Two things bring me to this issue of Batman: The Dark Knight. The first is the Night of the Owls event, and the other is an actual writer like Judd Winick writing the book. Unsurprisingly, this turns out to be a combination that works as Batman: The Dark Knight’s tie-in stands as one of the best of Night of the Owls.
If I haven’t already made it clear, DC’s tendency to put artists in the role of writers frustrates me. I think it speaks toward a general disrespect for writers at the company, which may explain why so many writers choose to work for Marvel or stay creator-owned over working for DC mainstream line of comics. Sure. some artist do end up proving they have some skill for writing. But honestly, not even those artists are usually at the level of a good, experienced writer. This is the category I originally put David Finch in when he started writing this book. He impressed me by showing some real talent for writing. I thought he certainly did a better job than Tony Daniel. However when comparing him to other writers, I still found him lacking and ultimately stopped reading this series.
What I’m finding with the Night of the Owls tie-ins is that the best ones make the most use out of the Talons. It’s best when the Talons are fleshed out and relevant to the book they appear in. When that isn’t the case, it makes for a basically insignificant and forgettable action story. Fortunately, this issue makes good use of its Talon. In fact, the Talon is the star.
This is probably the Talon that readers have most wondered about. Who was the most recent Talon? Who was that Talon that Dick Grayson was supposed to replaced, and who was the Talon active when Batman first came on the scene? This is that Talon.
Alton Carver was the last Talon and one of those to serve in the role the longest. Winick tells the story of how age and the rise of Batman in Gotham City led to his fall and retirement. Carver is the very same Talon seen in the latest issue of Batman killing Lincoln March, and Winick retells that scene from Carver’s perspective. It’s the story of a Talon who was retired past his prime and at a point where he had lost touch with his sense of purpose and self. After years of cold storage, he faces off against the man he blames for that fall. It’s kind of a twisted story of someone regaining their self-esteem. That person just happens to be a murderous assassin.
I like this idea that Batman struck a blow against the Court of Owls in his early days without even realizing it. Believing that this Talon, who he encountered only once and briefly, was just another masked killer to him isn’t really a stretch. From Batman’s perspective, he just stopped a murder and chased off the strangely dressed killer, whom he never saw again. Little did he know that he just ended the reign of one of the longest serving Talons and the man Dick Grayson was originally meant to inherit a mantle from. It’s an idea I really like, and Winick executes it well.
A problem I do have here is really a problem I’m having with the Talons in general, and that’s in relation to Haly’s Circus. I don’t like how much the circus is being characterized as an assassin factory for the Court of Owls. I like the idea of this deep, dark secret existing with it being used as a training ground for Talons, but I think the idea is being overplayed. Does pretty much every Talon have to come from Haly’s Circus? Does the circus really have to seem so completely complicit in these horrors? It pushes the whole idea from a dirty secret to something that just defines the whole circus. It goes from tainting the circus to being what the circus is all about. That’s less effective as an interesting story, and I wish writers would show a little more restraint abuot it. Mix it up a little and show more Talons that come from elsewhere. Give us some scenes or indications of how the Court of Owls secretly pressured the circus to hand over the occasional child. Don’t show me that the ringmaster was some crazily brutal trainer of Talons.
Also, the cover is a huge lie. Red Robin isn’t a factor in this issue at all. He does show up, but it’s in one panel along with Nightwing and Robin. That’s it. He doesn’t even speak a line. This will be disappointing to Tim Drake fans who come expecting this to show his role in Night of the Owls. Though given how the New 52 has gone for the character so far, I expect Tim Drake fans have become used to disappointment.
To be honest, I’ve never seen what the big deal is about David Finch’s art. Oh, I enjoy it for the most part and think it’s good. But that hasn’t been to the extent that I’ve understood his quick rise to superstar status. It is nice to see how his handling of faces and expressions have improved. That used to be a serious weakness to his art. There are still moments where that’s still apparent, but there is definite improvement. There’s also a bit of a consistency problem here with the quality of his work. The aforementioned panel where Tim Drake shows up with the other Robins really isn’t very good. It looks rushed and not up to the level of other pages. He doesn’t seem comfortable drawing Tim either, so it may be for the best that the character barely shows up.
For those picking and choosing which Night of the Owls tie-ins to read, Batman: The Dark Knight should go on that reading list. Alton Carver is one of the more notable Talons, probably the most notable alongside William Cobb. It seems like he is also the Talon we are most likely to see more from. Besides that, this is just a well done Night of the Owls tie-ins that gives us a nicely fleshed out Talon to read about.
A good issue from a book written by a writer and drawn by an artist. Who’d have guessed? Maybe DC should try it more often.