first seven issues of the "New 52" version of Batman.
Those first seven issues dealt with an evil new group known as the Court of Owls, who have existed in the shadows of Gotham for over a century. Once Bruce Wayne runs afoul of them, the Owls make it their mission to terminate him. At the end of issue #7 the Owls have woke up all their undead assassins known as "Talons" to wreak havoc.
In issue #8 then we find out their first target: Wayne Manor. Bruce is there, licking his wounds, when the Owls come a'calling. There's a chase through the mansion that inevitably leads to the Batcave. The first half of issue #9 then deals with how Batman defeats the Talons using essentially an Iron Man suit and the Batcave's thermostat. The latter half has Batman going to rescue mayoral candidate Lincoln March from another Talon. (Apparently if you read other Batman-related titles they deal with the "Batfamily" of Nightwing, Robin, Red Robin, Red Hood, Batgirl, and such fighting other Talons to save Gotham's elite from destruction.)
In issue #10 we're promised Batman finally going to kick the Court's ass. But wah-wah they're already dead. Except of course not ALL of them. There's one more left, which leads to a stunning revelation not only about the Court of Owls, but also about the Wayne family. It turns out Lincoln March has not only survived the assassination attempt, but he's working for the Court of Owls. He also claims he's Thomas Wayne, Jr., Bruce's brother.
Issue #11 then is the final clash between Lincoln/Tom Jr. and Bruce. It's kind of disappointing in that the fight is pretty one-sided. Most of the issue is Lincoln kicking Bruce's ass while he goes on and on about how he's been cheated out of his birthright because his parents left him in a children's hospital on his own, until the Court of Owls saved him.
As you might suspect, Batman finds a way to turn the tide. The question from there is if Lincoln is really Bruce's brother or if it was all an elaborate hoax put on by the Court of Owls. And of course Lincoln isn't REALLY dead, neither is the Court of Owls. I mean in comic books and soap operas no one is ever truly dead.
Included as "backup stories" (otherwise known as "padding") to issues 9 through 11 is a mini-story called "Fall of the House of Wayne." This is told from the perspective of Jarvis Pennyworth, Alfred's father, who was the Wayne family butler before his son takes over. This story promises some reinvention of the Batman origin story that of course involves the Court of Owls. In particular are some startling revelations about Bruce's mother.
The annual also features cameos by the Penguin, Lucius Fox, Nightwing, and Robin. It was a pretty interesting new take--or at least new to me--on the origins of Mr. Freeze. For the casual fan I doubt it's all that necessary to read because it isn't really adding a lot to the overall story. (BTW, why do they call him "Mr. Freeze" when he's a doctor? Shouldn't he be "Dr. Freeze?")
This was the first time in probably about 20 years I've actually bought individual comics to read. I don't see much appeal in doing that because it seems like it'd be really annoying to get a little piece of the story and then have to wait a month for the next piece. I suppose that's why there are like 10 Batman-related titles, so they can stagger them to keep avid readers entertained. Still, for $3-$4 a pop it gets pretty expensive. Had I not wanted to do a Batman-related post before the next movie came out, I probably could have waited until the inevitable hardcover reprint, which would have been cheaper, especially if I had some Discover card points to use on Amazon.
All that aside, I have really enjoyed this Court of Owls storyline. I did figure out Lincoln was in cahoots with the Court, though I hadn't figured the whole thing out. I'm not sure what the writers of the series will do with the Court in the future, though I know a rogue Talon will be getting a series this fall called, obviously, Talon. Though as a casual fan it's a little disappointing we haven't seen any of the Joker or hardly any Commissioner Gordon for instance. At least in this line; they're probably featured more in some of the other titles.
If you aren't a casual fan of Batman comics and more of a devotee, then you might not enjoy this new direction of the series. You can read Tony Laplume's different reaction to the Court of Owls series here.
Anyway, at some point you might want to read these for yourself because probably with the inevitable 2024 re-re-re-re-reboot of the movie franchise they'll borrow from this series. Then you'll be well-prepared for it. Though as I said, you could probably wait to get it in hardcover for cheaper.
The Thursday Review will move to Monday next week so I can post a review of the aforementioned Dark Knight Rises...