A Nightwing #93 Micro-Review – Corrupt Cops and a Stupid Villain

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

Nightwing 93, Pride variant cover, Nick RoblesTITLE: Nightwing #93
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS:
Bruno Redondo, Wade Von Grawbadger (Inker), Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Variant cover by Nick Robles.

RELEASED: June 21, 2022

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This is something of a feel-good issue. Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon take on corrupt Bludhaven cops. One of those parties gets their comeuppance. I’ll let you guess which one.

Heartless, a new villain for Nightwing that was introduced at the beginning of the Taylor/Redondo run, makes a really stupid mistake in this issue: He underestimates Blockbuster. Like, it’s so stupid that it’s almost out of character. Though I can’t officially say that, as we don’t know who’s under that mask yet…

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Who is Nightwing? – The End of an Artistic Era

***As Nightwing’s public profile grows higher via the Titans TV series and the upcoming Gotham Knights game, “Who is Nightwing?” looks at Dick Grayson’s early solo adventures after stepping out of Batman’s shadow.***

TITLES: Nightwing #3040, Nightwing: Secret Files & Origins #1
AUTHOR: Chuck Dixon
ARTISTS: Scott McDaniel, Karl Story (Inker), Roberta Tewes (Colorist), John Costanza (Letterer)
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
ORIGINALLY RELEASED:
1999-2000
CURRENTLY COLLECTED IN:
Nightwing Vol. 4, Nightwing Vol. 5

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

These issues represents the finale of a 40-issue consecutive run for penciller Scott McDaniel, inker Karl Story, and colorist Roberta Tewes on Nightwing. McDaniel will be back later in the series. But collectively, this team that ultimately set the standard for Nightwing as a series is playing its last inning here.

Fittingly, author Chuck Dixon gives them compelling and exciting stories to tell, starting with a visit from none other than Superman.

Issue #30 is one of my favorites in the entire series, as Superman pays a quick visit to Bludhaven. Admittedly, it probably does more for Superman than Nightwing. But that’s because Dixon is one of the few writers out there that really gets the Man of Steel. As such, it’s that much more interesting to see him in Bludhaven, which is so different from Metropolis.

Furthermore, the dynamic between Superman and Dick Grayson has always been interesting to me. Remember, Superman knew Dick when he was a child, or at least younger, as Robin. So they’re both old friends and respected colleagues in that sense. That mutual respect is very much evident here. To that end, we get a nice flashback sequence later on where we spotlight Superman’s role in the formation of the Nightwing identity.

Scott McDaniel is as good at drawing Superman as he is Nightwing or Batman. One thing that jumped out at me in this collection is what a sense of motion this art has. Though the lighter colors of Superman’s costume do bring to light the hyper-musculature of his heroes, for better or worse. Occasionally, McDaniel will also draw Nightwing in awkward positions while he’s airborne. Case in point, the page at right. That’s a trap many an artist has fallen into with Dick. I suspect it has something to do with his gymnast background, and attempting to make him look flexible.

This Nightwing series sees Dick take on a few different day jobs. But issue #31 starts him on the path to my personal favorite: Police officer. It doesn’t really bear any fruit this time around, as he’s just in the academy for a few issues. But I’ve always loved the idea of one of the Bat-family members being a cop by day, given Batman’s often hot-and-cold relationship with the criminal justice system. Dixon has to put an abrupt halt to it in issue #35 due to a tie-in with the No Man’s Land crossover. But thankfully he gets to come back to it down the line.

The crossover in question sees Batman send Nightwing to Blackgate prison, which has been ravaged along with all of Gotham by the events of No Man’s Land, to wrest it from the incarceration-obsessed supervillain Lock-Up. Sadly, Dixon only has a few issues to tell the portion of the story that takes place in Blackgate. Thus, it doesn’t even remotely live up to its potential as a tale of Nightwing infiltrating Lock-Up’s prison system and taking it down from the inside. It actually winds up becoming more of a head-on attack. But thanks to the events of No Man’s Land, Dixon and McDaniel get to play with some Arkham regulars. Most notably Scarecrow, the Ventriloquist, and Firefly. Nightwing also dukes it out with KGBeast, roughly two decades before the character gives Dick amnesia via a bullet in the head (long story).

