Notice I’m not calling this a review? That’s because I just cannot find the energy to write a full-on, proper review. I’ve also been trying really hard to not write any negative articles for the site – but after reading the issue a few times and then seeing CBR’s absurdly vague 4 1/2 star corporate ball-licking “review” that didn’t even attempt to mention the story telling, I just couldn’t help it. I felt compelled to rant a bit.
So, please, allow me to level with you right off the bat so that you may either stop reading and/or start writing your hate mail: I think Scott Snyder has successfully completed the worst “big event” Batman story that I have ever read.
The Black Mirror arc from Detective Comics was okay – it started strong but soon enough I found it simply devolved into a mess of clichés and ended with a stuttering whimper; an implausible amount of plot holes barely taking the attention away from the absurd deus ex machina ending. I really wanted to enjoy the work he was doing, there were some great moments and the novelty of having Dick under the cowl was a breath of fresh air – but looking back on it now, in context and as a whole, complete work, I can really see the flaws that I overlooked the first time through.
However, hindsight is 20/20 and the above realization didn’t hit me until my re-reading of the story, just a few months ago, by this time I was about half way through Snyder’s current arc on the New 52 Batman book. The re-reading of Black Mirror was prompted by deja vu; the feeling that the exact same thing was happening with Batman, it started strong but as it marched along I became more and more weary of its lack of focus, its arbitrary plotting and Snyder’s fetish for hammering redundant and trite allegory into the fucking ground. We get it – owls are bats’ natural predators, jesus tap-dancing christ, get on with the story – the story that had me grasping at straws to justify to myself why it was so boring, why it was so damned reliant on decompression and as much as a ridiculous concept as Batman in general is, and as much as I love “goofy” Batman, why I was forced to suspend my disbelief so goddamned much to accept the plot.
Consider the main thrust of the story: there has been a HUGELY POWERFUL AND ANCIENT secret society running Gotham since before Bruce’s birth that is, ostensibly, in complete control of every aspect of its sociopolitical structure, yet for some reason, they never once lifted a finger the whole time Batman has been tromping around ‘their’ city, re-shaping it in his own image. Batman is a character that has genius level deductive and observational skills; a paranoiac savant with billions of dollars in disposable income who builds bunkers, safe houses, fortresses, etc. all over town – a character who is so familiar with his city that he knew he could grab onto a gargoyle at a certain point while free falling from a building to save himself – yet he is oblivious to the ancient society that not only builds mazes the size of small towns, but also builds their own hideouts INSIDE OF BRUCE’S OWN BUILDINGS. Jeebus, the contradictory characterization and the slipshod internal reality of this story is daunting! And that’s just the broad strokes of the first few issues! I’ll not even delve into the absolutely ridiculous things that happen between issues #3 and our current issue #11, suffice it to say, one day I’d love to do an annotation for this arc, MST3K style, and point out how ridiculous it all is and how little sense it makes when closely read.
But allow me to get to the point of this whole post: issue #11 – “The Epic Finale of The Court of Owls”, as the cover proclaims. Let me just do this quick, like ripping off a band-aid; this issue was terrible. Absolutely terrible. From the opening fight scene filled with ridiculous dialog and inconceivable action, to the cliché, lazy bullshit ending.
I will refrain from going into detail, as I said, this isn’t a review (more an evisceration!). Instead I just want to point out a few things about the final confrontation that I think stand out as utterly laughable.
First of all, Bats is hanging onto the inside lip of a jet engine.Think about how fucking dumb that is. Do you know how fast airplanes go? Do you know the amount of velocity, the amount of suction created by a jet engine? Well, let me tell you: it is a fuck ton. This is of course supremely ridiculous in its own right – but it gets far more preposterous:
After he blows up his crazy “brother”, Batman magically climbs up onto the wing. Now, disregarding the idea that he is able to hold onto a jet engine without being sucked in, how in the holy hell are we supposed to buy that he suddenly climbs up onto the wing? Do you see how big that engine is? Do you see how far above him the wing is? How in the fuck did he climb up there? Gah! What nonsensical crap! And please don’t blame Capullo, this isn’t a problem with the spatial relations of the art being incorrect, if Snyder wrote this in the script then Capullo just drew it – he’s not going to make up a plane that has the turbines on top of the wings for fuck sakes!
Of course then Batman’s strength wanes; he is spent and cannot hold onto the wing of the speeding fucking jet any longer, so he loses his grip and begins to plummet to his doom.
Deus ex machina! Snyder’s favorite “plot device”! Yay! Explain this to me – who the fuck is Batman talking to? His suit? So he has an Iron Man suit now? He tells it to switch to the high velocity bat-rope and it what? Cycles through his utility belt and knows where to shoot it to grab onto the structure so Batman can rip both his arms out of their sockets since he is free-falling off of an airborne jet-liner? I know it is a comic book and I know Batman swings off the tops of buildings all the time and it is also implausible – but this is just insultingly implausible to me – there is absolutely no conceivable way anyone could read this and think “Ahhh, good thinking Batman! You’ve done it!” What. The. Fuck. This is playing out like fan fiction written by a five year old who has no idea how to spell the word physics, let alone understand the basic scientific concepts of it.
