Who is Nightwing? – One Knight Stand

***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/Huntress #14
AUTHOR: Devin Grayson
ARTISTS: Greg Land, Bill Sienkiewicz (Inker), Noelle Gidding (Colorist), John Costanza (Letterer)
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
ORIGINAL SELLING PRICE:
$1.95 per issue
ORIGINALLY RELEASED:
1998
CURRENTLY COLLECTED IN:
Nightwing: Vol. 3: False Starts

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Something feels off here.

Nightwing/Huntress was a four-issue miniseries, the sole purpose of which seems to be the creation of a brief romance (if you can even call it that) between the two titles characters. It was published at the same time the main Nightwing series was ongoing. What that likely means is that someone in editorial came to Devin Grayson, Greg Land, and this team and said, “Hey, we want Nightwing and Huntress sleep together. Can you do it in four issues?”

But of course, that’s just speculation on my part.

With Batman away, Gotham city is under Nightwing’s protection (So who’s watching Bludhaven?) when a mobster is framed for a murder. But the crime’s mafia connections also attract the attention of the Huntress. The two wind up working the case together, and passions flare when they discover they have more than an enemy in common.

At this point in her near 10-year run, the Huntress/Helena Bertinelli character had been established as someone too violent and impulsive to be endorsed by Batman. To her immense frustration, she was seemingly banned from Batman’s inner circle. Nevertheless, her own bloody history with the mob fueled her crusade to operate in Gotham with or without the Dark Knight’s approval.

Then you had Nightwing/Dick Grayson, who years earlier had struck out on his own. Yet he still adheres to Batman’s code, and is still very much part of his extended “family.” There’s lots of potential for some “opposites attract” chemistry there, and in fact that’s what this book is supposed to be.

The problem is that it jumps into the…shall we say, “physicality,” before we really have a chance to explore any of that chemistry. It all starts rather abruptly, with feelings that are exposited rather than shown. We don’t go on the ride with Dick or Helena. That’s the missing ingredient here. Instead we spend much of the book analyzing the fallout from the act.

One character I’m grateful has a presence here is Oracle/Barbara Gordon. She wasn’t a vital ingredient. But given the Will they?/Won’t they? dynamic they had in the main Nightwing series at the time, her inclusion and input adds valuable perspective and context to things.

On a site note: Bruce Wayne is a public figure in Gotham City, yes? And Dick Grayson was once his ward, yes? So to an extent that makes him a public figure, yes? So when Dick and Helena consummate their attraction to one another, with masks completely off, shouldn’t she recognize him? And thus, shouldn’t she then be able to deduce that Bruce Wayne is Batman? Or are we just ignoring that notion for convenience?

Greg Land is back with us here, delivering a product that I would say is on par with what we got in the miniseries. One of my favorite panels in the book is pictured above. Though when you consider the accusations lobbied against Land for his use of pornography as photo-reference, it definitely makes you wonder…

The coloring, on the other hand, is definitely an upgrade. Noelle Gidding turns in something suitably dark and moody. The miniseries, and for that matter the main series at times, looked a little too bright for my taste.

One redeeming element here is that the effects of Nightwing/Huntress would subsequently be felt in not just the main series, but the No Man’s Land crossover that would soon follow. So at least this story had a purpose and an impact. But sadly, the book itself under-delivers.

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

Rob Watches Star Trek: What We Forgive

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek


EPISODE: S2.E25. “Bread and Circuses”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley


GUEST-STARRING: William Smithers, Logan Ramsey
WRITERS: Gene Roddenberry, Gene L. Coon


DIRECTOR: Ralph Senesky
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: March 15, 1968

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

It’s always interesting to see what we forgive for a good story.

“Bread and Circuses” is an episode that wonders what lengths humanity might go to in the name of entertainment. It does this by presenting us with what is essentially an alternate Earth where the Roman Empire never ended, and now has the all benefits of 20th century tech.

But what we’re presented doesn’t look much like a modernized version of ancient Rome. We’ve got a handful of costumes from what must have been a production set in that time frame. We’ve got a few sets that look very vaguely like what they’re supposed to be. And the peaceful faction of slaves that our heroes fall in with? They’re wearing gray sweatsuits. Which means before long, that’s what our heroes are wearing as well.

