Batman by Scott Snyder Vol 1: The Court of Owls

Of all of DC's titles, there can't be one of more consistent quality than Batman. So strong it is that it supports multiple spin-offs, for several of Batman's supporting cast, such as Nightwing, Batgirl, as well as its own sister title Detective Comics.

Grant Morrison, Dennis O'Neil, Paul Dini, all of them made their mark on the Dark Knight Detective. In the so-called New 52, when DC de-aged their universe and rolled back the clock on some of their heroes and some of their own stories, it was Scott Snyder's turn with Greg Capullo, previously of Spawn fame.

The first time I read the first issue, I actually didn't get it. It didn't ring true for me how optimistic Snyder's Batman was, how he enjoyed his job of taking out the criminal trash of Gotham City. But c'mon, dude sticks a bat under the sole of his boot. He wants you to know it was him that kicked you in the face. How can you not enjoy that.

So join me as I explore Snyder and company's take on Batman. Starting with...

Batman Volume 1: The Court of Owls
by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and Jonathan Glapion

I was much more stingy in 2011 when they introduced the New 52. I was in college, with plenty of time on my hands but not so much cash. It was easy for me to be picky, and that made me refuse this title after the first issue.

What a mistake! Just when you think you know Gotham City, Snyder makes it feel brand new. He gives Bruce Wayne the lofty goal of revitalizing the city's infrastructure and making it a city of tomorrow. Bruce Wayne is a character, Batman is a character, and Gotham City is a character. With the narration that Snyder gives Bruce, you can feel the history and the love that Bruce feels for the city he grew up in. It's apparent in Issue 2 (I think it's issue 2), when the assassin comes to murder Bruce on the top of Wayne Tower. He's already explained to you the 12 "guardian statues" on the tower, as he and the assassin are falling from the height of the tower and trying to survive...
When, for the grace of his family and the hidden intimacy he has with the tower, he survives the fall where the Owl assassin meets his (apparent) death. Not only is this world-building, but it's character-building, dealing double duty for just the second issue in.

Reading Snyder's Batman is like peeling an onion....there are layers to the story that you thought you knew, when instead they reveal to you the actual truth. For example, when Bruce saw the bat through his window and decided to become a bat... that same bat on that same night got caught by an owl and was later devoured as a meal! The story is almost holographic...look at in one way and you see one story. Look at it another way and it's a whole different story. These issues are about Bruce Wayne's fight to claim his story, and his city. Or has he already lost to the 400 year-old court of owls, the cadre of elite Gothamists that have been planning his demise from the very start?

For the way every issue reads as its own story, I bet these would have read splendidly as single issues. There's so much content in each issue with palpable depth, taking the time to slow down is really worth it with this book. But I was disappointed to see the last issue hang on a cliff. Why even collect these issues together then? Why not collect the first 12 rather than the first 6? The Owls storyline was collected in full in the collection The Court of Owls Saga, so you would be better off reading that, or Vols. 1 and 2 together.

Highlights:

The court of Owls employs a "Talon," a highly-trained assassin with a convoluted method of reanimation from death. When Dick Grayson's DNA shows up on one of the Talon's targets, Nightwing tells Batman his alibi...

And Batman doesn't need to hear it from Nightwing. Because he already checked it himself. This is the Batman I know, the man who checks all his facts and covers every angle, even those against the people closest to him. The man does not discriminate.

Appreciation must be given to the art team...just look at all these broken windows man...


And lastly, check out this clever frame, after Batman's taken the mask of the Talon into the Batcave for analysis.

The frame gives the dialogue through the eyes of the Talon...how creepy is that! Even when the Talon is dead, the Court is still watching you!

China Trip Pt 2: Food and the rest

I went to China and now I'm blogging about it! Catch up here:

Pt 1: Flight and the Great Wall
Pt 2: Food and the rest

It's an interesting experience being a Chinese-American and coming to China. We had a tour guide in Beijing, and in his words, it was our roots. For my parents, they were home. For myself, I look like everyone else, but I can't exactly speak like everyone else. I lost that at some point when I began my childhood education and stopped speaking Chinese at home. In Beijing, they speak Mandarin, and in Taishan, they speak a dialect of it (Taishanese). My basic knowledge of the language meant I could only go so far as telling other people in their language, that I couldn't speak their language. Gestures are also very useful.

Tourism is universal, so after our Great Wall hike and lunch, we went to Beijing for a show: "Golden Mask Dynasty." This show is notable for using gallons of water as a part of the show, and it was a delight to watch. As the water rushes in, you can feel the cool air on your face. And later, the water is used as a pond on the very same stage.


The next day, we went to the Forbidden City, notable for its political history and tourists, followed up by a different temple, and then Peking Duck for dinner. That was actually my first experience with Peking Duck, but for the uninformed, it is a form of roast duck, sliced into bite size. You're meant to combine it with other toppings such as chopped onions and hoisin sauce and put it all in a lettuce wrap to eat -- pretty delish.


After this, we took a flight to Taishan, my parents' hometown. We paid respects at the old villages of both of my parents, and did more, you guessed it, eating.


The roast pig is one of the most decadent items you can have in Chinese cuisine. It is often an offering for your ancestors, and it is shared with the ones making the offer as a communal food. The crispy skin combined with the juicy meat makes for a delicious combination.

After we ate our fill, we finally returned home. My wife and I left early, but everyone else continued on to Hong Kong. For another day, HK.

Everybody comes from different backgrounds, and regardless of where you are from, travel widens your view and helps you learn about yourself. I had a great time, and someday hope to do it again.

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Endgame Prep

Behold, mere mortals, the God of Thunder:

Stare into his eyes, and stare into the fury of mother nature herself.

Look away, but only if you dare.

This is but one of the twenty-four (24!) possible Happy Meal toys for Avengers: Endgame. I watched the movie on opening weekend with friends, and in preparation, I watched Infinity War and some other movies. Particularly, the last two Captain America movies, Winter Soldier and Civil War. These two stand out as some of my favorite marvel movies from the last era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The relationship between Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes is one of my favorites in the comics, and on my re-reading of it, I never realized that they interact so little with each other.

It's not their interaction that makes the comics compelling. It's their non-interaction, their longing for their friend that makes it such a good comic and makes us want to read more. As the reader we yearn to see their relationship, because and that yearning makes us flip the page. It's comic book angst at its finest.

It's long-form storytelling at its finest, but because of that you would need a great deal of patience to read anything individually. The best way to read this is by binging.

To catch yourself up, read about Ed Brubaker's first 25 issues of Captain America in the omnibus. Then I'll follow up with the next few issues.

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