January 21, 2013

Book review: "New 52 Batman: The City of Owls," by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

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Batman New 52: The Court of Owls

New 52 Batman: The Court of Owls
New 52 Batman: The City of Owls
By Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
DC Comics

So what led me recently to reading a monthly superhero comic book again for literally the first time in decades? Two simultaneous events, really: first, I mentioned here recently how I've decided to read all 300 issues of DC Vertigo's legendary Hellblazer that got made before its "cancellation," although it's not really being cancelled but rather just "rebooted," that in fact the entire shared DC Universe recently got completely set back to zero by the company, both in an attempt to simplify their titles' byzantine continuance problems and in an attempt to drum up a little publicity, which has also had me wondering lately what some of these post-reboot "New 52" titles are actually like; and right at the same time, I heard a fascinating and entertaining interview with one of these New 52 authors, Batman's Scott Snyder, on Kevin Smith's surprisingly riveting "Fatman on Batman" podcast, which got me really curious to specifically read the Batman stories that have come out since the reboot. And so I picked up the two graphic novels comprising the first 12-issue story arc, The Court of Owls and The City of Owls, which were...well, pretty much exactly what I was expecting -- good for what they are, but ultimately designed to primarily appeal to teenage boys, exactly as superhero comics have done since they were invented. So as such, then, most adult readers will find this grand conspiracy story (in which it's revealed that a secret society has actually ruled Gotham since its beginning, right under the nose of Batman without him ever having a clue, which takes him most of these twelve issues to process) to pack as much punch as a well-done YA novel, but not really enough to satisfy most grown-ups. And I have to confess, that's kind of refreshing, in the same kind of way it's been recently as well to realize that my friend's nine-year-old sons are obsessed with Star Wars: The Clone Wars in a way that my middle-aged brain will never understand; that after several decades where adults' and children's artistic choices were unhealthily mingled into this giant communal man-child pop-culture stew, it's nice to see things starting to go back to the way they've always been before Generation X, where we as a culture clearly understand that stories about laser guns and masked crime fighters are supposed to appeal primarily to teenagers and younger. I'm not saying a grown-up can't guiltily enjoy a superhero story now and again, just that I'm glad to check in with these monthly comics for the first time in a long time and see that they're back to being primarily geared towards the "whizz-bang-crash" crowd; and that combined with the flabbergasting increase in quality, regarding both production and drawing style, makes these New 52 Batmans a real winner for parents who want to pick up something smart and lively for their preteen sons, on par with the rebooted Doctor Who in terms of both intelligence and legitimate scares but undeniably made with kids in mind.

Out of 10: 8.5, or 9.5 for teenage boys

Filed by Jason Pettus at 3:30 PM, January 21, 2013. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |