Or – “Day 2: Still Tired From The Move…”

n22.jpgreviewbubble.jpgLast issue got me thinking, in a good way, about what I like about Dick Grayson, about Nightwing, and about the “dark vigilante” motif. I enjoyed what last issue set up, and I’m intrigued enough to come back again. That’s what the movie business calls “good buzz,” or “word of mouth” or something. (I think my superhero name will be Cliche Man…) In any case, Marv Wolfman’s to writing Nightwing is in full swing, and in part two, the game’s afoot. Can Marv, Dan and Norm keep up the interest of a vaguely interested party (and by extension, those readers who have only picked up Nightwing recently) or will I fill this slot next month with a review of “Betty and Veronica #6,972?”

n21.jpgThankfully, an in-depth analysis of Archie Andrews’ love life will have to wait, as Mr Grayson and company keep my attention, though I admit to a case of “SIS,” Second-Issue-Syndrome. You all probably know it, it’s that feeling you get when you look to the west… No, no, that’s “Stairway to Heaven.” SIS is that feeling you get in part two of a six (or eight, or perish forbid, ten) part series, when the players are on the board, the Macguffin is macguffed, and the path of the plot starts to play out… Naturally, pacing being what it is, all portions of the story aren’t going to be equally exciting, and issue two can feel like nothing much happens.

It’s not quite that serious here, but there’s a definite frustration that sets in, as the mystery deepens, but only dribs and drabs are brought to light. The issue starts with a nice character moment, as a damp and disgusted Nightwing sits in a tree in a veritable monsoon, so bored on stakeout that he broke out his Bat-Cellphone for a little human contact. At first, I thought he was talking to Oracle, and my heart jumped a little, given their last interactions pre-One-Year-Later. Turns out that his lifeline is none other than Alfred, who points out the problem with his subtle plan. “May I suggest that if if weren’t for the hurricane they would have taken the bait?” Heh. Gotta love that button-down sense of humor. Most of all, you have to love the way he takes Dick to task for swearing, and informs him that he owes $20 to the swear jar. Best of all, is how the conversation ends, when Dick asks if Alfred will take a check…

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Simple, effective dialogue that illuminates the character, establishes his back story, and shows us Nightwing’s often-ignored sense of family. That panel does more to establish the difference between Batman and Nightwing than the entire Bruce Jones run combined. Meanwhile, in a back alley, last issue’s antagonist Raptor finds himself in deep trouble. Armor damaged, power nearly gone, and a mysterious killer hot on his trail. He fires his napalm guns full blast, and takes to the air like a wounded sparrow, leaving behind his would-be assassin. The mystery killer is neither fired nor concerned, as he knows exactly where Raptor is headed, and instructs his driver to follow.

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Annd the answer to how the victims are burned alive is answered. If only it didn’t look so very… umm… phallic? Compensating much, Mr Dark And Mysterious Killer? In any case, while Raptor runs for his life, Dick Grayson has an appointment with his armorer, JJ. JJ’s a man of multiple resources, having made improvements to Nightwing’s grappling line assembly after last issue’s near-disaster, as well as hiding the fugitive doctor ‘Wing saved last month. Interestingly, it seems for all his brilliance, he’s agoraphobic.

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The lighting there is odd… This is the first bit that didn’t work for me, as the presence of someone with a phobia clubs us with the realization that he’ll have to face that phobia sooner or later. Probably sooner… Nightwing also takes a moment to discuss with Doctor Slater why anyone might want the good doctor dead. Slater knows that somebody is killing them because of their knowledge of certain technologies, but sadly, doesn’t know WHICH one. Even worse, Slater panics after being told that all the other targets are dead. With the doctor no longer of any use, Nightwing returns to the site of last issue’s battle, finding that the room has been cleaned, leaving no traces of either the battle or any wrongdoings. And, of course, nobody saw a thing, even though it would have taken a CREW of men to sanitize the room that quickly. Foiled again, Nightwing knocks off for the night, returning to get his promised massage (not like that, ya pervs) from last issue’s pretty girl companion. In an astonishing coincidence, passing through the gym to her office, Dick finds a young man trying (and failing) to get his trapeze swing down, and decides to help him.

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Once again, Jurgens’ art feels just a bit off. What worked so well for me last issue, is starting to distract me now, making me wonder if the inker changed something. Penciler Dan Jurgens is best known to me for his work on Superman, where he seemed to have a series of stock poses that he used for flying. The trapeze scene uses one or two of these poses and it pulls me out of the story, makes me too aware of the artist. It’s probably just me, but I found it annoying. New-love-interest Ryan arrives just in time to see her new crush flying with the greatest of ease, and is surprised to hear that he used to be in the circus. Ominously, another observer asks pointedly who the man in the air was. Is this perhaps someone who recognizes the style from Nightwing’s explots? Time will tell…

Remember how I said the agoraphobic would get agora’d, so to speak? Chalk one up for foreshadowing, as the safe house gets rolled by the man with the golden… um… staff. Slater gets toasted (literally), and JJ the armorer is forced to hit the streets, calling Nightwing for the save. But, at least Raptor is still alive to tell the tale, right?

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I’m gonna go with “not so much so.” Nightwing’s shadowed face in this panel is another case where I found the art to be distracting. Maybe it’s me. Anyway, back in the story, with all leads cold, and all targets dead, where do you go? To a funeral… Raptor’s widow reveals that her extremely late husband was expecting to get rich quick, and that somehow it all tied to Lexcorp. Unfortunately, he got himself noticed, and certain powers found him troublesome. Luckily (in a way), the mysterious killer has now been hired to hit Nightwing himself… DUN DUN DAAAAAH!

This issue was a little bit of a letdown from last, though not a total disappointment. Last issue, Jurgens and Rapmund’s art felt seamless and looked good. This month it’s not gelling as well. The story’s only-in-the-second-act-mystery probably adds to this, as you’re SUPPOSED to leave this book wondering what’s going on, but they combine to give me a twinge of “Last issue was better.” Raptor’s death was inevitable, which makes me wonder why he had to be a super-powered armor-guy. Wouldn’t the plot have worked as well with him just being a scientist? Of course, then we wouldn’t have had the climactic fight scene last isue, and Marv IS an old-school writer. I suspect if I hadn’t been so enamored of last issue, I wouldn’t be disappointed in this issue. As it stands, though, it’s a relatively minor complaint, and only loses this issue half a star from the last outing, for a more-than-respectable 3 stars.

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Discuss this issue in the Major Spoilers Forum.

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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