Published alongside the main series during this time was Nightwing: Secret Files & Origins #1, which features a sort of interlude to the Blackgate story. As Dick is unconscious and hallucinating, the then-deceased Jason Todd becomes a Dickens-esque guide through his life as hero. We breeze through Dick’s time as Robin, his time with the Teen Titans, the formation of the Nightwing identity, and his arrival in Bludhaven. It’s not at all necessary from a narrative standpoint. But it’s a cool little sub-story. Note that this is how Jason’s death was framed for the 15+ years between the character’s death and resurrection. As the ultimate cautionary tale for Batman and his surrogate family, his memory and all associated flashbacks and supposedly spectral appearances were there to be provoke lamentation.

Dick’s Will They?/Won’t They? romance with Barbara Gordon finally comes to a head in issue #38, as Nightwing retreats to Oracle’s clock tower home base after the events at Blackgate. In nursing Dick back to health, the two finally start speaking plainly and at length about their feelings for one another. But of course, it can’t be simple. Huntress, alongside a faction of No Man’s Land era Gotham cops with (to say the least) questionable motives, storm the clock tower in an attempt to capture Barbara.

Issues #38 and #39 finally bear the fruit of seeds planted near the beginning of the series. They talk openly about their feelings, and Barbara comes out and explains the role her paralysis played in why their relationship never fully blossomed. Having Dick’s old flame Huntress in the picture obviously makes for an awkward triangle at certain points. But it doesn’t spoil anything between Dick and Barbara. These issues are pivotal in the saga of their romance, as it begins to transcend flirtation. These two are serious about each other. Or at least they could be…

It’s also worth noting that McDaniel sufficiently carries his load during those quiet, romantic scenes. Which, as I’ve said before, aren’t necessarily his strong suit.

Issue #40 sees team up with a World War II era superhero to take on a Nazi. Sort of. The issue involves a bit character Dixon introduced earlier in the series. An elderly novelist. Draw your own conclusions there.

Portions of the issue are supplemented with prose paragraphs. Some readers don’t like that sort of thing. Personally, I’m fine with it as long as it’s written and formatted well. What happens here is harmless.

Nightwing #40 is a bit of a strange issue for our artistic team to go out on. But it nonetheless marks the end of an era for the Dick Grayson. One that continues to impact the character to this very day.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Who is Nightwing? – Bludhaven Begins

***As Nightwing’s public profile grows higher via the Titans TV series and the upcoming Gotham Knights game, “Who is Nightwing?” looks at Dick Grayson’s early solo adventures after stepping out of Batman’s shadow.***

TITLES: Nightwing #18
AUTHOR: Chuck Dixon
ARTISTS: Scott McDaniel, Karl Story (Inkers), Roberta Tewes (Colorist), John Costanza (Letterer)
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
ORIGINAL SELLING PRICE:
$1.95 per issue
ORIGINALLY RELEASED:
1996-1997
CURRENTLY COLLECTED IN:
Nightwing, Vol. 1: Bludhaven

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This is it. I’d argue these are the issues that would define Dick Grayson for the next two decades and beyond. And they’re good!

Pretty good, that is.

When a whopping 21 dead bodies float up river into Gotham Harbor, Batman and Nightwing trace them to Gotham’s sister city, Bludhaven. When the Dark Knight sends him to investigate, Dick Grayson quickly learns that in many ways, Bludhaven is worse than Gotham. What’s more, a mysterious new crime lord has seized control of the city. Thus, Nightwing must discover their identity and take on a city corrupt to its core. And he’ll have to do it on his own…

I credit Chuck Dixon as one of the more underappreciated architects of Batman’s world as we know it. So Dick was in great hands for his first ongoing series. As one would expect, Dixon spends a good portion of these issues laying groundwork. We establish where Dick is in his life, Bludhaven as a character in itself, his supporting cast, and by the end we have our main villain.

Long before the term “quarter-life crisis” was a thing, Nightwing was essentially a quarter-life crisis book. Not simply about a superhero in a new city, this book is about an early-20s Dick Grayson creating a life for himself without his mentor’s help. And we get to see him doing a lot of those “fresh start” things. He gets an apartment without Bruce Wayne footing the bill. He gets a day job as a bartender. He meets a cute girl. He explores his new city and learns to care about it. These are all things young, particularly college-age adults can identify with. Nightwing reached for a key demographic in ways that few superhero books do.

For the first 40 issues of Nightwing, our art team consisted of Scott McDaniel, Karl Story on inks, and Roberta Tewes on colors.  That’s a heck of a run. A downright historic one when you consider all it did for Dick Grayson.