This is about as clear an example as you’ll find of sci-fi on a budget. Objectively, “Bread and Circuses” just doesn’t look very good…

And yet, it works. “Bread and Circuses” is better than a lot of sci-fi flicks made 50 years later with state-of-the-art CGI. Why is that?

Because everything starts with story, and “Bread and Circuses” is a good story. It’s a little weird, and perhaps even a bit contrived. But at its core, it’s an editorial about television and entertainment that asks viewers important questions that are still relevant after all this time. And because it’s such a good story, we’re willing to forgive the tacky packaging it’s delivered in. That theory doesn’t work in reverse.

Case in point, the Star Wars prequels. When they came out, they were filled with top-line CGI depicting some amazingly creative environments. We had a big robot factory complete with big smelting pots, a planet that was also a giant city, and a humongous hive filled with space bugs, just to name a few. But the story was largely hollow. So all the special effects were hollow as well.

I’m a huge Star Wars geek. But I don’t have a problem saying “Bread and Circuses” is better than any of the three Star Wars prequels. It’s better than Rogue One, that’s for damn sure…

The episode explains the existence of an alternate 20th Century Earth on another world across the galaxy with something called “Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planet Development.” That sounds precisely like the kind of BS a writer would make up off the top of their head. Yet it’s such wildly fantastical BS that it feels like it just has to be true. And in the end, isn’t that the best kind of BS?

Not according to Gene L. Coon. Reportedly, a disagreement with Gene Roddenberry over the tone of this episode was what led to Coon’s departure as the Star Trek showrunner. (Though he would submit scripts for season three under the pseudonym Lee Cronin.) Apparently Coon wanted the episode to have more of a comedic touch, while Roddenberry wanted a more serious tone. Ultimately, however, we’re better off for what we got.

The best thing in the entire episode? The exchange in the jail cell between Spock and Bones. After dancing around it for two seasons, Bones finally starts to shoot straight with Spock. It’s clear the two are opposites in almost every sense of the word, and would not be friends outside the bounds of the Enterprise. But they’re united two things: Their sense of duty, and their loyalty to Kirk in particular.

And of course, we love them for it.

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

Who is Nightwing? – The Villains Chapter

***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 #918, Nightwing Annual #1
AUTHOR: Chuck Dixon
ARTISTS: Scott McDaniel, Greg Land, Karl Story (Inker), Bob McLeod (Inker), Roberta Tewes (Colorist), John Costanza (Letterer)
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
ORIGINAL SELLING PRICE:
$1.95 per issue (Annual: $3.95)
ORIGINALLY RELEASED:
1997-1998
CURRENTLY COLLECTED IN:
Nightwing, Vol. 2: Rough Justice

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This first volume of Nightwing has historically been collected in chunks of roughly 8-10 issues. Issues #1-8 are usually the first chapter, and this collection of issues #9-18 and the first annual can be seen as a second chapter. To that mindset, I’d call this the “Villains Chapter.” Dixon, McDaniel, and the team have set up Dick Grayson’s new status quo. Now it’s time to create some new villains for him to fight, as well as bring in some familiar faces from Gotham.

In issue #7, we learned the identity of Bludhaven’s new crime lord: Roland Desmond, a.k.a. Blockbuster. For my money, Blockbuster’s effectiveness as a lead villain largely depends on how much perspective you have as a comic book reader. If you’re simply reading these issues at face value, as I was when they first came out, then he’s fine. A big bad crime boss who, unlike a Carmine Falcone or a Rupert Thorne, can actually be a physical threat to our hero. But with the benefit of hindsight more than two decades later? He feels like an attempt to imitate Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. the Kingpin over at Marvel. But I’ll say this much: He’s a good imitation. And Scott McDaniel is great at juxtaposing this giant monster in a suit with the ultra fast and flexible Nightwing.

As the book continues to develop a mini-rogues-gallery for Nightwing, the book brings in a few icons to help hold down the fort. We see Man-Bat, Deathstroke, and the Scarecrow. The latter is particularly effective, as it doubles as an opportunity for readers to dive into Dick’s psyche and get to know him that much better. You wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but our former Boy Wonder is living with a hell of an inferiority complex. To that end, I love how Chuck Dixon incorporates Bruce Wayne choosing Jean Paul Valley to take his place as Batman during the Knightfall storyline. It’s a nice way to illustrate that despite wanting to be his own man, Dick still cares deeply about what Batman thinks of him.

