Who is Nightwing? – Guest Stars Galore!

***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 1/2, #1929
AUTHOR: Chuck Dixon
ARTISTS: Scott McDaniel, Greg Land, Karl Story (Inker), Roberta Tewes (Colorist), John Costanza (Letterer)
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
ORIGINAL SELLING PRICE:
$1.95 per issue
ORIGINALLY RELEASED:
1998-1999
CURRENTLY COLLECTED IN:
Nightwing: Vol. 3: False Starts

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So Nightwing has had its first chapter, its “Villains Chapter,” and we had what I’ll call the “Huntress Chapter.” In keeping with the sequence, this would have to be the “Guest Stars Chapter,” as it’s largely held up by guest appearances from other characters. We see Huntress again, along with plenty of Robin, some Batman, among others. Thankfully, these are still Nightwing stories at heart.

Most of these issues were published while the big No Man’s Land crossover was happening in all the Batman books. So a couple of them tie in. When word reaches Bludhaven that a massive Earthquake has struck Gotham City (They didn’t feel anything over there? I thought Bludhaven was just down river…), Dick rushes to his former home to help with the relief effort. In issue #19 we get his initial reaction to all the destruction, and spend a little time with a mother and her young child trapped underground. Naturally, Nightwing eventually has to come to their aid. Then in issue #21 he reunites with Oracle and Robin, and repels into what remains of the Batcave.

Chuck Dixon writes the hell out of these quake issues. The stuff with the mother and child in issue #20 is especially strong. He makes you care about these one-off characters you’re never going to see again, while also driving home just how dire the situation is.

As I’ve said previously, Scott McDaniel’s strengths, at least on this book at this time, were action scenes. The quieter and more emotional stuff is hit or miss, given his style. For instance, the panel at the top left of Nightwing and Robin reacting to the state of Wayne Manor and the Batcave? I’d call that a miss. It’s obviously not supposed to be a funny moment. But I’d call those faces, particularly Dick’s, unintentionally funny.

On the subject of Robin/Tim Drake, the best issue in the collection is the one where he and Dick get some quality time. They’re blindfolded on top of speeding trains. But everything is relative, I suppose.

We see enough of Tim in this collection that he almost becomes a series regular. But issue #25 stands out because Dixon has a chance to do some great character work with two heroes he knows about as well as anybody. It’s not just their mutual experiences as Robin that bring them together. It’s the brotherly relationship they have. Tim legitimately wants Dick’s advice (“My girlfriend’s pregnant.”) and Dick legitimately cares. The speeding train scenario also plays right into Scott McDaniel’s strengths.

Issue #23 is part four of a five-part crossover with Green Arrow (Conner Hawke’s book), Detective Comics, and Robin. Amazingly, Dixon was writing all those books at the time. It’s not much of a read if you haven’t seen the first three issues. But it’s cool to see how Dixon write Dick’s rapport with Tim and Conner. We even briefly see both Batman and Black Canary, which is fun.

In issue #27, Inspector Dudley Soames, a frienemy of Nightwing’s we’ve been following since early in the series, completes his transformation into the villainous Torque (shown left). Torque is comic book ridiculousness at its most glorious. He’s a man whose head has been twisted backwards, and finds vengeance by pumping his enemies with a whole lot of lead. You won’t find Torque on any “Best of” lists. But you’ve got to begrudgingly respect him, right? I mean, try doing anything with your head twisted around like that. Just sayin’. Can’t be easy.

As for Dick and Huntress/Helena Bertinelli, there’s some inconsistency between her demeanor here and what we saw in Nightwing/Huntress. That four-issue mini was flawed, but it was also pretty good at being self-contained. Dick and Helena had their fling, decided things wouldn’t work between them, but ultimately still worked together as heroes. Issue #29 however, implies she’s still holding out hope they can be together. It feels like there’s a desperation there that doesn’t look good on her. (Example shown below.)