Anyway, let’s go ahead and move on because you know what? It gets worse! That’s right, the “brother” that Batman just blew the fuck up (who was, incidentally, floating right in front of the engine himself – so why wasn’t his exploding body sucked in, or at least hit by the plane that is flying through the goddamned air right in front of him?!?!?) is somehow waiting in that exact building, on the exact floor Bats crashes into. Also, he looks fine by the way, for being blown the fuck out of the sky just seconds ago that is…
I’m gobsmacked; this is so fucking stupid I feel like I’m being trolled here – like someone put in a ton of effort to print up a fake Batman book just to fuck with me. This is absolutely ridiculous in every way.
One last thing I want to harp on: what the fuck is Batman’s suit made of in this schizophrenic and capricious “New 52” universe?
I mean, I thought it was armor – I thought everyone wore armor now, even Superman. Batman was (presumably) talking to his suit just moments ago, telling it to switch up Bat-ropes and whatnot, so I’m assuming it is somewhat sophisticated… yet here, Lincoln is just picking him up by it as if it were common cloth, you couldn’t even do that with standard kevlar, let alone some crazy advanced superhero costume armor. It seems like a small detail – and it is – but I think it is an adroit indication of just how poorly thought out all the details in Snyder’s story have been. Nothing seems to quite fit, everything seems to slightly contradict something else and what isn’t a trope, a cliché or some oft-repeated, hackneyed metaphor seems to be completely arbitrary. Nothing is cohesive, everything is a confused jumble of half-ideas. This is the most ill-conceived “big” Batman story I have ever read, without a shadow of a doubt.
If it were not for the constant stream of high praise for this arc or the multitude of fanatical fans who never stop talking about how Snyder has composed the greatest Batman story ever written, then I’d probably be content to just simmer quietly and not write all of the above. However I just have to react and speak out – I feel the need to shout in disbelief that people are actually in agreement that this story was anything more than mediocre at best and a terrible waste of a year at worst. Fool me once, shame on you (Black Mirror), fool me twice (Court of Owls) shame on me. Yet, DC expects me to be excited that Snyder is going to devote his next arc to the Joker? Fuck that, I’m not falling for it. If this is the level of storytelling that Snyder not only thinks is acceptable, but in fact considers to be the peak of his abilities, then I can safely lump him into the ranks of Tony Daniel and everyone else that people love to shit all over for their lack of writing chops. Snyder is the king of writing issues with no real substance, yet still somehow fooling people into believing they contain a great deal of measured subtext and carefully planned minutia. If I didn’t read comic books and I just picked up this issue of Batman on a lark, I’d put it down and never pick up another one again; I’d dismiss it as what most non-comic readers assume comics are: a lower form of literature, a simple child’s diversion told by an adult.
This issue was a joke and the arc as a whole didn’t fare much better. Save for a few moments, a few scenes that contained some good ideas or dialog, the entirety of this story has been a total and complete failure – and the worst Batman story I’ve read in years.
Oh, hell’s bells, fine – this was a review.
Final Score 1 out of 5
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I started this arc with great anticipation, but the end really blows. The Owls seemed a good addition to the rogues gallery, but making Batman weak and break is Unimaginable. Never in the last 4 issues i thought that batman could be so weak.
I also agree with this stupidity, showing batman hanging on the plane. WTF.
Also i could never accept the brother part of the story. The brought back robin, his dad, and his non existent brother, so logic dictates next time they will bring back his MOM.
If they resurrect Martha, I swear to christ I’ll drop the book and never pick it back up.
Thank you for stopping in and having a read.
I agree with everything except for the plausability statement of the grapple gun/rope. It could certainly be used to get from building to building. The free falling thing, he was fat enough away that it didnt snatched him in, he slung in.
Ok, I’ll pile on, but my opinions differ slightly.
I agree that this issue felt really lame. It’s like the whole arc lost it’s way. On one hand, I love the idea of a court of owls. Equally secretive/powerful group that has been watching Bruce. But then this younger brother idea comes along. It reminded me of the most recent Dexter season – regarding Deb/Dex – totally out of left field and unnecessary. Wasn’t the court enough for this arc? Is each Snyder series going to involve a twist Shyamalan-style?
I guess ultimately it just trailed off into insanity. Everything was building and building and then, nothing, a quick fist fight that was only meaningful because of the potential blood line.
I still think Snyder is one of the best out there and love his work. I just hope the return of the joker is handled a little better. And the art is through the roof good – but I agree, bat suit shouldn’t look like cotton – I’m sure he’d argue it’s for the effect. Cape seems like the thing I’d grab on to.
Hey – thanks for the comments. I totally agree, in that the court itself is a great idea – I just didn’t see Snyder take it anywhere compelling – quite the opposite really.
This seems to be very common nowadays; the writers have great ideas but no intricacy, no finesse, no depth. They become slaves to set-pieces and then they kind of scramble to fill in the gaps. The big, broad stroke ideas are there in spades – there just isn’t any substantial intrigue or cohesion between them.
Thanks for reading.
Finally someone who agrees with me! I’m a Snyder fan, the Black Mirror was one of my favorite stories of the last few years. But this Court of Owls crap? Terrible. At least I think so but you go around the internets and its being hailed as one of the best batman stories ever. Really? Maybe if this is the only batman story you’ve ever read. Great write up, Matches. Exactly how I would have said it if I actually, uh, said things.
You just said something!
Thanks for reading, it is comforting to know I’m not the only one!
I really don’t understand why this arc is so universally lauded – it is painful to read some of the reviews out there.