The Owl

The Owl
The Owl graphic novel review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Dynamite Entertainment - 978-1-52410-238-8
  • Release date: 2017
  • UPC: 9781524102388
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no
  • CATEGORIES: Superhero

Of all the obscure characters revived for Project Superpowers, the Owl is one of the strangest choices to feature in his own graphic novel. He’s only ever used in crowd scenes during the parent series, and barely has a line of dialogue, but he is someone with potential as a flying Batman knock off.

The conceit of Project Superpowers is that whole group of superheroes have been trapped alive since the late 1940s, then released in the 21st century. All the resulting solo graphic novels address the idea of superheroes out of time to a greater or lesser degree, and the Owl is on the upper end of the scale, hanging around the police precinct he last worked in sixty years previously, while being amazed at the casual attitude to life of 21st century gangsters. As the Owl, Nick Terry used to work with his girlfriend as Owl Girl, and that identity has been continued through the decades, with the current version almost as violent as the gangsters.

Heubert Khan Michael is adaptable enough to show different versions of the Owl in different eras using different styles of art, with the colouring of Vinicius Andrade helping to separate the time periods. The effective variations are displayed by the sample pages. Beyond that, Michael’s good enough with the everyday scenes to establish the Owl in the 21st century, and copes well with the action.

J. T. Krul sets up a clash of 1940s ethics with the pragmatics of dealing with crime in the 21st century, but having done this efficiently really has no surprises to spin in a linear plot. The Owl and Owl Girl disagree on what’s necessary to deal with the gangsters of the present day, and his eventual choice is whether or not he needs to stop her. Krul also neglects to follow up on a neat piece of characterisation introduced early when Nick agrees to find a missing old man, and would it really be so easy for someone to get a police job with a faked CV? Little sloppy elements like this undo the good work, especially when there would have been time enough to follow up.