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Comic Book Review: "Batman: The Dark Knight #9: I Can No Longer Be Broken"

Updated on September 14, 2012
Batman: The Dark Knight #9
Batman: The Dark Knight #9 | Source

Another chapter of the “Night Of The Owls” (DC Comics’ first major crossover story) appears in Batman: The Dark Knight #9. “Night Of The Owls: I Can No Longer Be Broken”, written by Judd Winick with art by David Finch and Richard Friend, reveals the backstory of the last Talon (the undead assassin for The Court of Owls) of the 20th century. As with many of these issues in the crossover, the Talon’s identity and history in told through the eyes of the Talon. Here we are given insight into the life of Alton Carver, from his initiation into the ranks as a Talon through to his demise and finally, his transformation. He is the first Talon to see Batman and, apparently, the only one whose fears bring about his own downfall.

At 10:55 p.m. on the Night Of The Owls, a Talon is attacking Lincoln March in his office. He stabs him in the chest and Lincoln retaliates with a Taser and then a gunshot to the head of the Talon. The Talon thinks to himself that he is old and broken, but he was this way before the Court froze him.

He begins to see his life flash before his eyes: Years ago in Haly’s Circus, as a kid, Alton Carver, was punished for being afraid of the high-wire; He could do everything else, fire juggling, gymnastics, but he’s afraid of heights. The ringmaster was angry and threw him in a trailer and set it on fire. Alton cries for help, but the ringmaster just waits; telling he’ll learn to fight his fear. Finally Alton felt cold (something died in him and something new was born), and stumbled out of the burning trailer, hair singed and skin burned. The ringmaster told him that he’s “now worthy to be the next Talon”.

In Gotham City, 26 years later, Talon Carver is carrying out an assassination. He’s held the mantle of Talon longer than most of the others, but he’s getting sloppy. He missed three police officers when he swept the building before he attacked his assignment. The Court of Owls is considering “retiring” him because he’s made too many mistakes lately. (Although he killed his target and the cops, he hid the officers’ bodies instead of staging a crime scene killing; now there’ll be question and an investigation.) The Court has found a replacement for him, and they will replace him if he can’t prove himself worthy.

While out on another assigned execution, he takes a detour and goes to Haly’s Circus to sees his replacement-in-training: Richard Grayson. For the first time since the trailer fire as a child, he feels fear again. He has to attack his target in the street, because going to the circus cost him precious time. Batman arrived to save the victim and Talon Carver flees out of fear for the second time in one night. He has failed for the last time: the Court decides to “retire” him.

As the Court pumps him full of the “cold”, he sleeps and dreams of a giant bat. Then he was awakened to join his brethren in the Night of the Owls attacks. His target is Lincoln March, the Gotham City mayoral candidate. March fights back after Talon Carver attacks him. As Carver stumble backwards across the room, Batman arrives. Carver feels that same fear again, and then Lincoln shots him.

Talon Alton Carver is relieved that death has finally come, but he doesn’t die. He comes back from the darkness. He sees Batman and realizes that he isn’t a monster, but a man. He can kill a man and attacks Batman. He tells him that Death is just a Wound to a Talon. Batman says that he’s dealt with his kind all night long. If Talon Carver is okay with being “wounded” then he should be fine with this: Batman kicks him out of the window. As he falls to the street Carver knows the battle is over, but not the war.

At midnight, that same night, Batman, Nightwing (Richard Grayson), Robin (Damian Wayne), and Red Robin (Tim Drake) gather on the roof of Lincoln March’s office. Batman looks down at the bloody impact zone of Talon Carver’s fall: There is blood, but no body. Batman says that he’s still out there; he’s still alive. He tells the three of them to find him before he fully regenerates.

In the sewers deep underneath Gotham City, the Talon Alton Carver is lurching through the murky sewage. He is slowly healing. He muses that he has awoken twice in one night: the first was from the dark sleep of despair; the second time was from death itself. He feels cold and he has no fear.

The “Batman: The Dark Knight” series has always had a supernatural and creepy fairytale quality to its stories. Issue 9, “I Can No Longer Be Broken” has a very fascinating “Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus” twist to it. It is interesting that Alton Carver “changes” so much throughout the story. Many of the Talons are reluctant to join the order, or at the very least, they are brought in after some kind of tragedy to make a new life. However, Alton Carver is forced to become a Talon. Throughout the story, he seems so distant and filled with a sense of melancholy about his assassin lifestyle. It’s almost like he’s just waiting for his real calling. Finally, it would seem that he receives it from a Giant Bat of all things; one of the things he fears: His tussle with the Dark Knight has shown him the way. Now that he’s apparently left the Court of Owls, and run into the sewers, it will be interesting to see if (and when) he resurfaces in Gotham City. Will he becomes another villain or possibly an awkward ally in the future? In this “Dark Knight” series, at the very least, he could be a mysterious kind of boogey man lurking in the shadows a’ la the Brothers Grimm.

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