We spend about an issue’s worth of pages experiencing these Scarecrow-induced hallucinations with Dick. Some of it’s played for surreal humor, which wouldn’t have necessarily been my first choice. But it gets the point across. Less effective is Scott McDaniel, Karl Story, and Roberta Tewes’ visual take on the scenes. I said it last time, and I’ll reiterate here: This team is so much better suited for action scenes than the quiet, existential stuff. Our opening issue, which sees Nightwing evading gunfire in a shopping mall? A delightful read that has a great visual flow to it. Dick Grayson confronting his worst nightmares? Meh.

Another strike against McDaniel, along with other artists of this era, is what I’ll call “shoulder horns Batman” (shown below). For whatever reason, in the ’90s and early ’00s it was acceptable to put pointy horn-looking gimmicks on Batman’s shoulders. I think the idea was to make him look more menacing, and even a little demonic. But I’ve always hated it. Thankfully it gradually went away, and never made its way into any of the on-screen versions of the character.

On the subject of ’90s costumes, I didn’t even recognize Deathstroke at first. I’d completely forgotten about his black and blue suit…

Though it might be blasphemous to some, I prefer what Greg Land turns in on Nightwing Annual #1. The final product is cleaner, and makes for an enjoyable read.

These issues are also where we start to pick up the pace on the slow-burn romance between Dick and Barbara Gordon/Oracle. Chuck Dixon was one of, if not the master of writing the chemistry between these two. It’s not particularly subtle. Dick and Barbara are fairly flirtatious whenever he comes to her for help on a case. At one point, Dick practically talks openly about a potential romance with her. It’s more a case of Will they?/Won’t they? To his credit, Dixon is able to strike a really nice balance in these issues. He makes us want to see Dick and Barbara get together. But at the same time, he’s able to write in some chemistry between Dick and his building superintendent without making either character look like a heel. On paper it’s a very precarious love triangle. But Dixon pulls it off beautifully.

What’s more, it wouldn’t be long before Dick had yet another love interest. Sparks were about to fly as Nightwing crossed paths with none other than Helena Bertinelli…the Huntress!

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

 

Toy Chest Theater: The Mandalorian Collection, Vol. 1

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As the trailer for the second season of The Mandalorian just dropped there’s no better time than now to bask in this show’s glory. We’re doing it with Rob Watches The Mandalorian, and we’re doing it here with “Toy Chest Theater.”

Enjoy!

Mando and the Child by Spencer Witt.

Mando and the Child by Bryan Konstantine.

Mando, the Child, Kermit, and Robin by instanobitoys.

Mando and cantina by Andy’s Toy Photography.

Mando and Cara Dune by mandalorianrunt.

 

Rob Watches Star Trek: A Tale of Two Cities

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek
EPISODE: S1.E28. “The City on the Edge of Forever”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols
GUEST-STARRING: Joan Collins
WRITERS: Harlan Ellison, D.C. Fontana, Gene L. Coon, Gene Roddenberry
DIRECTOR: Joseph Pevney
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: April 6, 1967
SYNOPSIS: A freak accident sends Bones back to 1930s America, where he inadvertantly destroys the future. Kirk and Spock must restore the future, though at a great personal cost to Kirk.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

If you’ve been following along, “Rob Watches Star Trek” was covering episodes far beyond this, the penultimate episode of the first season. But as I continue to learn more and more about the Star Trek franchise, I found out I skipped what many consider to be the best episode of the original series. So naturally, I had to backtrack.

Star Trek was bound to tackle time-travel especially. Specifically, time-travel into Earth’s recent history. The temptation to juxtapose these characters from the future with America’s recent past was simply too great. In fact, by this point in the series, the penultimate episode of the first season, they had already been to that well once before. In “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” saw the crew travel back to the 1960s, the same decade the show was made. I would also count “The Return of the Archons” as a time-travel episode. Even though it doesn’t take place on Earth, for all intents and purposes it takes place in our past.

The comic book science in this episode is a little weird, but via a planet that can send time ripples into space, a drugged Bones is sent back to Great Depression era America. By saving the life of a young woman, he accidentally changes the course of history. Naturally, Kirk and Spock have to stop him via a time portal. And of course, darn his luck, Kirk falls in love with the woman in question. Thus, now Kirk must choose between his own heart and what he knows to be the rightful future of humanity.

