"The Talons Strike!": As he lies dying, Batman has a vision, not of his past, but of his self as he truly existed in life; as man, and as bat. Then, as a bat, caught in the talons of a great owl and eaten. This is the secret truth of Bruce Wayne's life: though he thought
- You asked me before, what the Court did to me. What they did was show me the truth. That the Gotham City I thought I knew, my city... doesn't exist. They showed me that the real Gotham, the Gotham out there, is a city of birds, a city of owls. It's a stranger and an enemy... it always has been. And I'll tell you, Dick, if someone could've protected me from that truth, I'd have been grateful.
- — Batman
Appearing in "The Talons Strike!"
- Talon (Appears only as a corpse)
Synopsis for "The Talons Strike!"
As he lies dying, Batman has a vision, not of his past, but of his self as he truly existed in life; as man, and as bat. Then, as a bat, caught in the talons of a great owl and eaten. This is the secret truth of Bruce Wayne's life: though he thought himself a bat, he was merely prey for a much more menacing predator.
Suddenly, Batman is shocked into wakefulness by a makeshift defibrillator, built by a girl named Harper Row. Batman recognizes her, and again, warns her to stay away from him as he stumbles out of the back of her van and into the snow outside.
Elsewhere, a man - apparently a corpse - opens his eyes for the first time in years to see the masks of the Court of Owls looking down on him. They have brought him back from the edge of death faster and stronger, back to Gotham City. The Court is stronger, and now they are bringing forth a new Talon in order to rip out the heart of their enemy.
Having crawled back through the sewers, Batman slumps at the gate of one of the underground entrances to the Batcave. He is found by Alfred Pennyworth, suspicious and armed with a shotgun until he realizes that Bruce has finally come home. Batman is weak, and Alfred helps to carry him into the cave. Once there, Batman becomes frozen in horror, as he sees the Talon standing before him. Alfred explains that the man is dead. He and Dick had found the body near to where Batman's own locator signal was activated, and brought it back for examination. Naturally, Batman refuses medical attention in favour of doing the examination himself.
Elsewhere, the Court of Owls trains its new Talon to know the enemy: the Batman. Like the Talon, he has come back from death recently, but he has returned broken and weak. The begin to equip the man with the Talon's armour and weaponry, indoctrinating him with their plan to strike down their enemy, tear him limb from limb, and then eat his bones.
In the cave, Batman is interrupted by Nightwing. Dick can see that his adoptive father has been affected profoundly - both psychologically and physically - by his encounter with the Court of Owls. Bruce ignores his questions and explains that the Talon on the examining table is in a state somewhere on the edge of both death and life. Using a compound called electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of copper and silvers, the Court has saturated the man's body such that using a special trigger found in his tooth, they can reanimate him with only so much as a spark.
The Court had reanimated this man to kill for them, and his first target was his old trainer. He has healing powers due to the bonding of the electrum with his cells, which allows constant reactivation. Fortunately, exposure to the cold prevents reactivation. Turning to Dick, Bruce explains that the man's name is William Cobb, and that he is Dick's own great-grandfather.
Bruce refuses to talk further about it, and Dick warns that while Bruce thinks he may be protecting him by keeping secrets, he is really only protecting himself from needing to have any human emotion. Dick shouts that Bruce doesn't know anything of what has been going on in his life, and learning that his ancestor was some kind of criminal isn't going to faze him in comparison.
Without a word, Bruce punches Dick in the face, knocking out one of his teeth. He holds the tooth in front of Dick, pointing out the device which would have activated him as a Talon. The trainer had come to find Dick first, to warn him of the Court's plans for him, and now the identity of William Cobb confirms that Dick was meant to be the most recent Talon, until his parents died and Bruce took him in.
Bruce explains that since his encounter with the Court of Owls, he has realized that the city that he used to think was watching over him was just watching him. It is now alien and malevolent. Dick responds that he doesn't care that he was meant to be a Talon. He is who he chooses to be, not who the past says he should be. To him, the Court of Owls is just another bad guy to bring to justice - it's just a bit older than the others. They may have got the better of the Batman once, but they're not Gotham City - and neither is the Bat.
Elsewhere, the Court prepares its army of new Talons to take back their kingdom. That night, the sky will be blackened by the beating wings of Owls.
- This book was first published on March 21, 2012.
- The scene of Bruce and Dick in the Batcave is mirrored in Nightwing (Volume 3) #7 from Nightwing's perspective.
- This issue is reprinted in the trade Batman: The Court of Owls.
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