Personally? I have no choice but to acknowledge this team got the job done, as the work still holds up more than 20 years later. But to be blunt: It’s never really been my cup of tea.

To me, Scott McDaniel’s art has always screamed, “Action!” If you want him to draw, say, a sequence where a helicopter takes off carrying a small building that has Nightwing and a bad guy inside, McDaniel is your man. He’s less suited, however, for quiet moments. A recurring nightmare sequence, for instance. Or a scene at Dick’s bartending job. Sometimes they work, case in point the scene in issue #1 where Dick gives a young would-be mugging victim some money to get the hell out of Bludhaven. But just as often they don’t.

What’s more, the coloring choices make the art hard to follow at certain points. For instance, look at the page below. I understand the effect they’re going for with the lighting. But the final product looks, quite frankly, like someone spilled lemonade all over the page.

On a random side note, it’s amazing to think the Black Mask character has lasted 35 years. Especially when you consider his original design looks like a Blue Man Group guy in a pinstripe suit. He makes a quick appearance in issue #1.

Robin/Tim Drake stops by for issue #6. It’s a fun exploration of the brotherly dynamic Dick and Tim have. It does more for Tim, which is a little bit backwards considering it’s Dick’s book. But putting Dick with the current Robin will always be interesting.

We’ll dive into who Bludhaven’s mysterious new crimelord is next time. It has its ups and downs, but the decision lasts almost 100 issues. So suffice to say it worked out for them. That’s emblematic of these first eight issues overall. They’re hardly perfect. But in the long run, they were exactly what the Dick Grayson character needed as he moved into the next phase of its life.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

A Nightwing #10 Review – Back in Bludhaven

Nightwing #10, 2016, cover, Marcus ToTITLE: Nightwing #10
AUTHOR: Tim Seeley
PENCILLER: Marcus To
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: December 7, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The cover may say “Welcome to Bludhaven,” but don’t be fooled. NIghtwing has been here before. It’s been about a decade. But these are his old stomping grounds…kinda.

Bludhaven (pronounced “blood haven”) was the setting for Rightwing’s original solo series, which first hit stands in 1996. Compared to Gotham, Bludhaven was poorer, dirtier, and at times more violent. As writer Chuck Dixon described the city in issue #1: “As bad as Gotham is, Bludhaven’s worse in a lot of ways. If it’s too coarse or too vile or too awful for Gotham, it winds up here.” Yikes. Now, after a hint from Superman (who, remember, is from that New 52 Earth), our New 52 Dick Grayson is checking out this world’s version of Bludhaven. As it turns out, not much has changed. Dick and Nightwing are making Bludhaven their new home, even though the city doesn’t look highly on those that wear capes and masks…

Tim Seeley is essentially using the formula for the old Nightwing book, with the New 52 iteration of the character. As an older fan, that’s a nice treat. We’ve got the Bludhaven name, the black and blue suit, and Dick is trying to “figure out who I am,” as he tended to do back in the day. He’s even got a new gig as a volunteer for teens affected by violence. How many friggin’ jobs did he have in that old series? He was a bartender, a cop, a gymnastics coach. A true renaissance man, that Dick Grayson.

nightwing #10, 2016, Marcus To, splash pageWe get a nice same-but-different vibe from the city. It’s not depicted as violent or dirty, thus far. But there’s a definite air of corruption and danger. What’s more, this is a Bludhaven that’s concerned about tourism. In future issues, Nightwing will apparently become a mascot of sorts for the city. That’s intriguing, considering he’s more of a covert-style vigilante. It’s certainly a far cry from people thinking he’s dead.

Seeing Marcus To on this book makes me smile. Years later, I’m still bitter about the Red Robin book he worked on being cut short. He’s worked for DC since then, but having him back on an ongoing Bat-book feels like justice of sorts. He and colorist Chris Sotomayor give us an awesome Nightwing. What’s more (as Meg Downey pointed out on Twitter), To gives us subtle variations between Dick as Nightwing, Dick in public, and Dick in private. The way he dresses is obviously different, but the way To plays with his hair is the great part. As Nightwing it’s a bit wilder, in public it’s styled neatly, and in private it’s unkempt. Sadly, you don’t always notice that kind of thing the first time through. But I give To a lot of credit for it. His character acting is also very natural, and again, subtle at times. Case in point: The page that strictly consists of shots of Dick sitting in a chair talking. To makes each of them different, while other artists might go for panel duplication.