The episode is indeed one of the best I’ve seen so far. Show creator Gene Roddenberry, William Shatner, and Leonard Nimoy have all cited it among their favorites. But it’s been the subject of much controversy relating to its original writer, renowned science fiction author Harlan Ellison. Due to re-writes and cost prohibits, what wound up on screen was considerably different than what Ellison wrote in numerous drafts over a lengthy amount of time. The changes were a point of contention between Ellison and Roddenberry for decades afterward.

Reportedly, Ellison’s version of “The City on the Edge of Forever” would have introduced a crew member who we learn is involved in an illegal drug trade, and eventually kills another crewman. He’s thus sentenced to die on a nearby world. Said world was to have been the home of nine-foot-tall men, the Guardians of Forever, who are in possession of a time machine. The doomed crewman would steal the time machine and change history, thus necessitating Kirk and Spock’s pursuit. The altered reality would apparently have included an Enterprise manned by renegade space pirates.

But most notably, in Ellison’s version Kirk can’t bring himself to let the Edith Keeler, his love interest played by Joan Collins, die. In the end, Spock makes the choice for him. In the final product, the decision is taken out of both their hands as Edith dies when a truck accidentally runs her down.

This episode underwent re-writes from the likes of D.C. Fontana, Gene L. Coon, and finally Gene Roddenberry himself. I think the ending wound up better for it. Both Ellison and Roddenberry’s endings took the decision out of Kirk’s hands. But the big difference is I think Ellison’s ending makes Spock look needlessly cold. Is he saving a hell of a lot more people than he’s hurting in the process? Yes, absolutely. But intentionally letting someone die is still not a good look for one of your heroes.

In the end, we’re probably better off with the episode we got, as opposed to Ellison’s original vision for it. The only one of his ideas I might have kept in is the one about the space pirates on the Enterprise. But that’s just because I like alternate universe stories. Mechanically, I’m not even sure how you weave that into the episode when it already has so much to accomplish without it.

For those curious, the original teleplay for the episode is available on Amazon. Like City itself, it serves as a nice little peek into what might have been…

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Black Widow, Batman, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Black Widow #1
AUTHOR: Kelly Thompson
ARTISTS: Elena Casagrande, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by Adam Hughes
RELEASED: September 2, 2020

This one’s fairly low on action considering it’s the debut of a Black Widow series. The issue tries to make up for it with intrigue, but there isn’t quite enough to wet my appetite for more.

This, despite some awesome art from Elena Casagrande and Jordie Bellaire. I found it had a slightly similar vibe to the Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye stuff. And of course, yet another breathtaking Adam Hughes cover.

TITLE: Batman #98
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by David Finch.
RELEASED: September 1, 2020

As the cover suggests, there’s a big fight between Harley Quinn and Punchline in this issue. As obvious as her inclusion is given the nature of the story, “Joker War” has been a little too Harley-heavy for my taste. It feels like yet another case of DC shoehorning her into a story that’s not necessarily about her.

On the plus side, Jimenez and Morey are on their game here. So is Tynion, as as get a pretty powerful exchange between Batman and…Alfred’s memory? It’s not Alfred’s ghost, I know that for sure.

TITLE: We Only Find Them When They’re Dead #1
AUTHOR:
Al Ewing
ARTISTS:
Simone Di Meo, Mariasara Miotti (Color Assistant), Andworld Design (Letterer)
RELEASED:
 September 2, 2020

Spaceships that carve up space gods to mine humanity’s new resources? Alright book, you’ve got my attention…

This first issue is a little hard to follow, as we’re getting adjusted to how the book works and what’s going on. But by the end we get a decent hook to bring us back for next issue. Take into account how gorgeous this issue is, particularly from a coloring standpoint, and they’ve got me signed up for next time.

TITLE: Shazam #14
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
ARTISTS: Dale Eaglesham, Scott Kolins, Michael Atiyeh (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Variant cover by Dale Keown.
RELEASED: September 1, 2020

Ugh. What an awful final issue. It feels like they tried to cram in about two years worth of content. The resolution of the plot threads with Mr. Mind, Billy’s dad, and Black Adam. A pathetically condensed fight with Superboy-Prime. Then of course, they have to end the series on a happy note, though it’s hard to imagine this issue making anyone happy.

