Author: John Bierly
November 17, 2011
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SYNOPSIS: Bruce Wayne is back in the cowl, hunting a new and deadly killer in Gotham City – a killer with a vendetta against Bruce Wayne! But who is this mysterious killer in an owl skull mask? And is he the key to unlocking one of Gotham's oldest and most terrifying secrets? Be there for their first brutal encounter!

“Two days ago, an assassin dressed like an owl tried to kill me while I was meeting with a local politician.” - The Batman

Why do I love this line so wonderfully crafted by the indomitable Scott Snyder? Because Bruce Wayne says it when he’s Batman about something that happened to Bruce rather than speaking of Mr. Wayne as some kind of separate entity he’s ashamed of. It’s a depiction that strikes a mighty chord in me -- this is a man who’s entirely at peace with each of his personas and missions to the point that the lines are beginning to blur more than ever before in healthy, heroic ways. No angst to be found. Just focus and the fidelity of identity.

But that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten how to be the living nightmare of the superstitious and cowardly. After a 1922 prologue that adds a chilling layer to the mystery of how Gotham’s latest challenge relates directly to the Wayne family, we visit the subway, where Batman explains to us in scholarly detail the methods and modus operandi of a Ukrainian mob gang, giving special attention to a unique feature of their appearance that he immediately turns against them in one of the simplest and most absolutely brutal ownings of his entire caped crusading career. Let’s just say the words “CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG” have never left you smiling as much as you’ll be smiling upon seeing them here.

Epic doses of history, heart, and thought permeate a big conversation between Alfred and Bruce before Bruce does some detective work of his own by visiting mayoral candidate Lincoln March at the hospital. March warns Bruce yet again that something bigger than Bruce has set its sights on Gotham’s most public figure.

But is the threat bigger than Batman?

Of course not…

Or maybe it is.

Batman soars over the city on his old YEAR ONE glider, and that image in itself is interesting to me for several reasons. Why use the glider when he’s got all kinds of aircraft that would make the ghost of Ben Rich blush? Part of me thinks he’s just getting back to basics a bit since reaffirming his mission in the wake of “Batman Incorporated.”

But maybe there’s more to it than that. Maybe he’s subconsciously feeling the need to reconnect with a city he’s beginning to realize he may not know as completely and as deeply as he thinks he does. Maybe there’s nothing to it; maybe Snyder and artist Greg Capullo just thought it would be cool to show him using the glider. But these deeper wonderings are what happen when you’re reading something written by Snyder, and I love the guy for that.

Speaking of Capullo, as awesome as all the previous art in this issue had been (especially the “Ukrainians-0, Batman-47” takedown in the first few pages), the panels culminating in this issue’s titanic cliffhanger are wickedly inspired. As Batman sneaks into various Owl hideouts around town, Capullo establishes each location through sort of an “Owl’s eye view” that tells the audience Batman is being watched even though he doesn’t know it himself. It’s a smart, simple technique that ratchets up the suspense – not to mention the incredible (and incredibly creepy) detail that Capullo reveals in each of the secret lairs.

Much must also be said of how Jonathan Glapion’s inks always arrive in the proper amounts, whether they’re highlighting the details of Capullo’s big, brawny pencils or giving us shadows blacker and murkier than midnight. FCO’s colors also come courtesy of a smartly informed palette, from the blue buzz of Batcave computer screens to the bright daylight of Bruce’s hospital visit to the nests that house the Owl’s most dangerous treasures.

This is it. This is why I buy comics.

And DC, if you’re not doing everything you can to keep Snyder on this character forever, you should be. – John Bierly


John Bierly still can't believe he
gets to write for BOF.
Check out JOHNBIERLY.COM to read about the other things he writes about.

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