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What is the Court of Owls, the shadowy Batman villains of the Gotham Knights game?

What the team behind the Arkham games have in store for the Dark Knight’s greatest allies

A Talon stabs Batman in the back in Batman #5, DC Comics (2012). Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo/DC Comics
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

After over a year of teases WB Montreal has finally announced Gotham Knights, the next installment of the Arkham video game franchise. The new Batman game that will pit Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing, and the Red Hood against some of Batman’s most powerful and recently invented foes: The Court of Owls.

The publisher’s DC FanDome panel focused mostly on the heroes in gameplay footage, but fortunately, we can tell you what — or who — the Court of Owls is right here.

The Court was created by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo for their legendary run on Batman, which kicked off in the fall of 2011, making them about two years younger than the the Batman: Arkham series itself. But the Court of Owls isn’t just a group of villains. It’s also a major addition to the world-building tools that make up Gotham City.

With the Court in play, Batman creators always have something easy to blame for how bad it is in Gotham — Why, it’s the shadowy plutocracy with Eyes Wide Shut vibes that’s been shaping the city since its inception!

What is the Court of Owls?

Batman discovers a portrait of several members of the Court of the Owls in Batman #3, DC Comics (2011). Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo/DC Comics

At their simplest, the members of the Court of Owls are a cultish conspiracy of the richest families in Gotham City. They gather in darkness, wearing creepy white owl masks, and shape the future of the city for their own selfish benefit. They have essentially unlimited resources within Gotham, and are known to have secret safe rooms, lairs, and passageways in many of the city’s buildings, hidden there by architects and construction workers who were later silenced or executed.

If there’s something bad in Gotham, it’s probably because the Court put it there. If there’s a systemic problem, dig deep enough, and it probably persists because it benefits the Court. (The Court disliked Thomas and Martha Wayne, naturally, because they weren’t down with the whole secret evil society thing. But while Bruce long suspected that the Court killed his parents, he never found any real evidence.)

The Court first showed up in the first two arcs of Snyder and Capullo’s Batman, storylines that culminated in the Night of the Owls crossover. When the Court realized that Batman was finally a true threat to their eternal rule over Gotham, they revived an army of Talons to execute the 40 most powerful and influential good people in Gotham.

The Talons are the enforcers of the Court of Owls

The mask of a Talon. Batman is reflected in both of its eye lenses, the Gotham City skyline is silhouetted against it in red, from the cover of Batman #4, DC Comics (2012). Greg Capullo/DC Comics

The Court trains Talons to be expert killers during their lives, and reanimates them after their death using a sort of mad-science serum. Revived Talons are unable to feel pain, and can continue fighting even after, say, a knife to the brain. Most of them are, if not loyal, brainwashed or simply brain-dead.

The only reliable way to defeat them is to, no joking, make them cold. When exposed to extreme cold, a Talon will enter a seemingly indefinite hibernation, which the Court uses to preserve them for future “use.” Many Talons are decades or centuries old, some born as far back as the 1600s.

Any notable Talons?

Most of the Talons aren’t known for much other than being a Talon, with two notable exceptions — both of which would be excellent grist for a Court of Owls and Bat-family-focused game.

First, there’s Dick Grayson, the first Robin. Snyder and Capullo revealed that the Court had plans to kidnap him as a child and train him as a Talon, plans that were interrupted by Bruce adopting him. The Owls prophesied that “the Grey Son” would become the greatest and deadliest Talon in the Court’s history, and the organization expended every effort to force him to work for them after the Bat-family discovered their existence.

Until Grayson, the title of greatest Talon likely belongs to a man known as Lincoln March. The real hook on March is that he believes he is Bruce’s younger brother, Thomas and Martha Wayne’s secret second child. In 2012’s Batman #11, Snyder and Capullo showed how this could potentially be true, revealing that Martha Wayne had been expecting another child when Bruce was still very young, but that she lost the baby after a car crash — one likely orchestrated by the Court.

Though all the facts line up, it’s never been proved that March and that lost baby are one and the same — his connection to the Waynes could simply be a lie the Owls told him to get him motivated for vengeance — and that might make it exactly the kind of story WB Montreal would want to explore.

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