The Court of Owls and Night of the Owls is a major comic book story arc set in the DC Universe following the launch of the New 52. Written by Scott Snyder and penciled by Greg Capullo, the arc is a major crossover event, although the main story is told in the Batman comics. The story pits Batman against an ancient cabal, the Court of Owls, as they attempt to cement their control over Gotham City, which they have been manipulating in secret for centuries. As described by writer Kyle Higgins, the series is the follow up to Batman: Gates of Gotham and divulges more of the history of Gotham before the turn of the century, with Gates of Gotham having been originally intended to be a precursor to Night of the Owls. The crossover has been described by writer Scott Snyder as the first story arc of the Batman trilogy that he is planning. According to Snyder, in terms of internal chronology, Night of the Owls takes place in a single night (although its buildup, The Court of Owls, is at least eight days long).For the most part, the story arc takes place in Gotham City, now being called the City of Owls due to the attack on it by the Court of Owls. However, the overreaching story arc also takes place in Wayne Manor and the outskirts of Gotham City. Such cities as Chicago, Miami, and New Orleans are featured prominently as well.The stories are covered in the following issues:
The War of Lords and Owls (prequel)
All-Star Western #9-12
The Court of Owls
Tie-in: Justice League #8
Night of the Owls (in rough chronological order)
Red Hood and the Outlaws #8
Batman and Robin #9
Red Hood and the Outlaws #9
Detective Comics #9
Batman: The Dark Knight #9
Birds of Prey #9
Batman Annual #1
This storyline contains examples of:
Acoustic License: While comics are prone to this sort of thing, Batman #11 stands out. All throughout a fight involving screaming jet engines, explosions, and men getting punched through brick walls, Lincoln March keeps up a steady stream of convoluted conversation regarding his back story.
Ancient Conspiracy: The Court of Owls, who claims to have been controlling Gotham for centuries.
Aristocrats Are Evil: The Court's members are implied to be modern-day nobility—the rich and affluent. And they're all pretty much selfish jerks obsessed with imposing their rule over Gotham, and little else.
Ascended Extra: It can be said that the Court of Owls is an expansion of Owlman, a minor owl-themed Batman villain which played with the theme of owls preying on bats. Lincoln March, in particular, seems to be a part-Owlman Composite Character.
If March really is Thomas Wayne Jr, then it's basically an exercise in giving Batman a main-Earth Owlman opposite number with a nod to the older comics that featured Thomas Wayne Jr.
Asshole Victim: In addition to all the noble pillars of society that the Court of Owls have sent their Talons after, Mr. Freeze and the Penguin have also made the hit list. And at the end, the Court themselves are wiped out.
Bad Boss: The Court of Owls have no problem "retiring" their Talons for failures. Furthermore, in one issue, the Penguin allows Mr. Freeze to murder his security staff to make a staged robbery more convincing.
Batman Gambit: Being a Batman comic, this happens several times...
The Court of Owls threatens Commissioner Gordon to leave the Bat-Signal turned off when the Court is ready to make their move, and to not warn his daughter. Of course, Gordon tries to call Barbara...only to discover that the Court accessed all the phone lines, and start bombing police headquarters. But the real gambit doesn't reveal itself until Gordon makes it to the Bat-Signal and turns it on...only to discover, as a modified signal projects the image of an owl over Gotham's skyline, that the Court of Owls wanted him to do this all along!
Near the very end, Batman corners one of the members of the Court of Owls and tells her that her husband fled without telling her, and that the Court is falling apart. She remains defiant while he's in the room...but when he leaves, she calls up her husband in a panic. And Batman traces the call to find out where the Court's gathering for a meeting.
And shortly thereafter, during the final confrontation, one comes from Lincoln March—after deciding that the Court of Owls had to die after supposedly being targeted by one of their assassins, he injected himself with the formula that resurrects and regenerates the Talons, then puts his own name on their hit list. Sure enough, one of the Talons shows up and kills him...allowing him to come back from the dead and put his master plan to usurp the Court of Owls into action.
Big Bad: As an organization, the Court of Owls serves this role. Later, their top agent - Lincoln March, AKA Thomas Wayne Jr. - usurps this role by killing off most of their top members, and it's implied that his plan all along was to usurp the Court.
Borrowed Biometric Bypass: In one of the issues, Mr. Freeze kills a guard by flash-freezing him, then snaps off one of the corpse's fingers and uses it to bypass a locked security gate.
Death Seeker: One of the Talons—the one confronted by the Red Hood—has enough free will left for this. In his own words, every action of his former life was dictated by the Court of Owls; all he wants now is to die on his own termsnote or rather, to not be reanimated.
Demoted to Extra: Despite being prominent on the cover and solicit for Batman: The Dark Knight #9, all of Tim Drake's actual screentime amounts to one non-speaking panel during the actual Night of the Owls (albeit it indicated he's actively taking part in the event — offscreen), one scene in Red Hood & the Outlaws #8 that has nothing to do with the Court of the Owls, and a voice-only dialogue with Jason Todd convincing him to help.
The Determinator: Batman gets especially broken in the arc, suffering from a mental breakdown after being trapped in a labyrinth for eight days, gets stabbed, and is beaten down, yet is able to fight back and defeat the Court the same night he escapes from their labyrinth
Distant Prologue: The issues of All-Star Western that crossed over with this storyline.
