Nightwing #128

by

Or – “Like Good Golf, It’s All In The Follow-Through…”

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I admit it. I picked up Nightwing #125 out of tri-fold curiosity: First, to see Wolfman back on the character he pioneered. Second, to see if the rather terrible Bruce Jones run had damaged the character beyond repair. And third, because I figured that reviewing only titles that I already read and loved would lead to some seriously boring reviews. The first arc concludes here, which gives me the exact opposite of a “perfect jumping on point,” as Previews would call it. As The Clash so eloquently put it, should I stay or should I go?

nw1.jpgWell, I’ll tell ya… each successive issue of Nightwing has gotten a slightly lower score than the one previous to it. A lot of plot points were put into play with Wolfman’s first issue, and very few of them have panned out, so far. I understand the concept of writing for the trade, but I can’t always take it into account when I do the review. Each issue is essentially a universe unto itself, and every issue is somebody’s first, a wise man once said. With #128, I’ve officially come to the conclusion that Nightwing, for me, works best in Outsiders…

Richard “Nightwing” Grayson starts the issue swinging over the city in a very Jurgens fashion, ruminating over his life and the mysteries of his apparent survival against the will of the universe. After all, the mysterious voice has told him TWICE that he should have died during the Crisis (if not for the grace of God and the will of the apellate court giving Jerry Siegel’s heirs the rights to Superboy) but somehow he can’t quite bring himself to cheer his new lease on life.

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Oooh, somebody has a serious case. Apparently, his return to New York eight issues ago was predicated on either forgetting her, or getting his own $#!+ together enough to somehow earn her back. It’s not clear, and I’m starting to get annoyed that there’s been no explanation of what happened after they got engaged PRE-Crisis but before the One Year Later gap. There’s teasing a mystery, and then there’s just taunting us poor bastards with stuff we may never know.

Meanwhile, the mysterious consortium of former Lexcorp flunkies have recovered the Raptor battle armor and the body of it’s former wearer Jace Lorens. (Is that name an anagram for something?) They find that Lorens died of a massive radiation overdose, but can’t find the leaks in the suit, so they just double the insulation and send out Raptor 2.0 to crush-kill-destroy throughout New York. Their plan is to show how awesome the suit is, then sell it for billions of dollars. Problem is, they think that Nightwing is out of the picture, dead like the mackerel, and are horribly disappointed to see him once again facing down their boy with nothing more than a Wham-O steel boomerang and nice hair. Dick arrives, and when a cop asks how he’s going to take down Raptor without weapons, he engages in an unforgivable piece of dialogue…

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That’s nearly as bad as “We’re not in Kansas anymore!” on the scale of STFU. Sadly, the cop was right, Dick is horribly overmatched, and only the sheer stupidity of whomever is in the Raptor armor saves him. Raptor blows up a city bus, destroying a couple of city blocks in the process, when one of the scientists back at Secret Cadre Headquarters realizes why they couldn’t find the radiation leaks on inert armor.

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Which explains the previous issues, actually, when Jace Lorens kept getting more and more emaciated and burnt each issue. The armor itself killed him, with a little help from the guys who kept hunting him for it, forcing him to use it over and over. Now, as to why a suit that fires napalm would have NUCLEAR power sources is beyond me, but I ain’t Lex Luthor, am I? My mind is too pedestrian to understand his genius, like the steam powered humidifier, or the solar powered cigarette lighter. Anyway, Dick sees Raptor hesitating (radiation poisoning’ll do that to ya) and bets that even though HE can’t break through the armor, maybe it’s own weapons can.

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“Got a light?” seems a bit flippant given that you’ve just shot a concentrated jet of napalm directly into a man’s gut. Of course, the police shot him in the groin earlier, so Raptor is obviously pretty tough. This tack blows the armor, and leaves Raptor a fried out husk in the street, but it’s okay. Wolfman makes it clear that the radiation killed him, NOT Dick’s last chance gambit. I have to tell you, that doesn’t work for me. There was no way for Nightwing to know that he was already dying, and I can’t imagine that he thought that blowing up the armor like that wouldn’t be fatal to the man within.

The mysterious cabal is panicking over Raptor’s failure, when their luck gets even worse. Their “buyers” call in early, and no amount of song and dance will deter them from finishing the deal. When the scientists hem and haw about how the armor may need some work, the mysterious buyer responds with “What you mean to say is that the fault is with the power supply. Weapons discharge causes the casing to breach, which results in radiation poisoning. The wearer dies… unpleasantly.” How could the man know this?

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Oh, snap. Not only do you have nothing to SELL, but there was never any actual buyer in the first place. You just got served, by the mastermind of the DC Universe, gentlemen. Luthor knew all along what was going on, and only allowed these idiots to do what they did to get his armor back so he could destroy it. But now it’s destroyed, babbles the head of the conspiracy, so no harm was done, right? Right?

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And that’s… one to grow on! Remind me never to beat Lex at poker, not that I could anyway. As for Dick, he returns to the family of the late Jace Lorens, explaining to the family what REALLY happened, that their husband/father wasn’t a murderer after all, but his son isn’t having it. He storms off into the night, eventually running into a crazy woman in a bridal gown who cryptically mentions The Groom and his “kill.” Next month’s villain, present and accounted for, SIR! Dick returns to the treetops, having finally hashed out SOME of his issues, and deciding that no matter how bad it gets, no matter how hard your life is, or how you have to pretend that you’re not an Outsider and that the rest of them are dead, and that having a daddy like Batman isn’t a nightmare on both the physical and emotional levels. He’s made an important realization…

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Nightwing’s mask in that panel bugs me. Actually, the art THROUGHOUT the issue bothers me. Jurgens is only doing layouts, whatever that means, and the rest of the team does a decent Jurgens impersonation, but all it really does is mimic the stylistic tendencies that irritate me about Dan’s work. I’m tired of the “blacked out face” for drama, the hyper-extended-in-midair legs, tired of the flying blue mullety hair. This issue was competently drawn, it wasn’t by any means ugly, but it just didn’t gel for me. In four issues, we’ve set up a bunch of plotlines, but haven’t really gone anywhere with the intriguing ones. I like Marv, but this didn’t work for me at all. I want to know more about the whole “you should be dead,” about who and what the Monitors are.

I’ll probably check up on Nightwing in the future, but for now, I think it’s left my read pile, having settled into an art style that bugs me, and writing that, while excellent, has yet to deliver on the expectations from issue #125. The resolution to the “mystery” wasn’t really very compelling, and the story felt a touch below average. I s’pose they can’t all be gems, but I can’t give this issue more than 1.5 stars. Maybe I’ll replace my monthly Nightwing review with She-Hulk? Stay tuned…

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