Friday, 17 October 2014

Talon Vol. 2: Fall of the Owls (The New 52) Review


Talon Volume 2: Fall of the Owls (The New 52)
An accurate representation of books that
guest star Batman.

Writer: James Tynion IV

Artists: Miguel Sepulveda, Szymon Kudranski and Emanuel Simeoni.

Collects: Talon #8-17 and Birds of Prey #21

Background information:

Fair warning: This isn’t a new reader’s book. Understanding it requires you to know the first two volumes of Scott Snyder’s Batman run, as well as the first Talon volume, Scourge of the Owls.

But basically, the Court of Owls, a secret society that has been ruling Gotham for centuries, has been knocking off people they don’t like with assassins called Talons. For years, there had only been one Talon at a time who would be recruited from young performers at Haly’s Circus. Calvin Rose is one such Talon. An escape artist, Calvin’s first mission was to kill Casey Washington, the new CEO of her dead father’s security company and her daughter, Sarah. Calvin refused to kill the girls, and instead went on the run with them. Six years later, the Court of Owls has revived the Talons, giving them Wolverine-like healing powers and sending them after Calvin. Thus began his mission to bring the court down; a mission that eventually saw him betrayed by his mentor, Sebastian Clarke and killed by Bane.

And yes, there’s still a story here.

Review

There were really only three things going through my head as I read Fall of the Owls

1)      I really like Calvin Rose as a character.

2)      Bane is so, amazingly boring. How do people like this guy?

3)      This should have been two volumes, not one.

And that last point is really what spoils an otherwise enjoyable read.
This is your Talon on drugs!

See, there are no less than four story arcs in Fall of the Owls. In the first, the Court of Owls revives Calvin into one of their own, undead Talons and sends them after Stryx, a fugitive Talon who currently rolls with the Birds of Prey. In the second, they send Calvin after Bane on his military-state island of Santa Prisca in search of Sebastian Clarke (which fails). In the third, they take on both Clarke and Felix Harmon (the big bad of the previous volume) as the two psychos try to destroy Gotham and in the fourth, Calvin searches for a cure for his immortality.

None of these stories are particularly bad, even if the first arc is the weakest point of the book, but there are so many of them that the whole trade just feels bogged down under the weight of its own cancellation. It really should have been two trades, with two story arcs apiece. I realise that would mean making one trade only five issues (something I hate when it’s done by Marvel), but it would actually be better here. You need that break in a series like this and having everything collected into one is really too much to take in.

Which again, is a pity, because there’s no real bad story here. Tynion manages to, again, capitalise on Calvin’s skill set as an escape artist (making it a weapon in some places, a plot device in others), the characterisation is still fun, and the over-the-top action is entertaining. On that last point, the last issue features Calvin THROWING A SHARK at a villain.

Yep, he done did that!

And it’s the kind of ridiculous moment that makes this book weirdly fun. It’s not something you tend to expect from a book this dark, but some of Calvin’s tactics in this trade really come out of left field. For example, the dude lights himself on fire so a freezing cube doesn’t affect his healing factor, but does take out the other three Talons around him.

I now present to you, the most stupidly-
cool moment in Talon.
That’s what there is to like about Calvin: he’s clever. He’s insanely resourceful, skilled at what he does and morally conflicted. I realise that I probably just described Batman to most of you, but the difference here is that Calvin’s still a nice guy. He’s obsessed with protecting those he loves and that often leads to some great moments for him.

I do have to talk about that Bane story arc, though. I rolled my eyes when I first read Bane’s appearance in Volume 1, and this arc really didn’t change my mind. It’s a good Bane story, but that’s like saying that you had a nice spew- it’s a really a matter of relativity. See, the last Bane story the New 52 had, to my knowledge, was in Batman the Dark Knight, which was awful. Even though the Bane story here is better, it’s still not great because it’s Bane. Talon confronts Bane. Cue Bane talking about his plans to take Gotham. Cue Bane standing over the guy who’s paying him. Cue Bane talking about how he was moulded in Santa Prisca. Essentially, cue everything Bane does in The Dark Knight Rises. As good as the story arc is, it’s not good for Bane’s presence.

It’s hard for me to go one way or the other in rating Fall of the Owls. If you like Calvin Rose, you’ll probably like the second volume of Talon, if you don’t, haven’t heard of him, or feel indifferent, you’ll want to stay away from a book that gets a three out of five shark-throwing contests.

***

+ Calvin is awesome

+ Action is weirdly fun.

- Bane… Bane…

- Way too many story arcs.

Alternate Option: Talon: Scourge of the Owls

Don’t even think about reading Fall of the Owls until you’ve read this one.