Batman: Night of the Owls

DC Comics

$29.99, color, 360 pages

Writers and Artists: Various

Reprinting in print or whole All-Star Western #9, Batgirl #9, Batman #8-9, Batman and Robin #9, Batman Annual #1, Batman: The Dark Knight #9, Batwing #9, Birds of Prey #9, Detective Comics #9, Nightwing #8-9 and Red Hood and the Outlaws #9

This collection is for completists, and even as a completist, I found it a hard slog.

As all Bat-fans know, Scott Snyder's initial story arc in the New 52 Batman title was "The Court of Owls," collected in a previous hardback. I read and enjoyed that immensely, and was looking forward to the rest of the story. And I was aware of the outlines of that story, that after the events in "Court of Owls" that the Court would unleash all of their undead Talon warriors on Gotham in an event known as "Night of the Owls" that would take place in a great variety of titles, followed by several issues of Batman in which the Court's story is wrapped up (which presumably will appear in Batman Vol. 2).

Since I don't read or collect most of the titles where "Night of the Owls" takes place, I figured I was destined to miss those stories, unless DC collected them all -- which, to my delight, they did. But, despite my enthusiasm, I was pretty disappointed.

Arguably my enjoyment of "Court of Owls" set the bar too high. But this disjointed, schizophrenic collection would have disappointed me in any case.

Maybe that's to be expected, since Night of the Owls collects stories not just from the vaguely related Bat-titles, but also from books with only the slimmest of Bat-connection, like All-Star Western (Jonah Hex, in 1880s Gotham) and Teen Titans (with Red Robin). Further, related issues are separated -- there are stories separating Batman #8 from Batman #9, and Nightwing #8 from Nightwing #9, where story logic and common sense would dictate that those stories be placed back to back.

Also, someone made an effort to excise non-Owls material from the various books, which makes sense, except when it butchers the stories so badly they suffer for it. Such is the case with the first story, the one from All-Star Western (presumably because it comes first chronologically) which makes almost no sense at all, tossing in Nighthawk and Cinnamon at the end as if we'd already met them (we hadn't) -- and is continued!

That incoherence, unfortunately, proved to be the rule. You'd expect some of that, given that these stories weren't written to follow in a linear way, but instead to fit into their own continuities. And, of course, art styles and tone are necessarily all over the place.

But the culling of "unnecessary" pages means individual stories don't even make sense internally. Then we jump to the next bunch of characters fighting owls but who are otherwise unexplained, drawn entirely differently. Plots come and go, characters appear or disappear without explanation, scenes begin and end in media res, and so forth.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh on what is, after all, a patchwork of different titles. But would it have been too much to include the logos on the covers we see, so that we know that we are, in fact, shifting to a different title, and who is about to take the spotlight? Would a table of contents be too much to ask for, as a reference for when we get confused? Or how about a "what has happened before" text page before each title shift to explain, for example, who the Birds of Prey are?

Maybe I'm asking too much, but a cursory glance by a reprint editor would indicate that this book doesn't make much sense to someone who doesn't read DC's entire line. And if someone did read DC's entire line, why would they buy this book?

So all I can think of is that this book is aimed at collectors. That's a fairly narrow market, I'd think -- plus, I am one and I had trouble completing this book, stumbling to a halt three nights in a row as I became frustrated by sheer incoherence. Anyway, if you just want to read a good Owl story, I'd skip this one and wait for Batman Vol. 2.

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