As written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Greg Capullo, Batman is a model of consistency, that is to say, it’s good. Consistency, however, is mechanical, repetitive, uniform and ubiquitous – present, but lacking presence, lacking style. In many ways, being ‘Batman’ means ‘just showing up,’ being present – that’s what it means to be an icon and to be tagged as a franchise – it’s the difference between just being Batman and becoming the ‘Dark Knight.' Batman #5 saw Snyder and Capullo spin a consistently good story into something more, call it turning consistency into constancy. Before I am undone by my own equivocation, constancy is about faith, about going beyond, believing in the unseen and the unknown. Constancy is the difference between the assassin and the warrior who lives by a code. Snyder and Capullo are not merely out to shine a light into the darker corners of Gotham … they mean to steal fire from the gods.
It would make for good barroom banter to say that Snyder is in a league by himself. I’m sure there are those contrarians that would champion different (deserving) writers, but give credit where credit is due; Scott Snyder deserves all the praise he receives for his work. ‘The Court of Owls’ storyline is a ‘long con’ attempting to alter what ‘being Batman’ means to Batman himself; it’s perception all the way down … ambitious to say the least. From issue to issue, Snyder turns the screws tighter and tighter endeavoring to suspend disbelief that this Batman is fallible, beatable, but this is Batman; and Batman transcends.
With the cracked visage of Alan Wayne staring him in the face, Batman says enough is enough and erupts into something atavistic and ancestral … complete with fangs. As much as Snyder is the prime mover on Batman, Greg Capullo has all the fun. Pause. Is there another of the New 52 title that has had maintained the same creative team throughout? O.K. Once Batman shakes off the Court – and its creepiest, littlest owls – Capullo choreographs a fight scene that sees Batman’s size and shape change from panel to panel, from hulking bruiser to battered wraith to something in between. For all its full-throttled badassery, I was left wondering who the fangs were for; who or is it whose (pun intended) perception is on view here?Gotham, as it turns out, isn’t big enough for both Batman and Talon. Guess who wins. Their final faceoff finds the two titans in fierce combat above a faux Gotham City of pasteboard parapets and spires cut to scale. Talon crumples to the floor, a deconstructed baddie – an arts and crafts project, if you will. No worries, there are apparently more where he came from. Thanks to a refined palate (for river water) and a bit of Bat-ingenuity, our hero escapes; or does he? Snyder leaves us with a de-fanged dark knight, still trapped and haunted by his perception and what he cannot see past.
Before he exits the court, Batman hammers home his favorite mantra to his captors, ‘I know this city, down to its foundation.’ For six issues, Snyder, like a Marine Corps drill instructor, has been breaking Batman down, mentally and physically. At what point is Snyder going to take the razed Batman and rebuild? For Batman, transcendence remains inconstant. For Snyder and Capullo, the 'Court of Owls' story arc is more than about showing up each month, it’s about becoming the ‘constant’ by which all others will be judged.