The Gotham Butcher returns; death is just the beginning for Calvin Rose; and the Escapist must bow his head. Meanwhile, an army has been raised.
After the shocking end of the last issue, there were several possible directions in which James Tynion could have taken this story. The path he chose here will be a surprise to most, but after reading this I don’t think there was ever any other way this story should have gone. He delivers us another issue packed full of major changes to Calvin’s world and sets a chilling new tone; the Gotham Butcher is back, Casey and Sarah have been captured by the Court, and Calvin must struggle with his pride and morality.
Calvin Rose is a character who has constantly done the impossible. There’s been no trap or scenario that he hasn’t been able to find an escape, until he encountered Bane. But even death wasn’t final for Calvin as the Court of Owl brings him back to life and pushes him into such a corner where there very well may be no escape. Trapped, he does something I thought he would never do.
It will be interesting to see how Calvin’s new powers, which I believe gives him a metahuman status now, and his current position will change him and whether or not they can keep him as relatable and likable as he’s been so far. I have no idea how long the new status quo will last. It could, in fact, very well end in the Birds of Prey 21 crossover issue or Talon 9. However, I believe the potential there is immense as Calvin can no longer run from his past and must now embrace it.
The Gotham Butcher, meanwhile, resurfaces to capture Casey and bring her to the Court. The position Casey and her daughter are put into is downright terrifying, and furthers the Court’s grasp over Calvin. The Butcher is a character I hope is around for some time. If his sheer size and appearance weren’t enough he has a caged brutality that he’s just waiting to let loose. He has a gruesome history stretching back through that of Gotham itself, and it will be interesting to see what part he’ll play in the troubled city today.
Though Bane’s appearance in this issue was short, only two pages in length, it was extremely satisfying to those who are fans of the character. Previously, Bane’s portrayal in the New 52 (and at times before it) had been disappointing. Many writers disregarded a key aspect of Bane’s character, i.e. his mind, in favor of his physical strength. There’s a moment where Bane mentions that strength is measured in the mind, and it makes me feel even more that Tynion really gets this character. I have high hopes for his take on Bane and so far I haven’t been disappointed by the little we’ve seen. I feel he can bring back glory to a character that has been turned into a caricature of his former self.
The art is notable in this issue. I was never the biggest fan of March’s art; it had been the weakest link in an otherwise great series. Sepulveda takes over this issue and does a fantastic job. His pencils may not be as clean or smooth as March’s were but I feel that Sepulveda’s style is exactly what this series needed. I truly hope he sticks around for the long run.
There were times that I felt the inking was a little sloppy or a little too much—especially a moment near the start, where one of Casey’s hands looked deformed. Despite this, it never really detracted from the book.
Another small gripe I had is Nathaniel’s fate. I was hoping he’d become a recurring character in the title, on the run from the court much like Calvin. I feel like his death was a wasted opportunity, especially with Calvin’s current position. At the very least, Nathaniel’s death could have served a more emotional and morally conflicting moment by having Calvin kill him for the Court rather than an off-screen death.
Tynion’s writing continues to impress, surprise, and amaze me. His plot, pacing, and characters are the things you look for in a comic and what makes this series one of the best titles of the New 52. Between Talon and his two-part backup in Batman, he’s one of my top writers to watch and I think he has a big future ahead of him. This was another incredible issue in a series that has consistently impressed me, with an ending that leaves me itching for the next issue.
Talon will continue next in Birds of Prey 21