One of the long-running undercurrents of "Batman" over the years is that Gotham City "belongs" to Batman. He refers to it as his city, tries to protect it and its citizens like a proud parent and takes personal offense to things that happen to it. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo use this conceit as a launching point for "Batman" #7, the last chapter in May's "Batman: The Court of Owls" storyarc. While this issue is in many ways a transition point, wrapping up threads from issues #1-6 while prepping us for #8 and beyond, it works quite well as a mini-cliffhanger too.
Over the years, there have been other characters that have tried to claim Gotham, but reading "Batman" #7 shows the Court of Owls may have the strongest claim to ownership. Snyder goes into much further detail just how the Owls have gone back through Gotham's history; we've already seen a lot of evidence of their far-reaching past, but it's taken a step further here and into a much more personal level. It's a twist that on the surface sounds positioned to fail, but it's much to Snyder's credit that in the telling sounds plausible and slightly scary. It takes the fear of a monster inside of one's self and alters it a bit; the generational sleeper agent that is methodical and carefully created. It also makes the Owls a much more pervasive element within Gotham City, their talons in more pots than it initially seemed.
Snyder also explains some story elements from the start of this storyline (most notably "Batman" #1's cliffhanger), in many ways clearing the deck for the next part of the arc. I found myself appreciating this a great deal; it's just about the right amount of time to have a story hanging and it makes me feel like we aren't going to be taunted with year after year of new elements being introduced without old ones getting concluded. These revelations also feel satisfying; it shows an overall strong plot truly connecting all of the different ideas thrown at us.
Visually, this is easily Capullo and Jonathan Glapion's strongest issue of "Batman." From that early splash of the owl catching and devouring the infamous bat, to the ragged Batman returning through the sewers to the Batcave, each page feels carefully laid out and approached in a way that gives a strong artistic impact. The images of the damp bricks and the shadows of the wire fence could have just as easily been a throwaway image, for instance, but Capullo and Glapion carefully draw it in a manner that gives you a strong feel for the scene. The colors from FCO add the perfect dingy green/brown to make the page pop; there's no mistaking this edge of the sewer system for anything else. Recurring elements like the Owl masks work great -- for something so deceptively simple, they feel remarkably creepy. Capullo's sense of motion is strong here as well. The scuffle between Batman and Nightwing is brief, but those three panels show off a strong understanding out of how people move and how to display that using static images.
"Batman" #7 is a great conclusion to the first portion of the Owl storyline, serving as a launching point for what's still to come. I'll admit I'm a little uneasy about the upcoming crossover/tie-ins with the other Bat-family titles, but this issue of "Batman" was so strong, I feel like even if the other books don't quite mesh I'll still get a strong story here. For those of you who are waiting for the collection that this issue concludes, you've got quite a treat ahead of you.