Maria Powers, the wife of Joseph Powers, and owners of the lavish Gotham residence, Powers Hotel, steps out of an elevator to find her room completely trashed. Frantically trying to close the door, she calls for security, but no one answers, except for Batman. Showing her one of the Court's porcelain masks, Bruce demands to know where her husband is, pressing the mask against the bars of the elevator so hard, that it begins to crack. Maria tells him that her husband is out of the country, as she half-heartedly tries to threaten Bruce, who leaves her locked in the elevator.
Outside the Harbor House, Bruce remembers something Henri Ducard once taught him, about being on a case, and that gut feeling you have about the answers just comes over you. It's the same thing he's experiencing now, when he saw the Joseph Powers name, he just knew.
Bruce enters the building, trashing it as he goes, knowing he'll find what he's looking for this time, and when he does, all he finds is disappointment. He does find the Court of Owls, all at a table, but they're motionless. Poisoned, all dead.
"Damn you."The next day, Bruce sits in his study with the two bullet casings from the shots that killed his parents. Alfred suggests he gets ready to meet with some people from Wayne Industries about his revitalization product, but Bruce just can't seem to let the Court of Owls go. Alfred tries to comfort him, telling that many of the Court of Owls are dead, he's witnessed it himself, the organization is falling apart, and in time, they will probably all fall to them. Alfred takes the shell casings and puts them back, as Bruce gets up, looking at a portrait of his parents. Just as Bruce agrees to meet with the board, he notices something, something that will force him to miss the meeting, as he tells Alfred "I'm going after him."
Bruce claims to be going after "The one behind it, the one I forgot" as he secretly enters the morgue, he opens one of the large drawers meant to hold bodies, and finds a note "Follow me down the rabbit hole?"
Next we find Bruce just outside of Gotham city proper, in Kane County. He enters an old, run down building, that sits on top of a giant sink hole… the Willowwood Home for Children.
Now, as an editorial note, I'm going to mention this… If you're a Batman fan, who knows their shit, you know exactly what is coming.
Willowwood was a hospital for children that suffered from mental illness and other disorders. The hospital closed when the sink hole opened up, and revelations of the site became clear. Children were abused, neglected, and were basically in hell. The site is now a place for kids to dare each other to stay the night, and has gained the reputation of being haunted, something for this one night, Bruce believes in.
He enters a room, saying "I'm here" only to be met with a net from a net launcher. Lincoln March stands across the room, asking Batman "Who am I?" Bruce tells March that he's a traitor and a thief, who betrayed the Court, and faked his own death after including his own name on the list of targets the Talon had. Lincoln points out he didn't fake his own death, he died, only he drank the serum that allows Talons to come back to life.
Lincoln begins to open a safe, putting on a large suit, telling Bruce that there was a point where the Court of Owls was thinking of training a new Talon, someone to compete with Batman, just prior to the development of the serum to bring the old ones back. Then again, he asks Bruce "Who am I?"
Bruce tells Lincoln he believes he was an inmate at Willowwood. "Good. So tell me how you deduced that?" Lincoln says. Bruce mentions that criminals can't help but leave clues, the story Lincoln told him after being "attacked" was him basically asking Bruce to look into him. Lincoln once again asks Bruce who he is, and why the Court took him in.
Bruce says it's because the Court saw him as something they could easily control. Lincoln lashes out in anger, telling Bruce there's something he's purposely avoiding, demanding Bruce to tell him what exactly tipped him off, to send him to the morgue, looking for his body.
"SAY IT!" Lincoln screams.
The pin. On the portrait of his mother, Bruce saw a small, heart shaped pin on his mother's collar. The same type of pin Lincoln mentioned in his story about his mother. "There's the lie, but where's the truth?"
Bruce tries to reason that Lincoln saw that pin, and tried to use it in his story to… But Lincoln cuts him off, telling him that the truth in the lie is that the pin was only given to mothers who had children in Willowwood. Lincoln asks one last time "Who am I?" as he completely dawns a suit of armor, resembling that of an owl. Bruce still tries to fight it off, but Lincoln finally says it for him…
"Your brother, Bruce. I'm Thomas Wayne Jr. Your brother that never was. From the other side of the Mirror."Bruce yells, "I never had a brother!" but Lincoln tells him that he knows, deep down, that he was supposed to, asking him if he remembers the accident. Bruce tells Lincoln that he doesn't know what the Court told him, but his parents would never put a child of theirs in a place like Willowwood, but Lincoln tells him the hospital wasn't that bad, that is, until their primary funders, the Waynes died.
Lincoln continues to tell Bruce that the Court of Owls had nothing to do with the death of Thomas and Martha, that was his fault, and he intends to make him pay. He tells his brother to finish cutting through the net, and to face him, Brother to brother… Owl to Bat.
Meanwhile, in the back up, Jarvis Pennyworth continues his letter to his son, Alfred, while being chased by a Talon. He remembers a time, when Bruce was about three years old, and Martha was pregnant. Martha kept getting political threats from the Mayor, to which she paid no attention to.
One day, Jarvis answered the phone, a voice on the other line tells Jarvis that they were hoping to speak with him. They instruct him to take Martha to a secluded dock, the next time he takes him out. Fail to do this, and a less than pleasant future is promised for Jarvis, who demands to know who is on the other line. Before he can get an answer, a lone owl comes flying in, hitting the window next to him, dying on impact.
Jarvis lets Martha know about the call, to which Martha still isn't intimidated about. Martha asks Jarvis to get the car ready, as she promised to show Bruce the grounds of the new school they're building.
In his gut, Jarvis knew leaving the Mansion would be a bad idea, as for that day, the Owl who hunts him in the present, laid a trap for the car that carried Jarvis, Martha, and Bruce. There was a car accident, that changed the Wayne's lives forever. Jarvis remembers that he could "hear" the Court of Owls rhyme as they grew closer to that "damned intersection" on the corner of Lincoln and March.
Holy shit. I'm just going to get to the part that everyone will be talking about, the reveal. Total game changer, 100%. I remember there was a time that many people believed Dr. Hurt to be Thomas Wayne Jr, and Willowwood was teased at a time, but, as we all know, that didn't happen.
But as soon as I read "Willowwood" in the caption boxes, I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I knew exactly what was coming, but it made the reveal hold no less of an impact. The scene before the reveal of Lincoln claiming to be Thomas Wayne Jr. is so freaking tense, with the continuous question of "Who am I?" Each page I turned, I kept saying to myself "holy shit, holy shit, holy shit" in anticipation of when that final trigger would be pulled.
With this, and the back up, Scott Snyder has really just made a huge impact in the universe of the Bat. The core tenants remain the same, but you can't get around how huge this addition is. Prior to reading this, I talked to Scott briefly, as he teased how big this would be. Now, I mostly believed him, but there's that jaded part of me, that was sitting there thinking "I've read a lot of Batman comics… how can something be THAT big" but man… I got proven wrong in a big way. This issue was flat out, amazing.