It’s not the creators’ fault, mind you. The book got cancelled. But still, the characters, the creators, and the series itself deserved better.

TITLE: Lonely Receiver #1
AUTHOR: Zac Thompson
ARTISTS: Jen Hickman, Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED: September 2, 2020

I’m not sure what I expected from Lonely Receiver, but it wasn’t what I got. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

This strikes me as a story with a lot of layers to it. It’s a story about a woman falling in love with a robot designed specifically to be her partner. But we’ve got undertones dealing with our needs as human beings that are really interesting. Thus far, this books is a little like I, Robot meets an old fashioned romance comic, with some more, shall we say, mature elements mixed in.

TITLE: Star Trek: Hell’s Mirror
AUTHOR: J.M. DeMatteis
ARTISTS: Matthew Dow Smith, Candice Han (Colorist), Neil Uyetake (Letterer)
RELEASED: September 2, 2020

What we have here is a look at the Khan Noonien Singh of the Mirror Universe. And with that in mind, the story and the characters are about what you’d think they’d be. In that sense, this one-shot almost writes itself.

The solicitation heralded the return of J.M. DeMatteis to Star Trek after almost 40 years. For what it’s worth, I can see why. This issue feels just like an episode of the original series. Definitely worth a look for fans.

TITLE: Young Justice #18
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS: Scott Godlewski, Michael Avon Oeming, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by John Timms & Eltaeb.
RELEASED: September 1, 2020

Had a nice Powers flashback looking at Michael Avon Oeming’s work. Seeing him work on the Spoiler is a little surreal.

This wasn’t quite the “Tim and Stephanie go on a date” issue that I was hoping for. That makes this one a disappointment for yours truly.

By the end of this issue Drake is back to being Robin. But is he actually Robin, or is he Red Robin? Just when we thought Tim had his identity crisis solved…

TITLE: Justice League #52
AUTHOR: Jeff Loveness
ARTISTS: Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques (Inker), Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Colorist), Tom Napolitano (Letterer). Cover by Cully Hamner.
RELEASED: September 1, 2020

Way too much Batman to cap off a two-part filler story before the book starts to tie in with…*sigh*…Dark Nights: Death Metal.

We’ve seen all kinds of stories that dive into the psyches of various League members. It always seems like five or six issues is too long. But I’d have been happy to see “The Garden of Mercy” go another issue or two. What Loveness, Rocha, and Henriques turn in here is perfectly fine.

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

Rob Watches The Mandalorian: Wait, That’s Not Hoth!!!

***As the second season of The Mandalorian rapidly approaches, it’s time to take a look back at the foundation laid by the first season. This is “Rob Watches The Mandalorian.”***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This opening scene is, of course, our tone-setter. And once of the best I’ve ever seen. As far as space westerns go, you can’t do much better than this. Our lone gunman walks into a saloon, finds trouble, and has to shoot his way out. Everything is perfect.

For whatever reason, when I think of The Mandalorian the first thing that comes to mind is that poor guy getting cut in half by the door. Maybe it’s because, like the series itself the whole thing is so damn smooth and cool.

So why is this snow planet not Hoth? Because, as Admiral Piett told us in The Empire Strikes Back, “The Hoth system is supposed to be devoid of human forms.” Originally I was miffed that a later episode took us back to the friggin’ Mos Eisley Cantina, but we couldn’t go to some random bar on Hoth. Whoops…

That’s a problem Star Wars creators are running into these days. The more films and TV shows that are made, the harder it is to make all these planets feel distinct and different. A lot of the worlds in the sequel trilogy, for instance, look alike.

Our blue friend, who I don’t believe has a name, is played by SNL alum Horatio Sanz. I knew I recognized him from somewhere…

Is this the first time we’ve seen a bounty puck? There certainly weren’t any in the movies.

Practically every Star Wars project has to do the cantina. Or at least some version of a cantina. Some setting where aliens from various different worlds come together for a drink or a party or the like. In this episode alone we get two of them. At least The Mandalorian had the guts to take a stab at the Mos Eisley Cantina, the cantina setting, later on.

I love that the client, the guy that hires Mando and really gets the plot moving, is part of this tiny little faction of Imperials, complete with a few beat-up looking stormtroopers. It’s a great bit of world-building. It’s one thing for Mando to say the Empire is gone. It’s another thing for us to actually see what it’s been reduced to.

