Or – “They Were Doing SO Well…”

reviewbubble.jpgnw8.jpgThere’s an interesting thing about the way comic books are written… a time paradox that allows a character who was 8 years old in 1941 to turn 20 in 1984, then to spend another 20 years at college age before finally having the standard-issue 22-year-old’s “Who Am I And Why Am I Here?” identity crisis at the chronological age of 73. The only other occupation that has as slow a growth curve as DC superhero is probably “vampire,” and both by coincidence come with roughly the same wardrobe. Nightwing’s back with another issue in the new Wolfman era (Wolfman? Vampire? You’d think it was Halloween rather than the Christmas season…) but it’s hard to maintain a flawless story arc, even for the most talented veteran writers. How well does this issue work?

nw1.jpgI used to know a woman who compared the second act of a play to the second month with a new girlfriend… You’ve spent an entire act getting to know the characters, with everything being new and exciting, even the parts that would normally annoy you. But in the second act, you’re starting to get used to those things that are positive, and they stop balancing out those things that are bothersome. In the second act of a play, your metaphorical girlfriend’s faults are starting to come to the forefront. That’s kind of how this issue felt for me.

Marv starts us off in the middle of the story this issue, with young Richard “Nightwing” Grayson being buryed alive by the mysterious serial killer who was hired last issue to off him. (No, it’s not Dan Didio…) We see quick flashbacks of the fight that led us to this point, and the injury he suffered in #125 causes ‘Wing to get tossed into the grave and lose the World Heavyweight title. Wait, no, that was Yokozuna vs. the Undertaker… Nevermind. Nightwing, former Wonder Boy that he is, quickly realizes that he needs to regroup.

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Closing the lid, while not the ideal situation, at least gives Dick an air pocket, space, and time to plan. Since this particular cemetery is located on a cliffside (and WTF to that, anyway?) Dick realizes that he could concievably dig his way to the edge before his air runs out. It’s a pretty contrived situation, and feels very “Perils of Pauline” to me. Using his new ‘Winger grappling hook, conveniently explained last issue, Dick starts digging for his life, and also woolgathering like a Van Der Graff generator in a petting zoo. We get a recap of the mystery so far (Lexcorp scientists make weapon, get killed, one of them becomes Raptor, dies from some sort of power overflow, and his body is stolen), and the mystery behind Raptor’s melting face is revealed in flashback.

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I’m suddenly reminded why JJ looks so familiar. When Perez was drawing Teen Titans a million years ago, there was a story (the first Jericho story, actually) where Jericho possesses a HIVE goon named Rudy, who’s a dead ringer for JJ, there. Distracting, if only to me. And by the way, “Superman told Batman who told me?” Who talks like that? Not only has Raptor’s body gone missing, he armor has been stolen as well. Dick’s mind wanders, as he starts to blame his new not-a-girlfriend Ryan for being buried alive, using this as an excuse to bellyache about all the women he’s loved and lost.

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No offense, Mr. Grayson, but complaining about having nailed half the female heroes in the DCU doesn’t win you any favor from me, thank you very much. And doesn’t that look like a pretty HUGE hole to have been dug in such a short time? Andy Dufresne took thirty years to make a hole that big. I guess there must be some fsort of natural caverns or something. More flashbacks ensue, explaining more of the lost fight, showing Dick befriending Raptor’s family, and also getting a massage from Ryan. Dick starts to respond to what he thinks are “kiss me” signals, but gets a strange response…

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The obligatory barricade to love established, it’s now more obvious than ever that Ryan is Nighwing’s new main squeeze, but we knew that two issues ago, didn’t we? Sometimes it’s tough being ahead of the curve, and watching them explain everything for the kids in the cheap seats. Bygones… Nightwing tries to figure out the mystery, wondering who Raptor was going to sell his armor to, where his body went, and why the flashbacks are annoying drawn in the form of Polaroids.

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See what I mean? And the evil serial killer guy numbers his days by discovering who Nightwing really is. Seems like any time anyone figures out who a member of the Batman family is, he or she is caught in a fire, or killed by a villain, or hit by a bus, or trampled at a Who concert. Nobody likes a loose end. I’m also puzzled by the voice balloons once again telling Dick he should have died in the Crisis. I don’t believe the speaker is the same as the mysterious Ipod-wearing killer, but it isn’t clear. Dick manages, at the very last second, to overcome his death, and busts out of Raptor’s grave. Of course, this leaves him dangling over a cliffside, exhausted and bleeding, but that’s not important right now. As for the body that BELONGS in the grave?

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OooOOOOOOoooo… Call Mulder and Scully, we got us an alien autopsy! So, what’s the real story here? Why does someone think Nightwing should be dead? Next issue promises an end to the Raptor/musical assassin storyline, and hopefully it won’t bug me as much. My major problem with this issue was that it felt like padding. Sure, there was a ticking clock/perilous trap for the main character, but it just didn’t accomplish much. It was a very cinematic sort of thing, and didn’t translate well to comics. Many of the old tics that bother me about Jurgens art are back this issue, including the realization that Nightwing looks just like the way he used to draw Superman circa 1995, blue mullet hairdo and all. I don’t know if it was me, the “buried alive” plot device, but this issue felt off and never quite clicked… I can only give it 2 stars, and the benefit of the doubt.

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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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4 Comments

  1. Dragonbat
    December 29, 2006 at 10:07 am — Reply

    Actually, Wolfman’s said in more than one interview that Ryan will not be a new love interest for Dick. I think that scene was written to drive the idea home.

    As for people who know the Bat family secrets…

    Bane, Lady Shiva, Trog, Bird, Zombie, Talia, R’as (I know he’s dead for now, but he’ll be back) Jason Todd, Damien, Cass, Spy Smasher seems likely, seeing as she knows who Oracle is, Henri Ducard, Hugo Strange, Tarantula, Deathstroke… the list is fairly long. And most of these people are confirmed to be alive or are more likely to be than not.

  2. December 29, 2006 at 10:28 am — Reply

    Dragonbat, the list is much longer than that – check out http://www.majorspoilers.com/archives/4.htm for something I wrote a couple of years ago for my other site.

    One would think having a secret identity would mean you could keep it a secret.

  3. Dragonbat
    December 29, 2006 at 1:17 pm — Reply

    Which only serves to illustrate that knowing NW’s ID in no way guarantees the current baddie a swift demise. Thanks for the link!

  4. Matthew
    January 3, 2007 at 6:12 am — Reply

    Naaah, he’s dead… The guy listens to an Ipod, for Zarquon’s sake, he’s a 21st century version of the Hypno Hustler.

    And I was being flippant, thank you very much. :) It should be noted, however, that most of those people fall into three categories: trusted allies, enemy whose knowledge is used to make them seem more dangerous (but are usually too honorable to reveal the information), and crazy.

    As for keeping secret identities secret, I believe we’re suposed to accept that as part of the more “realistic” comics reading we get these days. Having the secret ID is considered passe, like having a team of characters who are friends and all respect one another…

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