Batman #7 is one of those issues that will separate those who see comics as kid stuff from those who see them as literature. Scott Snyder, currently the best storyteller in comic books, raises the bar yet again with his continued arc about the Court Of Owls. Once more, Snyder’s intuitive ability to incorporate the past and present allows the story to fold into the Dark Knight’s legacy and expand it, without damaging what’s already there. This is not a heavy action issue, but it is one of the most important in the last few years of Batman.
History is rewritten and expanded in Batman #7. Snyder takes some big chances with the Court Of Owls and, as usual, they pay off big. To better understand what Scott Snyder does, just look at the opening scene of this issue. A young Bruce Wayne is sitting, bloodied and beaten and trying to decide how best to serve Gotham. Suddenly, a bat flies through the window and our hero says aloud “Yes, father, I shall become a bat”. Anyone with a passing knowledge of comics will recognize right away that Snyder has opened the book with an homage to the iconic scene from Frank Miller’s Batman Year One where Bruce becomes Batman. As soon as the bat leaves the study it’s attacked and devoured by an owl.
See the brilliance at work here? Snyder takes a scene comic fans adore, lets it play out for effect and then, after it ends, attaches his idea to it. The scene isn’t altered or changed to satisfy Snyder’s story, instead he broadens it and gives a nice subtle nudge to the power of the Court Of Owls. From that point, Batman #7 expands on the science behind the Court Of Owls and how they are able to bring the dead back to life to serve them. Snyder delves into some interesting scientific ideas here and takes a clichéd idea like reanimating and deepens it. The Court Of Owls did not simply raise the dead, the injected into certain people a formula that, when combined with the Court’s outside chemical, would bring people back as ultimate killing machines. Bruce discovers that the formula is introduced into the host through a specialized filling in the teeth of a victim, something the Court Of Owls has been doing for decades.
Cue the controversy. The next phase of the story is where Batman #7 gets deep into the Dark Knight mythos and changes things around.
(Read no further if you hate spoilers)
It turns out that the Grayson family has, unknowingly, been guinea pigs for the Court. In a particularly emotional scene, Batman knocks the filling out of Dick Grayson’s teeth. Turns out that Dick was to be the next servant of the Court, a plan interrupted by the death of his parents and Dick being adopted by Bruce Wayne. Wow. Snyder has now managed to bring Dick Grayson’s history into all of this. Not only does that bring new light to Robin/Nightwing, it also gives an idea of the power of the Court Of Owls and what the Batman family is facing. Without any big action scenes, Scott Snyder makes Batman #7 an incredibly important issue. That’s called storytelling and anybody who views comic books as literature will be compelled to agree.
Greg Capullo's art is solid throughout the issue, though I still don’t like the way he draws faces. Everybody seems to be younger than they should be, especially Nightwing. I still love how Capullo draws Batman and his use of shadow and texture is very good. I also love his eye for detail and his ability to bring movement to scenes that are just two people talking. Capullo is a top-notch artist and he really brings Snyder’s ideas to life, even though his faces tend to fall short. Some people will balk at the lack of action in Batman #7, but they’re missing the point. All the greats were storytellers who relied on words over action. Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Stan Lee, Mark Waid, Ed Brubaker, all of them put story first and that’s what makes them stand out. Batman #7 takes the already iconic Scott Snyder and solidifies him as one of the truly great storytellers in comics.
(5 Story, 4.5 Art)