Hands in the Past, But Feet Planted in the Present: “Talon #0”

The escape arts have a vast and storied history in comics. It’s a handy skill when heroes are dealing with the myriad amount of death traps they often deal with in a 20 page story. Most longtime comicbook readers will immediately think of Mister Miracle or even Batman when asked about escape specialist comic heroes. Calvin Rose, the protagonist of the new Talon series, joins that long tradition. He also joins a new tradition created last year when DC pushed out their New 52. A new tradition that saw the rise of the Court of Owls–Talon is a spinoff of sorts–arguably the most impactful and memorable aspect of the New 52 thus far. However, is their room for this type of book in a universe that seemingly disconnected its roots? A book that connects the old with the new?

Behind the scenes, the setup is that Batman writer Scott Snyder and newcomer James Tynion IV jointly developed this concept. Snyder helps with the plot, while Tynion does most of the heavy lifting. It’s an interesting relationship, with a dynamic core that centers on their, mentor-protégé situation. Don’t let the cover fool you, the two writers are equal conceptually, but the execution is the rise of a new talent.

On stage, the setup is that of a new character debuting in a zero issue. There is an inherit challenge with that situation. Zero issues are best when recapping previous stories or revealing a new bit of information. To debut before there is a proper storyarc has the potential to spoil a reader’s engagement with the character and story. We learn about what makes up a character as a story progresses, rarely prior. This is not a challenge that can’t be overcome, but it certainly doesn’t do a brand new hero any favors. It is especially difficult for a new creator coming out of the shadow of another creator.

Many will read Talon #0 (and the rest of the Talon series for that matter) and feel Snyder’s influence over the title. But we have to wonder, is it Snyder’s influence or Snyder and Tynion’s shared sensibility that’s on display? As the two writers discussed during our interview, they have much in common when it comes to creating narratives. It’s something I wonder about now after reading Talon #0 in its entirety, rereading Tynion’s previous work and reflecting on our previous conversation. As they said, you must have an unbreakable compass when it comes to a story. We’ve seen this from Snyder; perhaps we’re also seeing this from Tynion.

From its opening pages to its conclusion, Talon #0 is a character study and survey of the narrative terrain. Calvin Rose is someone who continually finds himself trapped, backed into a corner and making last minute maneuvers to escape. His father’s abandonment, the circus’ abandonment and his own abandonment of his evil duty demonstrate a character that lives in the final moment before death.

Clearly patriarchal issues rule the roost for Calvin, as the three father figures in his life (his own father, his escape artist mentor and Mr. Haley) have all led him into traps. It is the masters of the Court of Owls who have shown the most interest in him, but their love is a bit hard to embrace. The conflicting emotions that Calvin has to come to terms with are perhaps the most interesting aspect of his origin story. That and demanding his pants after surviving his latest death trap.

If Talon #0 has a fault it’s that Tynion is overly verbose with the narration. Maybe this is getting into the minutia. After all it is perfectly reasonable to go heavy on the narration given the context of the issue. On the other hand, narration-heavy comics is something to be cautious of going forward. We’ve seen this story before in numerous mediums, and we’ll see this story again countless times, so it’s the execution that will differentiate this series from other escape-on-the-run adventure series.

Part of that execution is in the hands of artist Guillem March and colorist Tomeu Morey. Their work in this issue is very commendable. There isn’t one breakout panel, but the pencils, inks and colors are nothing to ignore. The overall effort certainly work to set the tone, but much of that is due to the plot.

Getting back to the emotional core, Talon is connecting the old with the new: the escape artist tradition married to a creation that has its roots in the New 52. It is both a reflection of the new era and of the promise that is the New 52. New creations and fresh takes on old concepts; new creators with their hands in the past, but their feet planted in the present. Whether the rest of the New 52 has lived up to that idea is debatable. Talon is, however, certainly showing the potential that Tynion felt when he pitched the idea.

RATING 7 / 10
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