Whenever I watch the scene with Mando trying to ride the Blurg and talking with little Kuiil, I always think of the prequels. If the prequels had blended practical and CGI effects as seamlessly as The Mandalorian, people would talk about them in such a different light. They’d still be badly written, but at least they wouldn’t look like giant video games.

In writing this, I at one point had in my notes, “I’m happy they didn’t give him a quirky droid sidekick.” A character like K-2SO in Rogue One or L3-37 in Solo. That’s another Star Wars trope people have to be mindful of going forward.

Then I realized, “Oh wait, they did give him a quirky droid sidekick.” It’s just that IG-11 isn’t around the whole time.

I do like IG-11, largely because his presence in the climactic shoot-out sequence explains how IG-88 works. In The Empire Strikes Back, IG-88 was essentially just a tall prop that stood next to Boba Fett and the other bounty hunters. It couldn’t have been on screen for more than a second or two. But like many a bit player in Star Wars, it gained a cult following. But of course, we never got to see the IG-88 in action. We were never meant to. As such, I always wondered how this tall, seemingly cumbersome, ridid-looking robot was supposed to do the same job as Boba Fett…

Turns out, these IG droids may be all of those things. But they’re also fast, and make for a hell of an action scene!

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

Who is Nightwing? – Prelude to Solo Stardom

***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 #14
AUTHOR: Denny O’Neil
ARTISTS: Greg Land, Mike Sellers & Nick Napolitano (Inkers), Cathi Bertrand (Colorist), John Costanza
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
ORIGINAL SELLING PRICE:
$2.25 per issue
ORIGINALLY RELEASED:
1995
CURRENTLY COLLECTED IN:
Nightwing, Vol. 1: Bludhaven

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Dick Grayson officially adopted the mantle of Nightwing in mid-1984 in the pages of Tales of the Teen Titans #44. The move was meant to remove Dick from Batman’s shadow and make him more of his own man. That’s why it’s so surprising in retrospect that the character didn’t get his own solo series until 1996, 12 years later.

Granted, there were one-off issues where Dick would get the spotlight. For a short time in the mid-’90s, he even stood in for Bruce Wayne as Batman. But it wasn’t until 1996 that Nightwing got his own book, and even his own city to protect. After more than 40 years as Robin, and over a decade as Nightwing, Dick was finally spinning off into his own adventures.

DC Comics would test the waters, and ultimately set the stage for a Nightwing ongoing series with a four issue mini published in 1995. Written by legendary Batman scribe Denny O’Neil, the story sees Dick revisit his past while preparing for his future. He also gets a new costume in the process.

Dick starts the story by doing something you probably don’t want to do before you start your own solo series – He quits. Handing his costume over to Batman, saying he’s realized “I’m not you. I was never you. I don’t want to be you.”

And what does Dick want Batman to do with the costume? He has some ideas…

“Put it in a trophy case. Give it to the Salvation Army. Burn it.”

Indeed, Dick Grayson is giving up on superheroics, opting to live a more normal life. A little abrupt? Sure. But I like this idea for Dick. He was and is the most outgoing among Batman’s surrogate family, which makes him the most naturally likable. So as readers, we want to see him happy and fulfilled.

Of course, it can’t last. The poor guy barely makes it to the next morning before he finds an old letter to his parents, threatening them for something they apparently saw in the despotic nation of Kravia. Naturally, he has to investigate.

Our penciller is Greg Land, who’s faced a lot of criticism over the course of his career for his use, and perhaps abuse, of photo reference. He’s been accused of lifting, and even flat-out tracing, images from sources as lewd as hardcore pornography. As far as I know, this Nightwing story pre-dates those allegations. I don’t see anything that stands out as blatantly lifted from somewhere else. Though there are a few images that are a little suspect. Case in point, an image in issue #1 of a briefs-clad Dick Grayson on a bed. I can’t bring myself to complain about that from a sexualization standpoint, given how female characters are often drawn to this day. But it makes you wonder.

There’s also the image above, where Dick, posed like a catalog model, is standing in what has the distinction of being the ugliest shirt I’ve ever seen in a comic book. He unfortunately wears that for much of the second issue.