Hell, in between crossover issues, flashbacks within those issues, flashbacks within the main story, and issues that take place after All-Star Western but before the main story, you could say this whole crossover takes Distant PrologueUp to Eleven.
Driven to Suicide: Rather than face Batman at full strength, the Court commits suicide when they realise they've been beaten.
Subverted when it turns out they didn't kill themselves; Lincoln March poisoned them and made it look like suicide to cover his own tracks.
Good Thing You Can Heal: The Talon assassins can regenerate quickly from most injuries. Which means, naturally, that Bats and his flock can play hardball for once.
Implacable Man: The Talon assassins. They're not exactly alive, nor exactly dead. On top of all this, they can quickly heal from almost any injury. Their only weakness is extreme cold, which drastically slows their healing ability.
Improbable Weapon User: When the Talons raid his home, Bruce Wayne fights one of them off with a weather vane. Breaking a damn katana in the process.
Kill It with Ice: The only sure-fire way to dispatch the revived Talons. And then there's Mr. Freeze, who uses it as his standard M.O.
Long-Lost Relative: Lincoln March / Owlman claims to be Thomas Wayne Jr., Bruce's younger brother injured prenatally in a car accident involving Martha Wayne and secretly sent to a children's hospital upon birth for care. Bruce is highly skeptical, and points out several fairly valid points regarding why this is unlikely-to-impossible, but does concede that he can't rule it out 100% without DNA testing.
Loving a Shadow: As revealed in Batman Annual #01, Nora ISN'T Victor's wife. She was cryogenically preserved long before he was even BORN. He's just obsessed with her.
Make It Look Like an Accident: According to Lincoln March, the Court tried to do this to him during the assassination attempt on Bruce Wayne in Batman #2. March doesn't buy their explanation that the Talon nearly killing him was an 'accident' and this is what causes him to turn on them during the Night of the Owls.
Missed the Call: A rather accidental version. One of the Talons is Dick Grayson's great-grandfather. Apparently, Dick was supposed to become the next great Talon—the circus he grew up at was a secret training ground for Talons—but all that was shot off the rails when he was adopted by Bruce. This leads to Refused The Call, as seen below...
Powered Armor: When the Talons force Batman and Alfred to retreat to a panic room deep within the lair, the former breaks out a mecha-suit to even the odds (being considerably wounded at the time and all).
Lincoln March, Bruce's alleged younger brother, dons a much more streamlined version of this trope—its theme reminiscent of an owl—for the final battle. Its features include jet thrusters, plastic explosive, and claw gauntlets.
Refused The Call: Dick Grayson is offered one last chance to join the Court of Owls as their latest Talon by his great-grandfather, William Cobb. He refuses.
Sanity Slippage: In The Court of Owls, Batman is dropped into an enormous labyrinth with drugged drinking water and theatrical room constructions for the sake of Mind Rape. By the end of the ordeal, Batman imagines himself and the Court members turning into grotesque anthropomorphic owls.
Sequel Hook: Despite March murdering the leadership, Bruce (correctly) doesn't believe that the Court has been completely wiped out. This carried over to the spin-off Talon, which pitted a former Talon against the remnants of the Court — who, however, are terrified when one of their Talons, tasked with hunting down the former Talon, suggests going after the Bat, such is the impression that the Bat-family's resistance made on them.
The Starscream: Lincoln March betrays his allies in the Court of Owls in the event's finale, usurping the role of Big Bad.
Wham Episode: Batman #7 and Nightwing #7 both reveal that Dick Grayson was meant to be recruited into the Talons and the Court unleashes all of the Talons on Gotham
The end of Batman #10 where Lincoln March is revealed to have faked his death, is a member of the Court of Owls, and alleges that he's a forgotten brother of Bruce. Issue 11 puts a lot of doubt on the claims of being Bruce's brother as Bruce himself points out.
Wham Line: Downplayed when the dead trainer is believed to have his killer's DNA under his fingernails, identified as... Dick Grayson. However, it quickly turns out that the trainer had tried to warn Dick, grabbing and scratching his arm. And Batman, being Batman, checked Dick's alibi on principle.
You Have Failed Me: A few of the resurrected Talons have this in their backstory—whether out of sloppinessnote for all of their declared power over Gotham, the Owls really don't like the prospect of media scrutiny — such as that caused by outright missing cops instead of dead cops, "misguided honor"note a colonial-era Talon armed his target and demanded that he fight for his life; this Talon ended up being spotted in the course of making this kill, and one of the witnesses he slew was an officer, leading to unwanted scrutiny for the Owls, or failing to do a job properly, they were retired early. Often, part of the issue featuring them focuses on their attempts to atone for their mistakes, perceived or otherwise.
You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The Court of Owls is rather prone to doing this, whether to their own Talons, the skilled trainer of said Talonsnote once they could resurrect their dead champions, they decided that they didn't need him anymore for training replacements — hence his death that kickstarts the story arc, or to Mr. Freeze (who helped develop the formula that resurrected the Talons in the first place). Fittingly enough, Lincoln March decides that the Court has outlived their usefulness at the very end.