Review: Batman – Night of Owls part 4 (Batman: The Dark Knight #9 and All Star Western #9)
by RJ Schwabe on May 26, 2012

Despite my diligent following of the Batman titles for the Night of Owls cross-over, I’m not a huge Batman fan. It’s more that I’m a decent Batman fan and have really been enjoying the Owls story arc in the Batman comic book, but also that it makes a good writing topic. But, I don’t read every Batman title under the sun.

This is actually the first issue of Batman: The Dark Knight that I’ve ever read. When the new DCnU launched, I limited myself to 26 of the 52 titles, and this one missed the cut, mostly because after Batman and Detective Comics, I wasn’t sure what the title had to offer.

I read the first story arc of All Star Western, which I mostly liked but didn’t love. The $3.99 price tag started to put me off, and then I really felt that the story was one that would work much better in a graphic novel form than single issues. So, I reluctantly dropped it from my monthly reading.

So the Night of Owls Crossover gives me a good opportunity to visit and rediscover both titles, let’s see if it is worth it.

(Editor’s interlude: Robert’s been reviewing ALL of the Night of Owls books. His part one review can be found here, with part two here and part three here.).

Batman: The Dark Knight #9: I Can No Longer Be Broken

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: David Finch
Release Date: 05/23/2012
Cover Price: $2.99
Review: Digital Copy (From Comixology)

Well, we all know what has been happening in the Night of Owls books. 1 But apparently, a creative change is about to take place in BTDK, as David Finch is handing over writing duties of the title to the writer of Penguin: Pain and Prejudice, Gregg Hurwitz. That change happens next month, but in the meantime, we have this issue written by Judd Winick. Onward!

Synopsis

  • Alton Carver is a performer for Haly’s Circus, and the ringmaster trains him to become a Talon by removing his fear of death.
  • Carver last many years as a Talon, but he starts to get sloppy. The Council of Owls informs him that his replacement has been found.
  • He goes to Haly’s Circus and sees Dick Grayson performing, knowing that this is his potential replacement. Leaving the circus, he encounters the Batman and runs away after being seen. Both these events fill him with fear.
  • The Council sends him to sleep, and is awakened for the Night of Owls where he is sent to kill mayoral candidate Lincoln March.
  • Lincoln fights him off, but is murdered. Batman battles him, but Carver relearns how to overcome his fears. Carver plummets from a skyscraper, and escapes from Batman retreating to the sewers.

Analysis

It’s been a long time since I’ve read something like this. I’m serious now. Everyone gather your friends because a comic book like this does not come around very often. I’ve only seen this in certain crossover titles and annuals. It’s not necessarily a special thing, but it is rare.

This book is really well done and yet utterly pointless:

Judd Winick has written a really good story. Maybe one of the best stories I’ve ever read from Judd Winick. It is full of power and emotion. It is a compelling story of a man struggling against the inevitable.

However, the story doesn’t matter at all. As the events are irrelevant and the character is one we don’t care about, nor is there an indication that we one day soon this is a character whom we will care about. Alton Carver is one of 20-30 Talons from the Court of Owls. He has already been forgotten, as he was already defeated by Batman in an earlier title where he has now sped off to try and take out the rest of the Court of Owls. To the best of our knowledge as readers, there is no reason that we should expect to see Alton Carver again.

Think about the combination of events that would lead to something like this. You need a talented writer who is given a monthly issue to write a character piece about a character who has not been seen in comics before. 2 Then, you need a reason to devote a whole issue to a character who has never been seen before, which is a rare feat unto itself. Finally, it needs to create events that are not going to be referred to again in other books. As Winick is not the writer of Batman: The Dark Knight, he won’t be using the character in the book, and neither will the oncoming writer.

Don’t get me wrong, the character of Alton Carver was very interesting, and as he slunk away to fight another day in the final pages of the comic book, there’s always a chance that Winick or another writer may have an opportunity to write about him again. But in May of 2012, there’s no indication that it will happen.

My guess is that Judd Winick was brought in to write this title at the last minute because David Finch was falling behind in his art duties for the title. The evidence for this is in the cover, which depicts Red Robin fighting one of the Talons, which is action that does not take place in the comic book. This is a pet peeve for every long time comic fan. As such, I think the cover was accurate for the story that was going to be written, but got bumped due to scheduling. It’s just my theory.