The issue starts out with a one-page scene (shown below) in which Batgirl and Robin briefly talk about Dick. We also get a shot of Batman. It’s not immediately apparent why this is in this issue. Though when you take into account the talk about Dick finding himself, it makes some sense. In this scene we see Bruce, Barbara, and Damian. But the trio used to be Bruce, Barbara, and Dick. And of course, when beginning a new chapter in Dick’s career, beginning with a Robin scene always seems fitting.

Nightwing #10, 2016, page 2Seeley does give us one groaner of a line. Via Dick’s inner monologue: “You gotta keep it sexy and exciting… Like Nightwing.” I’m far from a sexiness expert. But the truly sexy don’t have to tell us they’re sexy, do they?

But all in all, this is cool. Putting Dick in Bludhaven doesn’t inherently make this a good book, but it’s a nice treat. On its on merits, this Nightwing book has been fairly strong. That doesn’t look like it’s going to change in the near future.

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A Nightwing #9 Review – The Adventures of Superman and Robin

Nightwing #9, 2016TITLE: Nightwing #9
AUTHOR: Tim Seeley
PENCILLER: Marcio Takara
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: November 16, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The dynamic between Superman and Dick Grayson has always been interesting to me. In most continuities they meet each other fairly early, as Dick is just starting out as Robin. As a youngster, he’s still in a position to stand in awe of the grandeur of Superman. But in a way, they’re also peers. They fight a lot of the same enemies, and both have their own unique relationship with Batman. As such, they have an inherent chemistry that people tend to forget about.

Nightwing #9 taps into that chemistry to establish Dick’s relationship with the new Superman (new to him, at least), and set him on a new course: Bludhaven. (Again, new to this Nightwing. Ugh. This is needlessly complicated…)

Keep in mind, the Superman we’re seeing in all this DC Universe Rebirth stuff is the pre-New 52 Superman. He’s married to Lois Lane, has a son named Jon, and has all sorts of memories of things that happened before the New 52 reboot. Nightwing #9 shows us he’s actively on the hunt for enemies that existed in his reality, but haven’t shown up in this one yet. One such enemy is Doctor Destiny, a supervillain who can turn dreams into reality. Using Kryptonian tech, Superman detects his old enemy haunting Dick Grayson, and comes to his aid.

Nightwing #9, 2016, SupermanThis issue puts Dick on a path toward the city of Bludhaven. Longtime fans recognize Bludhaven has the setting for the original Nightwing series in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Once again, DC is appeasing some of its older readers by restoring certain pre-New 52 elements. I don’t know how much bringing Bludhaven back does to entice readers. But in theory its fine. What I’m not a fan of is how it’s done.

I’ve talked before about the downside of having the old Superman back. It’s a thrill for fans who’ve been around for awhile, but it also makes things really convoluted. I love the way Dick has been influenced by both Batman and Superman (the Nightwing name originated in a Superman story), and I give this issue credit for continuing that tradition. But Dick only learns of Bludhaven’s existence when Superman shows it to him in a dream, and tells him about the connection with the pre-New 52 Nightwing. That’s a cheap shortcut. Tell me a story and take him there organically.

While I didn’t appreciate the way it was facilitated, there’s promise in Nightwing heading back to Bludhaven. In the ’90s, Chuck Dixon and his cohorts gave that city it’s own  feel and identity. It would very much behoove this team to do the same thing, whether it’s a similar feel or not.

As much of this issue takes place in a dream, it’s fitting that artist Marcio Takara and colorist Marcello Maiolo’s work has a sort of soft, dream-like vibe to it. Takara’s characters are very expressive, which helps tremendously when Dick gets a little help from some old friends. In one panel he’s downright overjoyed, which is something we don’t see too often from our friends in Gotham. We also get a really nice splash page of Dick and the wide array of DC heroes he’s connected to in some form.

nightwing #9, 2016, Superman, Marcio TakaraThat’s really the theme of Nightwing #9. Dick Grayson may have been raised by a notorious loner, but this little adventure with Superman reminds us he’s hardly a loner himself. He and Batman are so much alike, yet so different. Tim Seeley gets that dynamic, and it’s one of the reasons he’s had such a solid solo run with Nightwing thus far. This wasn’t his best issue. But there’s a lot of intrigue on the horizon.

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