Author: Dave Cox
Series: DC's Prose
Star Rating: 4
"Beware the Court of Owls, that watches all the time
Ruling Gotham from a shadowed perch, behind granite and lime
They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed
Speak not a whispered word about them, or they'll send the Talon for your head. "
According to old Gotham nursery rhymes, there exists a secret society called The Court of Owls. The Owls were thought to consist of the most influential and affluent of all the city. Their influence spans across political, legal, and business thresholds throughout the ages. Their trained assassins, called talons, carried out their mysterious plans, leaving no witnesses behind. Surely they knew Batman would eventually be on their tail?
I just want to take a moment to appreciate this absolutely stunning cover design. The dust jacket appears to have been painted. The minute details really have won me over. The inner flaps have also received intricate work, that really make this book stand out!
It's difficult for people to get invested in the story lines of superheros, because of the sheer number of comics and the difficulty in obtaining them. For new fans who have no idea where to start, comics are very intimidating. Thankfully, new Batman fans can resort to many movies, the 90's animated series, Adam West (I love this show, and I always will. Bring on the cheese!), some sub-par videos games, and some really fantastic ones (I'm looking at you Arkham Series!) For those who still want to read, the novel forms are great places to start. I really appreciate how accessible this book is to new fans, and this advantage should be noted.
Understandably, I was a tad hesitant before picking up this novel. Unlike the others in the DC's Prose series, it does not rewrite stories that preexisted in comics. In fact, it's an original novel that acts as a sequel to Batman's experiences with The Court of Owls from the comics. On top of this novelty, I simply couldn't see how Batman could be adequately portrayed through prose. He is by far my favorite superhero, and I would hate to see his character and related characters butchered in anyway. (Believe me, certain comic writers did that enough, ahem.)
I was pleasantly surprised with this one! My fears of this new format for Batman were relieved, though reading him in a novel did take some getting used to. Dave Cox has such a thorough understanding of who all the characters are, that the conversations and thought processes all seemed perfectly natural and true-to-character. The prose allowed the author to more intimately introduce one-time side characters in a way that the comics sometimes failed to do. I felt far more connected to these characters than I typically would. When reading comics, though enjoyable, I find that I feel like an outsider who is merely seeing the actions at surface-level. Reading a novel puts me into the minds and shoes of the characters more deeply, and it's easier to get sucked in and feel like I'm really there. I absolutely LOVED the ability to experience Batman this way, but the comics will always be the method that feels right.
My absolute favorite thing about this story was all of the new background knowledge of Gotham we receive. The story not on follows Batman, but often jumps back to follow an artist and his model in 1918. The importance of art and history to the mystery surrounding The Court of Owls is a major part of what makes this story so captivating for me. I love nothing more than watching two seemingly disconnected finally, impossibly, become one. It's beautifully done.
Did I mention this story revolves around a SECRET SOCIETY?! How are you not interested yet? Will it help if I remind you that this society, according to the comics, knows Batman's true identity! Yeah, the stakes are pretty high.
I will warn you though, you will not be finding a story as thoroughly action-packed as most of the comics may have made you accustomed to. Because Batman must tread so carefully here, and you know, the society is a secret, the story pays more attention to the detective part of Batman's persona. I found that the book read very similarly to a Lincoln Rhymes novel. Unlike traditional detectives, Batman is typically far ahead of the plot than the readers or even the villains are. To protect the build-up of the plot because of this, Batman often thinks of his realizations in very vague manners. ("I hope this doesn't mean what I think it means..." "I can't tell Gordan what I think yet...") This was in hopes of keeping the reader on the edge of their seat. This was a tad frustrating at times, because I've come accustomed to mysteries keeping me in the loop. It didn't ruin the story or pacing, however; Batman has always been mysterious like that. He has been called The World's Greatest Detective for a reason. This novel just helps support that title.
If action is your thing, and the detective-heavy plot scares you, have no fear! The author still delivers fantastic action scenes. These scenes are all extremely high stakes and well-developed. As the assassins have the ability to regenerate, Batman gets the excuse to be far less restrained than he typically is. Us readers get to experience the full array of Batman's cunning and might in this one!
I truly enjoyed Batman: The Court of Owls! If you are a superhero fan, or have been looking to pick up something new, I highly recommend this one!