Batman: The Court of Owls: An Original Novel by Greg Cox (Titan Books)

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The chances that Bob Kane and Bill Finger, even in their wildest fantasies, ever imagined that Batman would be one of the world’s most enduring, and instantly recognisable, heroes eighty years after he made his debut are probably slim to non-existent.  Yet here we are, eight decades later, the collective sons and daughters of Bat fandom, celebrating the continuing legacy of the Dark Knight, whose mythology continues to thrive.  Bruce Wayne and his alter ego have travelled a long and often difficult road that’s been littered with tragedy, triumph and change. Talking of change, in recent years, one of the most significant developments in the continuing story of Gotham’s avenging angel, was his discovery of an ancient, secret order who govern his city with a rod of iron; The Court of Owls.

Comprised of the most preeminent of Gotham’s citizens and families, for hundreds of years the Court has ruled, and presided over, Gotham from the shadows and has managed to remain hidden through means most foul. Fiercely guarded by a brace of near immortal assassins known as Talons whose strength, longevity and endurance is fuelled by an elixir created by the darkest science, the Court of Owls is a monstrous organisation whose reach extends into every corner of Gotham society and far beyond.  Attempting to drag them into the light of justice and end their foul machinations very nearly did what so many of Batman’s oldest and most deadly nemeses had consistently failed to do. It almost killed him. And now, in Greg Cox’s new Batman novel, the Owls have returned with a vengeance

In the wake of the strange and grizzly murder of a respected college professor, Batman finds that one of the victims most promising students, a young woman whose life the Dark Knight saved years previously, has disappeared. Having learned that coincidence is, more often than not, merely a well meant lie used to explain the irrational and seemingly impossible, Batman soon finds himself mired in an investigation that tests him to the limit of his abilities and pushes him further into the clandestine history of Gotham than ever before. Pitting him against some of the most vicious adversaries he’s ever encountered and plunging him into his own murky past and that of the people that he once thought of as friends, as the body count rises, Batman races to prevent The Court of Owls from uncovering the truth about one of their long abiding myths, a secret that would enable them to spread their wings and engulf the entire world in their stygian embrace.

Greg Cox’s high octane tale is a mix of rugged crime thriller and noir revenge actioner  that’s sprinkled with a liberal dose of historical mystery and a whole load of two fisted, pulp violence. It’s snappy, driven plot is hammered home by Cox’s clever, stylish prose, precise characterisation and slavish devotion to, and incorporation of, Batman and Gotham’s well established canon. The Court of Owls is a dark, brooding and menacing story that fits the Dark Knight’s ever evolving personal journey like a glove. If any of the higher up’s in Warner Brothers and DC are on the look-out for an idea for a Batman series, they could do a lot worse than offer Cox a cheque filled with lots of zeros for the right to The Court of Owls. Yeah, it really is that good… Tim Cundle

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