Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Talon #0 (November, 2012)

A boy of eight was locked in an old, isolated dog kennel by his father and left to die. For three days, the boy tried to break free, until he finally gave up and prepared for death. This resignation allowed the boy the peace of mind to spot a weak link in his chain and smash it with a rock just so. The boy fled, eventually finding himself at Haly's Circus, training under an aged escape artist. The old man passed away within a few years, but the boy had learned his act in full, and was prepared to star in the Gotham City Spectacular at age thirteen. Instead, with much sadness, Mr. Haly offered a private show for the Court of Owls, a secret society that ruled the metropolis. Having proven his outstanding abilities and with the nudge of his "rat" father's wickedness as a motivation, Calvin Rose agreed to stay in Gotham and train as an agent of the Owls.

Rose was instructed in the martial arts, developed incredible stealth skills, and displayed exceptional aptitude in circumventing security systems. In his teens, Rose was placed in a labyrinth and forced to overcome and execute an older agent that he was intended to replace. Rose was then left with the corpse in the maze, expected to stave and go mad to show his devotion to the Court. Instead, Rose was the first individual to escape the labyrinth, his exhibit of skill proving enough to appease the Grandmaster despite his rebellion.

Calvin Rose became a Talon, and his first task was to break into the heavily defended skyscraper of the deeply (though justifiably) paranoid Securitus CEO Eric Washington. Recently deceased, Washington's estate had gone to his daughter Casey, and the Talon was meant to end his bloodline to free up valuable patents. Rose found that the twenty-three year old also had a daughter of her own, Sarah, age two. The Court of Owls had promised him "rats" to kill-- evil men-- and Rose wasn't prepared to shed innocent blood. He escaped with the two women, helped find them a secure place to continue to live, and began his own life on the run from an implacable foe.

Rose worked for a time on the New Trigate Bridge, until he was tricked into a deathtrap by a Talon and left nude in the trunk of a sinking car with the bodies of two innocent bystanders. Rose had secreted a lockpick in the calloused skin at the bottom of his foot, escaped the trunk, and bashed the Talon waiting at the water's edge to kill him with the chain that once bound him. The captured Talon admitted that his having stabbed Rose and left him for dead was a test, to see why the Court of Owls continued to value him so much. They still had big plans for the lad, and the patience to wait out his willfulness until Rose could be broken for them to command.

"The Long Run" was by James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder on story, Guillem March on art. It would take more words than I care to invest to express how little interest I have in reading a spin-off series from a Batman Family event, so suffice to say that this is a high quality product for its ability to overcome this massive obstacle to win my approval. You could draw up a graph to clearly illustrated how by-the-numbers the plot is in conveying a proven formula to win over audiences. While that level of calculation might have alienated me elsewhere, in the stumbling idiot medium of comics, the effective employment of fundamental storytelling is laudable. Where everyone had been expecting New 52 Azrael, this origin story has all the strength of a classic Kirby character like Mister Miracle, because it's the exact same origin scrubbed clean of any New Gods references. Again, in the world of comics, obvious unapologetic theft is forgivable so long as the end product is worth what was paid for it. As another example, Guillem March is more obviously the child of Joe Kubert than either of his birth sons, infected as they are by the syphilitic influence of Homage Studios. March's deviations involve seduction by European masters like Jordi Bernet and Guido Crepax, which is to say that March is a better Kubert than anyone bearing that name thanks to his fluidity, intricate but clear layouts, and sensuality. Talon is in no way shape or form original, but it is so very much better than it deserves to be.

New 52's Day

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