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.

 

A Kingpin #1 Review – Mr. Nice Guy

Kingpin #1, 2017TITLE: Kingpin #1
AUTHOR: Matthew Rosenberg
PENCILLER: Ben Torres. Cover by Jeff Dekal.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: February 8, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Considering Wilson Fisk used to be Marvel’s Kingpin of crime, he’s a pretty nice guy here. While you can use a lot of words to describe this character, “nice” has rarely been one of them.

But if you ask Wilson, he’s a man who has paid his debt to society, and is on a new path. Journalist Sarah Dewey is, to say the least, skeptical. Fisk nevertheless chooses her to write his biography, and spends most of the issue trying to win her over. But as one might suspect, things aren’t quite what they seem…

Take a moment and type “Kingpin, Marvel” into Google Image. What’s what thing he’s not doing in any of those pics? Smiling. The Kingpin doesn’t smile. At least not in a genuine, happy sort of way. But he does in Kingpin #1, and it catches you off guard. You’re expecting a grim and sadistic brute. Instead we get this warm and gentle teddy bear.

kingpin #1, 2017, Wayne DyerOur “gateway” character is Sarah, who Fisk seems to have an interest in based on her writing. There’s a purity to that which is almost heartbreaking. He’s also unwaveringly kind, even if that kindness is rather awkward at times. It’s a stark contrast to this cynical, down-on-her-luck journalist who, despite the quality of her work, is struggling to keep her head above water. You end up hoping this warmth he’s showing to her is sincere, and not some sort of ploy.

If your Google machine is still open, type in the name Wayne Dyer. He was a self-help author and motivational speaker who often appeared on PBS. At times, be Kingpin that Ben Torres gives us looks quite a bit like Dyer. Case in point, the bottom image on the page at right. Maybe that’s why he’s so happy. He read Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life.

Torres handles the pencils and inks for this issue. I’m not very familiar with his work. But he’s a tremendous fit for this part of the Marvel Universe. As he goes in heavy on the inks, you can see some Frank Miller on this pages, and a little bit of John Romita Jr. There’s even some Eduardo Risso. The mood is precisely what it should be: This is a place where hope is in short supply. We’re now finding hope in the most unlikely of individuals. And even that is likely smoke and mirrors.

I can’t say I have a tremendous desire to come back for more Kingpin. Let’s be honest: We know how this story ends. The only real question is whether Sarah Dewey makes it out okay. But as for Fisk, it’s only a matter of time before the Kingpin is back on his throne.

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A Secret Wars #1 Review – A Noob’s Nightmare

Secret Wars #1 (2015)TITLE: Secret Wars #1
AUTHOR: Jonathan Hickman
PENCILLER: Esad Ribic. Cover by Alex Ross.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: May 6, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m not a Marvel noob by any means. I’ve been a reader for a long time. But full disclosure: I’ve been out of the loop lately. As such, Secret Wars #1 was bewildering to me on a number of levels. But my God, if it threw me for a loop, imagine what it must have done to those poor noobs…

You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones that saw Avengers: Age of Ultron on the first of the month, then came out to the comic shop several days later to see what the hell these Marvel comic books were all about. And low and behold, they found this: A book that pits the primary Marvel Universe against the Ultimate Marvel Universe in a desperate fight to survive as the multiverse collapses. And what’s more, it’s wrapped in a gorgeous Alex Ross cover (Oh hell, they’re all gorgeous.) very much reminiscent of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Secret Wars #1, 2015But indeed, a new Marvel Universe is about to be formed. And to  be fair, Marvel is doing what it can to keep everybody in the know. The book has a plain white expository page that simply says: “The multiverse is dying. Only two universes remain. Today, Earths collide.” That’s a pretty simplistic view of something that’s not simple at all. But it states things pretty plainly. We also get cast page, that diagrams almost everybody in the issue. Hell, the issue even comes with a giant foldout of Battleworld, which as I understand it, is where much of the story will take place.

The issue also has a pretty damn good hook, as Doctor Doom, Doctor Strange, and Molecule Man come face-to-face with the Beyonders, as an unknown narrator talks to us about God, and what happens when we die. Heavy stuff. But appropriate I suppose, considering, you know, it’s the end of the universe. When we circle back to it at the end, it’s fairly strong.

If you’ve been following the Ultimate books and the main Marvel stuff, there are some cool moments to be found here. Captain Marvel and Ultimate Iron Man face off. We see the Triskelion fly into primary Marvel Manhattan. Both versions of Spider-Man seem to simply be caught up in the mayhem, which I find fitting considering their standing within their respective fictional universes. But most of my cool points go to the sequence with The Punisher in the bar (see below). Talk about a scene with a punch line…

Secret Wars #1, Punisher, bar sceneStill, the issue jumps around so much between different characters that it can almost be frustrating, especially if you’re not familiar with who’s who. It’s understandable, considering the scope of what’s happening. But in the span of one issue (An oversized issue, but still a single issue.), we jump from Luke Cage and Iron Fist, to the Guardians of the Galaxy, to Storm and Thor, to Captain America and Iceman. And that’s just one page (shown above in part)! Throw in the fact that some of these characters don’t look the way mainstream culture knows them, i.e. Thor being a woman and Sam Wilson being Captain America, and the cyclone of confusion only gets stronger.

Both Esad Ribic and colorist Ive Svorcina deserve much credit for the much-needed epic feel they inject into the issue. While we don’t see a great deal of it here, Esad’s rendering of the Doctor Doom mask is awesomely intimidating. The desperation, terror, and determination he draws our heroes with is a beautiful thing. And Svorcina makes the issue a beautiful blaze of color, particularly in the way she reflects the colors in the sky off the various costumes. The issue as a whole is a lot to take in. But once you do, you know it’s gorgeous.

Regardless of how you rate the issue, between Secret Wars and Convergence, I’ve officially got event comic fatigue. More specifically, multiverse fatigue. No matter which worlds survive these respective crises, I can honestly say I’m ready to go back to my regularly scheduled comic books. Anybody else up for a non-event comic or two?

Image 1 from pastemagazine.com. Image 2 from gaish.tumblr.com.

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