Two years ago DC Comics did a major reboot of its entire superhero comic book line. Called the New 52, every comic book started fresh from issue number one and many heroes, like Firestorm, received major make-overs. Others, like Batman and Superman, had tweaks to bring them into a more modern age.
For instance, Batman sports black and grey armor with a cowl, cape and utility belt. Gone is the “underpants on the outside” look.
At the time of the reboot, Batman and Superman have been active for about five to six years. The Justice League formed about five years ago.
Some comics explored the early years — Action Comics looked at Superman’s early battles and The Justice League depicted an updated origin story (against Darkseid) and then skipped ahead five years.
As for Batman, right from the start, DC Comics launched a huge saga pitting the Batman against a cartel of Gotham City’s power elite called The Court of Owls, and their enforcers, the Talons.
While the “reboot” may throw what we know about Batman’s history into some doubt, his personality is very much the same. Batman owns Gotham City and rules its night. Thus, writer Scott Snyder can launch into a very personal contest between Batman and the Court of Owls over who owns Gotham City.
The saga is so large, it’s been collected into three volumes with spillover into other titles. So you may ask, how should I read this tale?
The Court of Owls Saga:
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Batman: The Court of Owls
Nightwing: Traps and Trapezes
Batman: Night of the Owls
(All-Star Western 9, Batman 8-9, Batman Annual 1, Batman: The Dark Knight 9, Batman: Detective Comics 9, Batgirl 9, Batwing 9, Birds of Prey 9, Nightwing 8-9, Batman and Robin 9, Catwoman 9, Red Hood and the Outlaws 9)
Batman: City of Owls
(Batman 8-12 and Annual 1)
What is the best way to read them? Start with Batman: The Court of Owls, read Nightwing: Traps and Trapezes, then Batman: Night of the Owls except for the last story (It’s titled “The Fall of the House of Wayne” and opens with Jarvis Pennyworth writing a last letter to his son Alfred — you’ll find it reprinted in its proper order in Batman: City of Owls). Then move on to Batman: City of Owls.
Another title that has close ties to “The Court of Owls” saga, is All-Star Western, which takes place in the 1880s and stars Jonah Hex and a reluctant Dr. Amadeus Arkham.
In the first volume, All Star Western: Guns and Gotham, Jonah Hex comes to Gotham, a city that he hates, looking for a bounty. What he finds is the fledgling Religion of Crime organization (seen in the pages of Batwoman) and, in the last story of the collection, a child kidnapper with ties to the Court of Owls.
In the second volume, All Star Western: The War of Lords and Owls, Jonah and Dr. Arkham chase the kidnapper to New Orleans and encounter a Talon — the Court of Owls assassin. Although part of this story is incorporated in Batman: Night of the Owls, it starts in the middle of the adventure, minutes before the Talon attacks and most of the back story is glossed over.
“The Court of Owls” Saga is well worth your time to read and it sets up one of the most powerful Joker stories I’ve ever read: “The Death of the Family”.