What a completely expected unexpected surprise!
I didn’t expect Detective Comics to tie into Night of the Owls mostly because the main story was in Batman and both titles are Batman solo series. Plus, Tony Daniels said so.
However, after saying Detective Comics wouldn’t tie into Night of the Owls, Daniels changed his mind, leading to this story, The Owls Take Arkham, where the Court of Owls target Doctor Jeremiah Arkham, who seems to believe that Arkham Asylum will keep him safe. All while the readers wonder just what the hell Jeremiah Arkham was thinking, considering the place’s inability to keep its patients (If you want to be PC about it) in.
While most tie-in arcs to another book’s arc just cause the tie-in books’ story to be put on hold just so that issue or arc can appear. However, Daniel manages to show us how well the Night of the Owls crossover could have worked as he manages to blend it with his own storylines. An achievement helped by the fact that he had very little storyline-wise to begin with.
In theory, The Owls Take Arkham is a sequel to the Life After Death arc where the second Black Mask and Jeremiah Arkham were revealed to be one and the same. We see Arkham’s fear and mistrust of Batman, his manipulations of the various patients at Arkham, and the original Black Mask somehow back to life and with mind-control powers.
Sure, why not?
Because the Black Mask (The Roman Sionis version anyway) embodies the perversion of Gotham’s mob as a result of the rise of the supervillains and the mask worn by him and then later burnt to his face shouldn’t be granting him any powers of any kind. That’s why.
Sure, Daniel does manage to create some interest with the Doctor Jeremiah Arkham and Black Mask question, but this plot point is still bloody stupid. Especially when you consider Jeremiah Arkham was portrayed as an inmate in Batman #1. Opps. And yes, he was a Doctor in Detective Comics #1, but at the time the series was supposed to be set in the past.
Plus, as much as I like Batman, this story shouldn’t have had Batman at all. Since all of the other Night of the Owls tie-ins, asides from maybe Batman: The Dark Knight #9, have a unique Gotham character fighting against the Talons as well as other obstacles, why muck around with Batman’s adventures? We know what Batman is up to during the events of Night of the Owls, as they can be found easily in Batman. So why this book focusing on Batman’s adventures during the events of Night of the Owls?
Most of the issue is just a fairly generic collection of fight scenes that drop the threat level of the Talons like a stone. You see, the Talons are just henchmen here. If you’ve read the main Night of the Owls story, you would know the only way to bring down a Talon is to freeze them or cause them sever damage. In Detective Comics, not only does Batman’s freeze grenades have no effect, but Batman simply beats the crap out of all of them until they drop to the floor.
Plus, there is the fact we have no emotional investment in this story. Batman is spending this story trying to save Jeremiah Arkham, a scumbag who, if Tony Daniels read his own work and Batman #1 shouldn’t be running the Asylum. Hell, Batman says in this story that Jeremiah added escape tunnels to the facility.
So, we have a threat that isn’t threatening trying to kill a man that frankly isn’t worth saving. Sure, the Nightwing tie-in arc has Nightwing trying to save the corrupt Mayor Hady, but that Talon was a threat to both him and everyone else in the building. That fight therefore had real emotional weight to it. The Owls Take Arkham doesn’t have a victim you care about or a threatening Talon, so you just don’t care while reading it.
As for the art, there is a lot of energy on display here as Daniels clearly enjoyed drawing the moody Arkham Asylum, and the panels swapping between the fight and the Black Mask have the right amount of pace to them.
Overall, The Owls Take Arkham is a complete waste of time. It doesn’t advance the Detective Comics or Night of the Owls stories nor does it make you give a damn enough to enjoy it in its own right. Daniels, you were right not to get involved in the first place.