Dark Nights: Metal #2 hit shelves this week and, in doing so, successfully book ended one of the deepest running plot threads from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s New 52 Batman run. In an issue absolutely loaded with big reveals, one of the biggest was that the Court of Owls is directly at the heart of the DC Universe-spanning Batman epic.
Now that we know how closely Snyder and Capullo’s epic run ties into their current opus, it’s time to take a closer look at just who the Court of Owls are and what their plans might mean for the future of the DC Universe as Metal unfolds.
The Court and the Parliament
In the simplest terms, the Court of Owls is a secret society operating in Gotham City, while the Parliament of Owls is what they’re called when they work on an international level. The Court’s been operating just beneath the surface (sometimes literally) of Gotham for hundreds of years, passing membership in secret across generations of affluent families to influence the direction of the city’s political and financial future.
But shadowy plays for money and power are only one part of the Court’s sprawling puzzle. They’re also invested in the “spiritual,” or mythological, side of the city as well, believing themselves to be organized by a power that is almost divine in nature. To prove this, they’ve developed technology that borders on magical, using corrupted science and alchemy to build and hide sprawling
With the help of the Talons, they’re able to execute anyone who would stand in their way on those rare occasions where someone would discover they exist in the first place — Which, as it turns out, is actually not an easy thing to do. See, the Court has been covering their tracks for centuries — so much so that they’ve actually almost entirely faded into urban legend and folklore to be passed around at the slumber parties and campfires of Gotham’s kids and teens. They’ve even got their own spectacularly creepy nursery rhyme to really up the ante. It goes:
Beware the Court of Owls, that watches all the time, Ruling Gotham from a shadowed perch, behind granite and lime.They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed. Speak not a whispered word about them, or they’ll send the Talon for your head
Of course, while setting out to actually discover the Court of Owls may not be the best course of action, there are other ways to pull them out of hiding. You could always rattle their proverbial tree on accident…which is exactly what happened to Batman. It turns out the Court didn’t take kindly to a costumed do-gooder swinging in out of nowhere to influence the direction of their carefully curated city, and something had to be done.
And that’s how Bruce and the Bat Family came face to face with an army of Talons and a laundry list of uncomfortable secrets brought to light.
Of course, to say Batman was totally caught off guard by the Court’s sudden intervention in his heroics wouldn’t be true at all. They don’t call him the World’s Greatest Detective for nothing.
No, Batman had been studying the Court for years, to the point where a startling revelation about Dick Grayson’s own linage wasn’t actually a revelation for him at all. It turned out that the Grayson family had been a source for the Court’s Talons for generations, and Dick was supposed to be a figure in one of their arcane prophecies. As the “Gray Son of Gotham” Dick was to become the Court’s prized Talon, stepping in for someone who turned out to be Dick’s long lost ancestor, a currently operating Talon named William Cobb.
Needless to say, the entire event didn’t sow any seeds of trust between Dick and his mentor.
Towards the end of the New 52 and more recently in Rebirth, Dick’s connections with the Court have been coming back to haunt him. During the 2015 event Robin War Dick was blackmailed into becoming an international operative for the Parliament, adopting the title of Talon but avoiding undergoing any of the treatments that would have brainwashed or rendered him immortal. Dick used this position within their organization to slowly dismantle them from the inside out — or, so he thought.
As we’ve learned in Metal there may be even more to the Court and Parliament of Owls than we ever could have anticipated.
The Stigydae, Barbatos and the Metal
The name “Strigydae” might sound familiar to you if you’ve been keeping a close eye on Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman run over the years. The name first dropped in issue #51, the Strigydae (or Strigidae) were brought up in reference to a mysterious ritual called “the mantling.”
We know now that the mantling is a process the Court has been using to attempt to summon an actual, literal demon name Barbatos. The ritual involves making a sacrifice (in this case, Bruce Wayne) come into contact with the the five “heavy metals” — Electrum, Dionesium, Promethium, Nth Metal and Batmanium.
Some of these names might ring a bell or two for you, as all but Nth Metal were called out specifically at different points during the New 52 Batman run, where Bruce became exposed to each of them, one by one. Specifically, during Jim Gordon’s tenure as the Bat in issue #45, he meets with a wealthy business woman named Geri Powers who has been using resources to research elements beyond the periodic table.
The run doesn’t make it explicitly clear, but as it wraps up, it’s also heavily implied that the Powers family has some deep ties to the Court which just might dig the conspiracy hole of Bruce Wayne’s “mantling” a little bit deeper. Geri Powers and her company have yet to return since Rebirth, but it might be worthwhile to keep an eye out for the name as Metalprogresses.
The Strigydae, it turns out, are “high priests” of Barbatos, working tirelessly in conjunction with the Court to summon him into the material world. We see them in the tomb of Hath Set looking extremely inhuman, but it’s unclear if they’re wearing masks as they step into the light or if they are genuinely just, well, monsters.
…And it’ll probably remain pretty unclear, considering Barbatos and his evil Batmen make short work of the Strigydae and the members of the Court who are unlucky enough to be in the chamber when he’s summoned.
Still, it’s not a good idea to count the Court or the Parliament out of the fight, even now that their ultimate goal is all but achieved. Dick Grayson has learned this the hard way more than once, after all, these arcane secret cults bent on world domination have a way of cropping back up again and again, no matter what.
And even with the knowledge we got this week in Metal #2, it certainly feels like this is only the tip of the iceberg.
(Courtesy of CBR.com)