“Beware the Court of Owls
That watches all the time
Ruling Gotham from a shadowed perch
Behind granite and lime
They watch you at your hearth
They watch you at your bed
Speak not a whispered word of them
Or they’ll send the Talon for your head”

The past catches up to the present in the latest DC Batman novel, The Court of Owls.

Bodies are turning up in Gotham, burnt to a crisp. Upon inspection, The Dark Knight discovers a twist in their remains: they were torched from the inside. Who is behind the murders, and how are they burning their victims? Batman, along with two of his closest allies, trace the leads to the Court of Owls and uncover secrets from a century ago that may have predicted Gotham’s fate in plain sight.

So far, DC is 1-for-2 on these Batman novels.

The Killing Joke expanded upon a story that didn’t need expanding, and Mad Love cleverly peeled back the layers of one of their most beloved antiheroes.

With The Court of Owls, they create an original story that builds upon what came before…and they succeed tremendously.

This story serves as a sequel to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s beloved comic story. How far after does it take place? It doesn’t say, but it doesn’t matter. Writer Greg Cox creates a century-old mystery that requires Batman at the top of his game, both physically and mentally. From the first page, we’re introduced to a murder case that effectively unravels and doesn’t fully come together for 300 pages. While that may scare some readers, don’t worry. The pacing for each chapter is perfect and there’s no fat to be trimmed.

Sliced into the present day mystery is a 1918 love story between a professional artist, Percy Wright, and his favorite model, Lydia Day. While we aren’t sure of their purpose right away, we slowly piece together their relationship with Gotham City and their connection with the Court of Owls that ultimately connect to the present.

I don’t want to go into anything else, for I don’t want to spoil a marvelous story. The brilliance in this third story is its originality. While the previous two novels failed and succeeded on already-known stories, this one didn’t rely on adapting a beloved tale. Instead, it took what was already loved, and advanced it.

Horror, action, mystery, and relationships play a key role in all 300+ pages. We meet new characters, and none are disposable.

I’ll admit, the ultimate villain was pretty easy to call early on, but it didn’t ruin the “reveal”. Also, I’m still not sure how I feel about “predicting Gotham’s future”, but the journey for that discovery was well worth it.

Overall, I loved this book. It works as a great follow up to a beloved story, as well as a standalone chapter in Batman’s history.

If you have the money, and the time, The Court of Owls demands your presence. – Ryan Lower