While he’s unquestionably one of the all-time greats, this is hardly Denny O’Neil’s best work. He has to inject a decent amount of narrative convenience into things to get the story going and to fit it into four issues. The despot in Kravia just happens to remember who Dick is. The assassin he then sends to kill Dick is able to find him very quickly, which provides our hero with a trail of breadcrumbs to follow back to the villain. Makes me wonder why they didn’t keep things a little more simple than a story about whether a dictator was involved in the plot to kill Dick’s parents…

On the upside, this mini is where we see Nightwing’s black and blue costume (shown below) for the first time. His original suit, affectionately called the “disco suit,” worked for a colorful superhero team book in the ’80s. It was later changed to the sleeker, darker-yet-somehow-also-brighter outfit shown above. It was changed again here, presumably because tonally Nightwing was moving into territory closer to Batman. Dark, avenging hero of the night, and all that.

This is the look that practically all subsequent takes on the Nightwing outfit were based on. With Dick’s previous two outfits, especially the first, it feels like there might have been pressure to give the character something with a grandeur befitting his legacy. As it turned out, they were better off keeping it simple. Black with a touch of blue. It’s almost a minimalist’s superhero costume. The black costume also gave Nightwing a certain cool factor he maintains to this day.

At face value, this Nightwing mini isn’t much to write home about. The story is overdone, the villain is generic and forgettable, and by the end the whole thing seems all for naught. But it nevertheless holds an important place in the character’s history as the tale that gave him his new costume, and set him down a path to solo stardom. For that alone, it’s worth a look.

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

Rob Watches Star Trek: Tremendous Yet Terrible Tribbles

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek
EPISODE: S2.E15. “The Trouble with Tribbles
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, James Doohan
GUEST-STARRING: Stanley Adams, William Schallert, William Campbell
WRITER: David Gerrold
DIRECTOR: Joseph Pevney
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: December 29, 1967
SYNOPSIS: The Enterprise is overrun by small, fuzzy creatures called Tribbles.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I’ve been waiting to do this episode for awhile, largely because a friend got my daughter and I a Little Golden Book based on the episode. Too Many Tribbles (cover shown below) by Frank Berrios and illustrated by Ethen Beavers. By God, it’s as good a children’s book based on an episode of a ’60s TV show that you’ll ever find.

The episode is suitably cute. Though to me the funniest thing is that the episode expects us to care about a dispute over space grain when the stars of the episode are clearly the Tribbles. It’s almost insulting to the actors, as the Tribbles are little more than inanimate multi-colored puff balls with an accompanying purring sound effect. As Spock says, there’s no practical use for them. Yet they’re the spiritual successors to Minions, Porgs, and the like.

Also hilarious? The Tribbles came closer to conquering the Enterprise than the Orion Crime Syndicate. Maybe the little puff balls should consider organized crime…

The Trouble With Tribbles, however, does realize it’s a comedy. In what I’ve seen of Star Trek thus far, this is the first episode I’ve seen played for laughs like this. William Shatner steals the episode. The entire scene in which Scotty tells him about how he started a fight with the Klingons not in defense of Kirk’s honor, but the Enterprise, is absolute gold. Shatner’s reactions to the Tribbles slowly taking over his ship are great too. His acting on this show has been mocked for decades. And while I will call it unusual at times, I don’t have it in me to call it bad. It works well in service of the show.

I continue to be fascinated by the relationship between Spock and Bones. After what we saw at Spock’s attempted wedding, I can’t not see them as friends. But as we see in Tribbles, they have an antagonistic relationship that’s fun to watch. Bones says he likes the Tribbles better than he likes Spock, and Spock pointedly says he appreciates that the Tribbles don’t talk too much. They’re not enemies. They just have a weird friendship. They were “frienemies” before that was a thing.

Spock also makes an interesting reference in that same scene…

“[Tribbles] remind me of the lilies of the field. ‘They toil not, neither do they spin.'”

Upon research, this is actually a biblical reference from both Matthew 6:28, Luke 12:27, and a portion of the Sermon on the Mount. The text from Matthew reads: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:” How and why Spock is familiar with a religious text from Earth is a mystery. I suppose we can chalk it up to, “It’s Spock. He knows stuff.”

But to an extent it also works on another level. Stanley Adams, who plays the peddler that gives Uhura the first Tribble, starred in the 1963 film, Lilies of the Field. The reference must be unintentional. But low and behold, it’s there.

