Review: Batman – Night of Owls part 2 (Catwoman #9 and Birds of Prey #9)

I’ve been telling my brain that I’ll get to my “Night of Owls” reviews for the last two weeks. If I could just stop needing sleep, then everything would fall into place. So, in this review I am going to do reviews of both Catwoman and Birds of Prey, and give shortened reviews of the Night of Owls comics that were released two weeks ago: Batwing #9 and Detective #9.

Then, hopefully today or tomorrow, I’m going to review Nightwing #9 and Red Hood and the Outlaws #9, and give shortened reviews of the Night of Owls comics that were released last week: Batman #9, Batman & Robin #9, and Batgirl #9.

And finally next week, we can wrap up the Night of Owls titles (outside of Scott Snyder’s Batman) with Batman The Dark Knight #9, All Star Western #9, and Batman Annual #1.

So, let’s read two comics that I have not read since last August, making both of these Dropped in the Middle Reviews, Birds of Prey and Catwoman.

Birds of Prey #9: Gangland Style

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artist: Travel Foreman
Release Date: 05/17/2012
Cover Price: $2.99
Review: Digital Copy (From Comixology)

Since I last read Birds of Prey, the team of Black Canary and Starling has added Batgirl, Poison Ivy, and Katana to their roster.

Synopsis

  • Canary and Katana confront a Talon, Henry Ballard, in the park after he has attacked several people including Poison Ivy.
  • After being unable to stop the Talon, Starling hits him with the car.
  • When Starling goes to check on the body, the Talon attacks her, bringing Canary and Katana closer.
  • Batgirl comes to save the day, and the girls lead the Talon to a refrigerated train car.
  • Poison Ivy returns and pulls the Talon into the refrigerated train car, temporarily sacrificing herself, but telling them to save her after the Talon is frozen

Analysis

There just isn’t that much to like here in this comic. I found it to be rather boring and generally poorly constructed.

First off, you have five superhero females who barely are able to take out one of the Talons, where Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Catwoman, and Batwing are all able to do so by themselves. I get that maybe you want to be realistic and say that the male can take out 1-2 females, but it took all five to accomplish the task. And even so, they had to resort to sacrificing one of them in a freezer car to get the job done.

Second, I did not read Birds of Prey #8, so maybe there is information that I’m missing. But according to this, Canary gets a call on her cellphone from Batgirl about the Night of the Owls, and she and Katana find the tatters of Poison Ivy’s costume, and then they just run into the Talon in the park where he has killed several dozens of people. Huh?

And Starling has to be the most annoying character in the DC Universe today. Basically the team has decided she’s going to be just like every wisecracking junior super-hero character, but find boys cute. She seems to have no skills whatsoever and has really terrible lines.

Supposedly Canary and Katana are experienced martial artists, and yet both run directly at The Talon showing no signs of fighting discipline at all. From Starling, I expect this behavior, but not these two.

Travel Foreman’s artwork is pretty good here, but it certainly seemed like he went out of his way to show off the curves of the girls as often as he could. Not so much that it is insulting, but there were enough shots of the girls’ backsides and bending in a certain way to show off curves.

Finally, this story did little to advance the Night of Owls storyline. The Court of Owls agenda was not further revealed. The only thing we learn about the Talon is his name and that he is from 1842. And, there is no hint or suggestion that the events of this comic will have any impact on the other issues.

Verdict

There are many comics that make you wish that you had enough money to purchase them, and then there are comics that make you wonder about the purpose of the title in general. This comic should be an excellent opportunity to bring in new readers to Birds of Prey, but there was nothing here that makes me want to read more about these characters. They all seemed very weak and not very interesting. And the tie-in to the Night of Owls was so weak, that it made the title’s participation seem highly unnecessary.

Overall Grade: 2.0 (Just generally boring)

Catwoman #9: Mirrors Come In All Sizes

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Guillem March
Release Date: 05/17/2012
Cover Price: $2.99
Review: Digital Copy (From Comixology)

Catwoman is a title that I have never really read, so other than knowing who she generally is (or was in the old DCU), I’m going into this title pretty cold.

Synopsis

  • In 1665, a Talon named Ephraim Newhouse kills his target but is seen by British soldiers and loses his blade. He is put to sleep in disgrace.
  • In present day, Catwoman and her assistant, Spark, are casing Penguin’s club, apparently trying to steal the Talon’s blade.
  • The Court of Owls revives Ephraim and sends him after Penguin to kill him. During the hit, he notices that Penguin has his Talon blade.
  • Catwoman and Spark see that Penguin is outmatched and swoop in to battle the Talon and save Penguin.
  • During the fight, Catwoman offers to return all of the Talon’s blades to him. As he agrees, Penguin uses his umbrella gun and blasts the Talon’s head off.
  • Catwoman wraps Eprhaim’s body in a sheet with the blades and leaves him by the Bat Signal.

