Talon 5

Talon has been an interesting title since it launched. The only title based around a concept or character that had not been introduced before the New 52 reboot, Talon has seemed to be a success for DC. And though it has the support of being a Bat-Family book spinning out of one of the most noted storylines in years, it’s done an admirable job digging out its own niche in Gotham. Batman does appear in this issue, though, and it seems that we’re finding the status quo, or at least a default state, for the series. The question is: what is that niche, that status quo, and should you be following it? 

Those of you who know me or have followed this blog may know who my favorite Gotham vigilante is. It’s not Batman. It’s not Alan Scott. It’s not even Nightwing. It’s this guy. Spinning out of the Knightfall trilogy, Azrael’s ongoing series is one of my favorite runs in comics. A former assassin for a sinister cult with an extensive reach, Jean-Paul Valley struggled against his own inner demons, the call of his abilities, and his desire for a normal life over the course of his hundred issue series, along the way gathering a delightful group of friends, allies, and hangers-on. Though I know better, I always hoped that Jean-Paul would return in the wake of the reboot, and I was not alone in noticing the similarities when Talon was announced.

Luckily for me, I’m not too bitter, and the similarities are much of what I love about Talon. The introduction of a supporting cast in the past two months has done a lot to strengthen this book and this issue capitalizes upon it to paint a more vivid picture of who our protagonists are.

It’s felt like DC is finally willing to take their foot off the gas these past few months. A number of books have had issues that take time to reset their course, where they would have run full speed ahead before. This is one such issue, and it felt like a good time to recommend Talon.

Each of the characters in this issue has time to establish themselves, and we come away with a different sense of each of them. Calvin, of course, stands out, his desperate desire to be normal highly relatable. Meanwhile, his companions’ desire to continue the crusade against the Court of Owls makes perfect sense, and their differing reasons are given weight and respect. I won’t spoil too much more, but I’ll say that the early scenes of this issue are very cute and remind us how greatly a series can benefit from avoiding the traditional set up of a superhero comic.

The reluctance of our hero and the highly serialized storytelling set this book apart from other superhero stories. Talon isn’t going on patrol for his enemies; he’s lying in wait for the chance at the Court of Owls, hoping desperately that he’ll be able to hang up the costume once their threat is ended.

Similarly strong is Tynion’s grasp on our villains. After their amazing first strike against Batman (See Batman #5 specifically), it’s nice to see the Court scrambling a bit. Successive strikes from Batman and Calvin have weakened their hold on Gotham and they don’t have their Talons to depend on any longer, at least not in bulk, as they once did. Still, the air of fear that surrounds our ragtag band of heroes lends credence to the idea that a wounded animal fights the hardest.

On the other hand, there’s the Gotham Butcher. Though his enormous serial killer shtick is a bit played (What policeman noticed the 6’7” man in the crowds surrounding all the killings and was the first to go ‘wait a minute…’?), the tension between the Butcher’s loyalty to the Court and his independent streak keep his scenes lively.

A quick appearance from Batman hints that Snyder and Tynion have plans for this book, but they don’t appear to be buckling to the temptation for cross-overs, at least not in the obvious (and worst) sense.

Though the plot is straightforward, the details can be a little tough to follow (I know that I’ll need to go back and read a few issues to remember some of the context). This will probably be less of a problem in trade, but this appears to be a series that is written for the monthly format. You’ll be able to follow what’s happening, but you might not be certain why it’s happening this way.

This assignment is the best thing that’s ever happened to Guilem March. Though he’s the first to admit that he loves drawing pretty ladies, it’s much nicer as a reader to have him work on more intellectual fare. Freed from cheesecake work, March turns in some gorgeous art (He had similar material when he took over the underwhelming Michael Lane Azrael series, but for some reason that just didn’t have the same magic, despite the lead character’s swordplay). March isn’t free from the faults that he displayed in his earlier work, there are still some instances of strange anatomy, but they’re fewer and less noticeable, and, as always, they won’t trouble you much if you don’t dwell on a page too long. He also seems to enjoy drawing wrinkles a little too much, but overall, he’s a good choice for the series. He brings a style and consistency to a book that could easily be the red-headed stepchild of the Bat-brand, and he does a particularly great job representing the weight and power of the Gotham Butcher.

Talon is a book unlike anything else I’m reading from DC. It manages to be both sweet and dark, is well suited to a monthly format, and feels (perhaps uniquely) free from editorial interference and enforced cross-overs. It won’t replace Azrael for me, but it’s a fun and different read (also less 90s weirdness). If you’ve got some space on your pull list to fill and you haven’t given Talon a shot, I’d recommend it.