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

A Three Jokers #1 Review – Too Many Smiles?

TITLE: Three Jokers #1
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
ARTISTS:
Jason Fabok, Brad Anderson (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
PUBLISHER: DC Black Label
PRICE:
$6.99
RELEASED:
August 25, 2020

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Alright, DC. You can have your “Joker War,” and you can have Three Jokers. But after these are both said and done, we put the ol’ Clown Prince back on the shelf for a little while. There is such a thing as too many smiles…

At last, more than four years after it was first teased in Johns and Fabok’s Justice League run, Three Jokers has arrived. Why’d it take so long? No clue. But I’ve gotta say, the end product was almost worth the wait. While he’s obviously used Batman in his larger DC stories, Geoff Johns hasn’t spent a lot of time on a proper Bat-book. But in terms of the overall “feel” of things, i.e. characterization, tone, the sense of sacrifice, and that lingering dread that comes with a great Joker story, Johns and the Three Jokers team absolutely nail it.

Three Jokers presents us with the notion that there are…well, three Jokers. When the Harlequin of Hate seemingly strikes three points in Gotham at the exact same time, Batman, Batgirl, and the Red Hood must figure out where the genuine article is. But certain evidence points them toward something more elusive: That three different men have played the role of the Joker over the years. And unbeknownst to our heroes, a fourth Joker may be on his way…

In a broad sense, I don’t really like the idea of there having been three Jokers. Rather, I like the notion that he evolved over time just as Batman did. But I’ve been around long enough to know these kinds of things often aren’t as they initially seem. So I’ll reserve judgment on the premise and simply judge the content on its own merits.

One thing I give this issue a lot of credit for is quickly and effectively establishing the Joker’s relationship to Batman, and also providing the character with dramatic weight he deserves. It’s all done within the first few pages, using very little dialogue. We see Batman’s scarred and mangled flesh juxtaposed with single images of his enemies corresponding to specific wounds. Characters like Bane, the Riddler, Scarecrow, etc. Then we get one for the Joker. Then the Joker again. Then the Joker again. Then the Joker yet again. Thus the reader, whether a Batman buff or someone picking up a comic for the first time, understands the Joker isn’t simply another villain. He’s the one who’s given Batman more scars, both physically and emotionally, than anyone else.

Also adding dramatic weight is the presence of Batgirl/Barbara Gordon and the Red Hood/Jason Todd. Ask a casual comic book reader to name three Joker stories, and chances are two of them will be (for better or worse) The Killing Joke – Where the Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara, and A Death in the Family – The infamous story where the Joker kills Jason. So having them around is a nice reminder of what the stakes are when dealing with the Joker. You’d think, with both breathing and walking, the opposite would be true. But both carry a heavy existential burden.

Jason Fabok gets to put his own little tweaks on all the iconic costumes for Three Jokers. The only changes of real significance are to Red Hood’s costume (shown above). Most of what we see is an improvement. The Bat emblem on his chest is thankfully gone. He’s now in a leather jacket with a red tunic that has, you guessed it, a hood. The tunic is supposed to look like the Robin costume. It even has an R on the belt buckle. Initially I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. But it’s grown on me. In fact, it’s probably my favorite take on the costume since Under the Hood in the mid 2000s.

I credit Three Jokers #1 with having one of the best, most cinematic chase scenes I’ve read in quite awhile. There’s not even that much to it. Just Batman and Batgirl trying to stop an ambulance, with Batman coming aboard and fighting inside. But Johns and Fabok made a more exciting sequence out of this than some creators can with four times as much.

This book is also beautifully colored. The palette Brad Anderson is working with feels like it can explode into a bright, beautiful blaze at any moment. But instead we get colors that are very full and that pop, but also feel like they’ve been dipped in darkness. The way Fabok and Anderson capture Gotham City feels definitive. Like this is what it’s supposed to look like.

Jason Todd is really the star of this first issue. That’s mostly because of the climax and a deliciously emotional, character-defining moment between a killer and his victim…

Three Jokers #1 straddles an interesting line. I totally disagree with its premise, yet I can’t deny this is a great comic book. Normally I can’t stand it when even oversized comics are priced above $5. But I can say with full confidence that this one is worth the price of admission.

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