Questions and Answers

Q: In 1665, the quarry of Ephraim Newhouse looks vaguely like Penguin, so is this a member of the Cobblepot household?

Q: It seems like some of the Talons are held in servitude due to honor, and others for other reasons?

Analysis

This was actually pretty good. This was what I call, “Just a comic book” good. Meaning, sometimes you just want a single issue of a comic book that introduces a conflict, and where the heroes are able to resolve that conflict before the 22 pages are complete, and do so in a perfectly satisfying way. That was this.

It’s a pleasure to pick up a comic book, and know exactly what’s going on without having to do a Wikipedia search or make guesses. I was able to pick up that Spark is Catwoman’s assistant, and that there is no current sexual tension between them. Catwoman has four talon blades and is looking for the fifth to complete her collection. And Catwoman opens up (to us the readers) that she has been damaged by choices that others have made for her in the past.

And I loved the scene on the rooftop where Spark is talking to Catwoman and she is just saying “Yeah” to him as she’s mulling over the possibilities in her head, almost already regretting what she’s about to do. The creative team captured that she is listening, but she has 100 other things on her mind, and is weighing her decisions. It was a very well done scene.

The artist, Guillem March, is able to portray Catwoman as both bad-ass and damsel in the same comic book. Sometimes the images don’t work together, as in one scene she seems all leathery, hard, and ready to fight, and other times she is wide-eyed, eyelashes batting, and expressive lipstick lips. It’s an interesting tool to show both sides of the coin. I think there could be more transition between the two, but that’s a personal preference, as I think it works in this book.

I don’t know Catwoman’s origins in the DCnU, and am barely familiar with them in the post-Crisis DCU, but this issue gave her a real sense of honor and compassion for the Talon. And, while there was a feminine touch to the sense of honor, I can’t say that it was an overly feminine reaction. Catwoman is a dominant sexual character, and the sense of honor and compassion should not interfere with her need to be in control.

Analysis

As I wrote, this was a pretty good issue here. I wouldn’t say it’s enough to pull me in on a weekly basis, but definitely one of the better Judd Winick comic books that I have read. Effective storytelling, good pacing, solid artwork, and a tie in with an overall story. Works for me

Overall Grade: 7.5 (A Pleasant Surprise)

Quick Reviews

These are my quick reviews of the Court of Owls titles that were published on May 03, 2012.

Batwing #9 by Judd Winick and Marcus To

I hadn’t read Batwing since the first issue, and it continues to be a good comic book. I think it is one of the strongest Batman titles being published right now (behind Batman, Nightwing, Batgirl, and maybe Batwoman). This tie-in really showed its strengths. David Zavimbe is a very strong character and is very distinctive in his role as Batwing. I found the story of the Talon, Alexander Staunton, was pretty compelling. And I think that this tied in with the overall Night of Owls Story fairly well. The pencils were really well done as well. I worry about David Zavimbe falling into the trap of being an “Angry Young Minority” stereotype, but regardless this was good. Batwing is a title I would definitely read, if it wasn’t a casualty of my comic book budget.

Overall Grade: 7.5 (Quite Good)

Detective Comics #9 by Tony Daniel

I had dropped Detective Comics a few months back, as I wasn’t enjoying it too much, but this was much better. The story is told from Jeremiah Arkham’s perspective, and that makes it more compelling. Putting Dr. Arkham in a position where he feels that he has true control over Arkham Asylum and can use the residents as he sees fit is a nice take for the comic book. I loved the idea of the inmates facing off against the Talons, and major kudos to Tony Daniel’s pencils for making Talons who are different in size and stature. The main problem with this book is that it was published before Batman #9, but the story follows the events of that book. But that is not the fault of the comic book itself. And the backup story about Two-Face was very good as well.

Overall Grade: 8.0 (Title has gotten much better)

Overall Crossover Verdict

Neither Birds of Prey nor Catwoman really added anything significant to the Night of Owls crossover storyline. Yes, both titles were significantly impacted by the events, but they could just as easily been skipped and we would not have lost any Night of Owls story implications.

If we’re counting the two titles from May 3rd, then at least the story of Amadeus Arkham seems to be of greater import. And I would even say that the events of Night of Owls might have significant impact on the stories in Detective Comics as well. As for Batwing, the story was very good, and it’s nice to see that they are portraying Batwing as being extremely competent, but I don’t think there was much impact either direction.

Overall Grade: 7.0

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