Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo‘s run on Batman will always be considered one of the best Batman runs in history. While every issue offers great statements about society, BATMAN: THE COURT OF OWLS arc sets the tone for the proceeding issues. This arc prepares the reader for the controversy that Bruce faces throughout the run. Furthermore, it offers a hidden lesson for readers behind Batman’s own stubbornness. In doing so, Snyder and Capullo address the issue of accepting change, a problem that most people experience. This connects the readers to Batman’s internal struggles as well as offers the reader a valuable lesson.

Gotham Is…

Batman: The Court of Owls
Image Courtesy of DC Entertainment

The introduction to BATMAN: THE COURT OF OWLS opens with Bruce reflecting on a piece of the Gotham Gazette, “Gotham is….” This column offers a place for Gothamites to submit their own takes on what Gotham is in one or two words. As expected, the answers greatly vary from person to person. However, common answers include the names of various villains and of course, “Gotham is Batman.” Bruce states that he prefers the latter idea, implying that he knows what Gotham truly is. How could he not know Gotham? He grew up in that city and has protected it as Batman for years. Gotham is Batman’s city. Therefore, he is Gotham.

As the story progresses, we quickly learn that Bruce may not know Gotham as well as he thinks. The case Batman investigates throughout the arc implies the existence of a villain that he had always thought was a myth. To him, there was no possibility that a criminal organization, such as The Court of Owls, could exist in his city without his knowledge. Batman knows everything about Gotham. But as the investigation nears its conclusion, his denial of The Court of Owl’s existence nearly costs him his life. He denies The Court’s existence to the point of blinding himself from blatant evidence and the danger in front of him. But why does Batman, the world’s greatest detective, deny such an obvious truth?

A Hidden Truth

Batman: The Court of Owls
Image Courtesy of DC Entertainment

Although the truth lays itself out in front of Batman, he refuses to open his eyes to its possibility. Since Batman believes that he knows everything about Gotham, he cannot accept that there is an organization as large and as dangerous as The Court of Owls. Since Gotham is only a city, it can change at any moment. However, Bruce’s denial of the truth suggests that Gotham is more than just a city to him.

As demonstrated by his preferred “Gotham is…” answer, Batman believes that Gotham is an extension, or reflection, of himself. He knows the city better than anybody else. Bruce knows the dark sides of Gotham, including the villains that haunt it. He also knows the bright sides of the city, such as the many characters who have fought for the improvement of Gotham. Bruce even mentions Jim Gordon and the G.C.P.D. as a possible “Gotham Is…” answer. However, there is a hidden aspect of the city that is suddenly revealed that he previously thought was a myth.

Batman rejects the truth of The Court because he refuses to accept that he does not fully know Gotham. He is resistant to discovering a new truth of his city because it symbolizes that he does not know himself as well as he had previously believed. But there is more to Bruce’s denial than simply overlooking evidence.

Batman’s History With The Court of Owls

Batman: The Court of Owls
Image Courtesy of DC Entertainment

Near the conclusion of BATMAN: THE COURT OF OWLS, Bruce reveals to Dick that he investigated The Court’s existence after his parents died. When he risked his life to prove that The Court existed and failed, he decided to never let emotions guide an investigation again. However, there is more to this story than just an early lesson for Bruce.

Bruce desperately wanted The Court of Owls to exist so he could use them as a scapegoat for his parents’ deaths. While he believed that they did not exist for the majority of his life, his investigation in BATMAN: THE COURT OF OWLS says otherwise. Bruce’s emotions stemming from this early investigation embed themselves deep within him. Furthermore, his discovery of The Court of Owls’ existence triggers plenty of these feelings.

Bruce refuses to confront the truth because he cannot accept that his first investigation was a failure. Although he stated that he would never let his emotions lead a case, his feelings hinder this investigation. When he failed to find The Court of Owls in his first investigation, he still perceived his detective work as a success because he thought he found truth. In learning that The Court actually exists, he discovers that his first investigation was a failure. Batman has a lot of pride in his abilities as a detective. Despite this failure being his first investigation, he still struggles to face it.

Furthermore, Bruce also rejects the truth because he is resistant to accepting a change in Gotham. The fact that he sees Gotham as an extension of himself symbolizes his resistance to change within himself. Snyder and Capullo artistically convey the consequences of resisting change through elements of Batman’s own history and allusions to reality.

The Cost of Denial

Image Courtesy of DC Entertainment

Bruce Wayne nearly meets his end in an investigation that should have been relatively easy to solve. Instead of opening up to the truth, he closes his mind to the possibility of The Court of Owls existence. His resistance to change almost cost him his life. While there are multiple factors leading to Bruce’s denial, he rejects the truth because he is closed off from change.

Bruce’s near-fatal mistake is a lesson that the world is constantly changing and so are we. While we may think we know everything about ourselves, we are often the detectives of the mysteries within ourselves. Rejecting change in yourself is the same as closing off a part of yourself.

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