Any comic writer that can make you doubt, even for a second, that the titular hero will actually make it out alive deserves an award.
We’ve seen Batman get into some pretty tight situations. He’s had his back broken, been driven to the brink of sanity, and had to fight the love of his life. Yet all of that seems to fail in comparison to the trials he faces in the labyrinth of the Court of Owls.
My only complaint in this part of the issue is that it doesn’t show passage of time very well. Pretty quickly we see Batman nearly dying of thirst, leading him to drink water that he knows is drugged. As far as we know, he’s just now been thrown into the place, leading to some slight confusion.
All of that aside, this part of the story is downright terrifying. The art is fantastic, Batman’s narration is creepily good, and the various rooms show a lot of creativity. The writers even use page layout to add to the disoriented experience. If you get a physical book of this issue (which I highly recommend), you’ll find yourself turning it three or four times, which creates a level of reader interaction that isn’t typically possible.
While this conflict is going on, we get a glimpse of Gordon, who refuses to turn the Batsignal off, even though it’s been running for days with no response. Gordon insists it must stay on. Not just for Batman, but for the city. For the good guys, to symbolically show that they aren’t alone. And for the villains of the city, to show that they don’t have control of the city. In this monologue we see Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, and Catwoman, showing a cast that looks and longs for Batman to return to Gotham. The city is counting on him. Will he let us down? We won’t find out until the next issue.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of Batman issues preceding the New 52 reboot, making it difficult to find a new story with the same characters. Scott Snyder has managed to do it, though. It’s a new story with a new villain and a new conflict, and it doesn’t look good for the Dark Knight. That said, we all know that he’s going to make it out (if for no other reason than that the Batman series is still going). Does that dilute the effect? Not really. The dark gritty feel that Capullo and Glapion have created makes it real to us. Before this issue I would have said that it has the feel of a Nolan movie. It’s less real in the sense that unrealistic things do happen, but more real in the sense that while we’re reading and immersed in it, it is real to us. They’ve managed to weave the story in such a way that we don’t question it. Which is why we’ll keep reading. And why you should get this issue.
Seriously. This issue is in the top 5 of all Batman issues I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of them. This story is one of the best in Batman’s extensive catalog, and you won’t want to miss a single issue of it. This is also one that needs to be read from the beginning to truly appreciate it. Put out the money. You won’t be disappointed.