Batman #10
Batman #10
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Scott Snyder, Backup by Scott Snyder & James Tynion
Penciller: Greg Capullo, Backup by Rafael Albuquerque

The Court of Owls is given a face. And while the reveal most definitely feels earned, foreshadowed throughout the Court of Owls storyline, I think it's the kind of twist that will be very polarizing among fans. But an issue does not rise and fall on a single moment alone (contrary to what the internet may have you believe), so before making any judgments on said moment, I will say this was yet another riveting chapter in Snyder's Batman saga.

The issue opens with Bruce hot on the trail of the Court of Owls using the information he was given by Lincoln March last issue. After proving to the Court that they aren't the only ones who know how to hit you where you live, he tracks them to secret meeting place, and begins to unravel a series of threads that leads him into a confrontation with an individual who will come to serve as a face for all the madness Bruce has been through during this storyline.

Snyder's opening pages once again reveal the writer's mastery of developing mood and blending horror with the super hero genre. One of the things Snyder will be most fondly remembered for is the fleshing out of Gotham City and the elevation of the setting to full supporting character status. We return to several locations mentioned or previously visited this issue and are treated to more lessons about the history of Gotham and its architecture. Ten issues in and such diatribes would have become snooze inducing in the hands of another writer, but under Snyder they are welcome enrichments to the Bat mythos, and some of the best writing in mainstream super hero comics.

Now on to the controversial bit. The second half of this issue falls a little flat for me, but not for the reason that many will take umbrage with it. Yes, the reveal of who the mastermind behind much of Bruce's suffering is a major game changer for the bat mythos and it is a trope reminiscent of some of the most outlandish, melodramatic, and eye-roll inducing practitioners of genre fiction. It's a particular device that is just so far fetched that is has been reduced to parody, but it's almost been parodied so much that for it to be used here, actually kinda works for me, because it's the one thing you never expected due to the fact that it was just so expected. I actually had more of an issue with the device by which Snyder segued into several pages of exposition,(really, it's that good of a net?). And while the dialogue is well crafted, the exchange between Bruce and his opponent did feel a little stiff and cliched, more-so even than the reveal.

To those who argue that the antagonist's identity was one straw too many on a disbelief suspension camel, let me say two things. First, this new wrinkle in bat history, and the character's connection to owls is not completely without precedent. If you're interested, leave a comment and I'll let it get all spoiler-y down there (I'm gonna get one of you guys"┬Žsomeday). Second, the way the Court was able to so thoroughly rattle Bruce was by challenging those things that make him so effective as Batman, his ability to be one step ahead of the game, to be prepared for every eventuality, to know himself and his city inside and out. This could simply being the Court undermining his confidence and control once again, and because this is how they oppose, we can never be sure just how much is truth and how much is lie. It's actually kind of a brilliant intrinsic out that doesn't really diminish the boldness of what Snyder is doing.

Greg Capullo is quickly becoming one of my all time favorite Bat artists. He draws Bruce in a way that is both muscular and lithe, exactly how the character should look, breaking your jaw one second and disappearing into the shadows the next. Batman in costume and posing in the shadows is reminiscent of the Timm/Dini animated series, and as any bat fan will tell you, that is the highest of praises. Much like Snyder, Capullo should be given credit with the expansion of Gotham's significance in the Bat stories. His visual design of the city is dark and magnificent, haunting and beautiful.

The backup story is nice, but if it wasn't for Rafeal Albuqurque's gorgeous art, I don't think I would be very interested in it. Still it helps to fill in the gaps, and an extra few pages does help to cushion the blow of the $4 price tag. Additionally it seems Snyder is using these additional bat projects as a proving ground to elevate the profiles of writers he admires, and if Kyle Higgins is any litmus test to go by, I'm all for it.

This issue is definitely a game changer, but remember, we still have one more to go before the end of this storyline, I think it's best to reserve final judgment until then. On the whole I will say this was another great issue from Snyder and company further making the case that Snyder will be considered one of the true great bat scribes of the modern era. I'm just grateful that we have at least another big story to look forward to from this exceptional creative team following the Court of Owls.

Grade B+

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