Verdict

I honestly don’t know how to grade this issue. It gave background for a character which required none, in my opinion, but it did so extremely well. If Winick had done this for a villain who I cared about, then I would grade this even more favorably.

Overall Grade: 8.0 (a great writing and plotting effort)    

All Star Western #9: Vengeance in the Big City

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Artist: Moritat
Release Date: 05/16/2012
Cover Price: $3.99
Review: Digital Copy (From Comixology)

All Star Western has been the story of an unlikely partnership between Amadeus Arkham and Jonah Hex in 19th Century DCnU. But I have not read the previous 3-4 issues. This is a tie-in to the Night of Owls crossover, but I have no idea what background information we are going to learn in this issue.

Synopsis

Main Story:

  • In New Orleans, Hex and Arkham are captured and are being taken in a boat.
  • But this is a diversion to allow the New Orleans vigilantes, Nighthawk and Cinnamon, to get the drop on the members of August 7.
  • Hex and Arkham come to help save the day and take down the New Orleans terrorists.
  • On the other side of New Orleans, a man from Gotham City is running from a female Talon. The Talon kills the man, but Hex shoots at it chasing it off.
  • Back in Gotham City, a woman interrupts a socialite poker game, but is thrown out by someone in a cape and she lands near Jonah Hex who has returned.

Backup Story:

  • Tells the story of Nighthawk and Cinnamon who were chasing down the thugs working for Mister Robinson in New Orleans.
  • After the thugs tell Robinson of the events, he goes to his house with his thugs, but the house is blown up. The thugs run off.
  • Cinnamon confronts the man who killed her father, as Nighthawk tells him how they are going to turn him in. Robinson tries to attack Nighthawk, but Cinnamon kills him.

Analysis

Okay, the review for this book is simple. It’s a good book for people who were already reading All Star Western, but for all of the others it’s not worth the price.

I believe the last issue I read of the series was issue #4, so while it was a return to the familiar with the partnership between Arkham and Jonah Hex continuing, there was too much water over the bridge in those 4 issues for me to adequately follow the plot of this title.

Additionally, this title has always had a nice Indy-comics feel to its artwork. It’s very likeable, but it is not something that you can easily dive into. There were several pages, where I was unable to tell if a male character was or was not Jonah Hex. And it’s not like Jonah doesn’t have some really distinguishing features. So, for a lapsed reader, the ‘less than crisp’ artwork was a detriment here. However, I must freely admit that the first four issues of this comic book had similarly styled artwork, and in those cases I enjoyed it much more.

Plus, to make this as a major title in the Night of Owls crossover was not a great idea, as there is nothing in this issue that has specifically to do with the night that all of the Talons were revived for an attack on Gotham City. And the bit that does tie in is a 4 page interlude with confusing artwork that seems to have nothing to do with the story. More that it was shoehorned in.

The backup story is excellent. It is written by Palmitotti and Gray, but it is drawn by Patrick Scherberger. The art works much better than that of Moritat. I like Moritat’s style, but it is very muted and is difficult for a book where the characters are not as familiar. Scherberger’s Nighthawk and Cinnamon pop out of the page, and I really like that style for this book.

Review

For me, when you have an inaccessible comic book that’s part of an overall crossover arc, you need to be accessible. So, this comic book is going to get low marks from me, but that doesn’t make it a bad comic book. But if you aren’t reading All Star Western or aren’t a crossover completest, then it’s definitely one you can skip.

Overall Grade: 4.0 (Mediocre, but it’s trying)

Crossover Review

None of the titles really impacted the crossover story whatsoever. Generally, this crossover has been harmless and uneventful. It made logical sense to include all of these Batman books, but it made even more financial sense. Keeping this to just Batman, Batman and Robin, Detective, Batgirl, Nightwing, and Batman: TDK made the most sense, but if you’re going to do a crossover, then you might as well include as many titles as you can.

Crossover Grade: 7.5 (Solid work but slightly unnecessary)

Footnotes

1 – Or if not, you can read all about it in my previous Night of Owls recaps.

2 – Because, if we had seen the character before, we would care about the character. We might love the villain, hate the villain, or think that he’s not that interesting, but we would care in one sense. Or it would be an introduction to a character we would soon care about.

 



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