, as it’s a bit Tony Mooreish, but then there’s that awful ‘maze’ issue where the pages start being upside down and sideways (for no reason other than “wOwzZ tripPpyY”, and you turn the comic around and it’s like you’re holding open a centrefold like a seedy prick, which you may as well be doing as you look like a pervert (the bad kind) if you read superhero comics in public, anyway.
I like owls, but not the ones here, as you’re expected to take them seriously. Owlman, Batman’s pre-nu52 evil Earth 2 (cool phrasing, me) compatriot, his owl costume made him look like a dick, which was good as he was a dick, and it made his actions seem kind of absurd and odd. Nite Owl, in After Before Watchmen, his owl costume makes him look stupid, but then, superheroes do look stupid.
The owls in this, I don’t think they’re supposed to look stupid or ludicrous or dickish, I think they’re supposed to look badass and threatening?
Fucking owls. Stop ruining owls!
This, right, it’s a crossover between those fun-packed classic DC superheroes and those fun-free 90s Wildstorm ones. As expected, it’s all in the service of a boring “but heroes should be heroic!” plot, which is nicely subverted (a bit) by the fact it turns out the character who thinks these post-80s thoughts is never portrayed as anything other than an entitled nerd asshole. Times change, nerdlinger!
Despite the fact Wildstorm characters are completely terrible, I have a soft spot for them, mainly thanks to the writing of Warren Ellis, Alan Moore and Ed Brubaker (and of course Grant Morrison, in that one astonishingly great issue of Wildcats he wrote). This crossover is totally a Wildstorm comic more than a DC one, and that’s cool. It seems ‘in canon’ for the Wildstorm chumps, and it’s fun seeing their reactions to the DC characters. It’s also nice that Majestic eventually mentions he was part of the DC Universe for a while, but this sort of seems like Giffen just had that fact pointed out to him about halfway through.
It’s that kind of story! Feels inconsequential and tossed off. It’s a good laugh, though! I enjoyed it so much more than that hyper-worthy JLA/Avengers crossover that everyone loves, I guess because I have so much more affection for 90s bullshit than I do 70s bullshit? It’s not as full of ‘continuity porn’ as that comic, but there is still some disgusting part of me that enjoys the greasy thrills of Superman, Majestic and Apollo facing off against Doomsday.
Anyway, it turns out (SPOILERS) that the DC characters aren’t actually ‘real’ in this story, so it doesn’t matter when Zealot chops Batman’s fingers off. It does matter, however, when she seppukus right into his stupid owl-fighting body. Not because Batman dies, but because Zealot seems to be totally okay, no wounds or anything, despite having stabbed herself in the torso with a space-sword. It’s the art, I guess?
Ocht, this story’s got the art it deserves, namely mostly-competent 90s-influenced generic superhero stuff.
It’s hard to care about any of this, but it is easy to enjoy.
Having never heard of this comic in my life, I saw the cover and list of names attached to it, and though “fuck it, I’ll gamble a stamp/my precious time/brainspace”.
A lot of searches that lead people to this website recently have been along the lines of “Rick Remender racist”. A cursory internet search shows that people have problems with his dealing of racial politics, and as he’s a writer I like, I wanted to see for myself, and judge him accordingly, like a terrible old PC Policeman. This comic is partly-written by him, and judging by the cover thumbnail on the library website, it seemed to be about a black person. I’ll see his racial politics first-hand, I thought! Prepare to be annoyed, me!
Turns out it’s about a white businessman. He realises that being such makes him basically the worst kind of human on the planet, and then tries to do a good deed, which results in him having toxic waste poured down his throat. In proper comics fashion, this then gives him the superpower to move stuff about and convert matter and such with his brains, and he goes off to do this for the forces of good, even though it’s making his cancer worse.
That’s right! He’s got cancer! Some points are made about how nothing can be done about this, and that’s all sorts of bollocks, as it’s the Marvel Universe. But then, this is a Worthy Issue comic, and while that’s admirable, the Marvel universe is totally not the right place to do this one.
There’s some quite moving stuff in here about death and how it relates to your life and those of your loved ones, but that is trampled all over by the scenes where the main character has adventures with the Marvel Superheroes, who are just patronising pieces of shit throughout, though I gather this is not the intention.
Anyway, turns out the main character is a hero as he saves the Earth despite his cancer. What a champ! You too can be a hero with your cancer, if you go and save the universe.
I mean, fucking hell, just having cancer and dealing with it in ANY WAY AT ALL, even if that means choosing to ignore it, is a pretty impressive feat, you know? I don’t need the fucking endorsement of Mr. Fantastic in order to realise that people with terminal cancer are brave? And that whole ‘brave’ thing’s pretty patronising sometimes, too.
And don’t tell me no-one has a cure for cancer in the Marvel Universe! Ludicrous. They could’ve got Elixir from the X-Men on the phone, teleported him over, done a bit of healing? Can’t Angel bring people back to life due to absorbing a Life Seed or something? The Hand are always resurrecting people! Beast probably cures cancers six times a day just as a science exercise!
See, this is the problem with putting ‘real world’ problems up against the fantastic. It’s okay when it’s, like, things acting as metaphor and aw that, or when it’s something like Peter Parker needing a paycheck so he can take Mary Jane oot, but this is just kind of silly. This comic feels uncomfortably like those abysmal ‘Zane Whelan’ inserts about how cannabis is evil from the turn of the century. Remember them? Or when Dr. Doom cried because the Twin Towers fell?
There’s genuine, earnest intent to this comic, as explained by Steve Wacker in an editorial. Inspired by his aunt dying of cancer, he saw an opportunity to make a story about, as he says “a brutal, everyday reminder of just how minor you were and how boring your personal story was compared to a Norse God who can call down lightning” and how “one person — any person — can matter”.
And that’s cool and admirable, but this story isn’t about that. It’s about how a guy with superpowers is awesome, and how the Avengers treat him like a child because he’s got cancer.
The cancer storyline on its own is an interesting, moving one. I suspect nearly everyone’s lives have been affected by a loved one or acquantaince’s, or their own, experience with cancer. We don’t NEED the inclusion of superheroes to this to make us realise that people, dealing with terminal illness or not, are important.
That said, the story is okay, the beats are in the right places, the art is sometimes great (McKelvie and Nolan especially), and the comic’s got good intentions?
It’s hard to be mean about this. Maybe some people have been helped by this comic? I hope so. It’s just, y’know, no-one should need superheroes to tell them their life is worthwhile. I recognise positive role models are important, and comics have these, and also sometimes reading a story that relates to your life can make all the difference, but will there be anyone reading this thinking “I didn’t realise my cancer meant I was still worthwhile as a person until this generic white guy got arbitrary superpowers and suddenly became of interest to The Fantastic Four!”?
I’m off to punch some owls.