Still, I came away from these issues with a new appreciation for what DC was trying to do with Dick and Helena. They’re those two people that are so wrong for each other, but are still incredibly attracted to one another. So they keep falling into the same trap and hooking up again and again. But they just can’t make it work as a relationship. They’re too different. Dick and Helena didn’t have an ongoing thing. But otherwise, I’d say that description fits them to a T.

One of the elements that goes a long way in distinguishing Dick from other members of Batman’s surrogate family is just how well he gets along with the superhero community at large. He’s not quiet, moody, and broody the way Batman is. If anything, he’s the opposite. As such, people gravitate toward him. Rarely will you find that on display better than in some of these issues.

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

A Green Arrow/Black Canary: Five Stages Review – The End of an Era

Green Arrow/Black Canary, Vol. 6: Five StagesTITLE: Green Arrow/Black Canary, Vol. 6: Five Stages
AUTHORS: Andrew Kreisberg, J.T. Krul
ARTISTS: Mike Norton, Bill Sienkiewicz, Renato Guedes, Diogenes Nieves. Cover by Jose O. Ladronn.
COLLECTS: Green Arrow/Black Canary #27-30
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASE DATE: November 17, 2010

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I miss the Green Arrow/Black Canary monthly title. Or at least Andrew Kreisberg’s version of it. It was usually somewhere in the bottom half of my stack. But in retrospect, it should have been higher.

Sadly, this is the sixth and last volume of the series, collecting the final four of the 30-issue series (technically there were 32, but the last two only had Green Arrow’s name on them) starring the newlywed emerald archer and sexy siren. It picks up where Big Game left off, wrapping up the story line with Cupid, Green Arrow’s sadistic stalker. With the help of the shape-shifting villain Everyman, who now bears Arrow’s likeness, she’s wreaking havoc in Star City. Along the way, we learn her origin story, and what exactly caused her mind to snap.

Green Arrow/Black Canary, Vol. 6: Five Stages, interiorIssue #30 takes us into the events of Blackest Night, as Ollie has become a Black Lantern. Now Black Canary, Speedy and Conner Hawke must find a way to stop the zombified archer before he rips their hearts out…literally!

The book moves back and forth between the present day, and Cupid’s origin story, the latter beautifully pencilled by Renato Guedes. It’s a refreshing shift from shifting between Ollie and Dinah’s perspective for no apparent reason, as we saw in Big Game. It looks like Kreisberg was trying to add to Green Arrow’s rather dismal rogues gallery, even throwing in a tragic and disturbing twist for the Lieutenant Hilton character. Sadly, what with everything that’s happened in the aftermath of Justice League: Cry For Justice, it may be a long time before we see some of these characters again, if at all. That especially sucks in the case of Lieutenant Hilton, or “Hilt” as he comes to be called. I’d have enjoyed seeing where they were going with that character. His scenes toward the end of the book were really ominous.

The Blackest Night story is told from Ollie’s point of view, as his consciousness struggles to gain control of his body, which has been taken over by Nekron. He agonizes as he’s forced to reveal secrets to Dinah, and his son Conner, that he hoped would remain buried forever. It’s the best Blackest Night story they could have told for Green Arrow, and unlike most of the other Blackest Night one-shots I read, it has long-term ramifications.

Green Arrow/Black Canary #30, Blackest NightFive Stages does manage to include a bit of foreshadowing. The final Kreisberg-written scene takes place just before Ollie and Dinah are beamed up to the Watchtower for the first scene in Cry For Justice. One might even argue that the evil Everyman wearing Ollie’s likeness is a bit of a prelude. Sadly though, Five Stages serves as the end of an era for Ollie and Dinah. And although J.T. Krul’s work on the new Green Arrow is compelling, I can’t help but feel like this era ended much too soon. This book is good, but the series itself could have been so much better.

RATING: 7/10

Image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from comicattack.net.

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