BatWatch Review: Nightwing #24 - Buyer's Remorse

Just a quick review since I'm so far behind.

Nightwing #24 finishes up the Prankster arc admirably. This has easily been the best arc of Nightwing in the DCNU, and though I was not crazy about the way everything was handled, it was still, as a whole, a very good issue due largely to the constant surprises. Kyle Higgins seems to have found the perfect release schedule for revealing secrets. Just as things start to come into focus, something else is added to the chaos of Chicago, and we get a glimpse of Dick's next challenge.  

There were some issues. I'm impressed by the way Trickster fooled people about his intentions, but though this was good for the arc, it's not really good for the character turning him from a new anarchist/vigilante to a clever guy with a grudge. The idea that Dick would carry powerful enough explosives to take care of a problem that arises towards the end of the book seems unlikely as well. Also, One of Dick's roommate seemed to have a completely new personality from the last time we saw her. 

Still, it's a very fun ride with no major flaws, and I had a great time with it.

Conclusion 9/10


BatWatch Review: Nightwing Annual #1 - Embers

Embers

It's about time our boy formerly in blue got his own annual. It was a bit of a slap in the face last year to skip him while giving lesser titles attention. Even now, it's not truly a solo annual since Batgirl is definitely playing a major role.  

That's hardly a negative though. It's about darn time Dick and Babs had some time together. I'm not sure why the DCNU is even keeping up this pretense of making everything different in the New 52 since they seem to inevitably retread old plot lines; I guess they just haven't decided to retread the Nightwing/Batgirl romance quite yet.  

If the preview is any indication, we will at least get hints as to what might have been in this issue. I'm definitely on board with seeing some remnants of the DCNU revisited, but what modern crisis will bring these two together for a team-up? Based on the hints the preview gave us, either Firefly or Firebug will be menacing the skies of Gotham, and quite frankly, that's plenty enough of an excuse for me to buy into this duo coming together for battle.  

Does Nightwing Annual #1 give fans a reason to reminisce about the sparks these two once shared or does this experiment in chemistry result in shattered beakers and singed eyebrows?

Fired Up!

Indeed, it is the return of Firefly, a fact you will learn on the first page, so we aren't talking any real spoilers here. This version of Firefly is easily the most interesting version of the character I've encountered though his interest is all about the looks rather than the psychosis. Jason Masters, of whom I am a big fan, did an excellent job crafting a look for Firefly that stands out from the crowd. As opposed to previous versions of the character which basically amount to a guy with a flight suit and a flamethrower, this Firefly is on fire constantly, yet the fire generally follow the seams of his suit giving him definition and making him more than a mere fireball, yet the way flames leap from him in unpredictable ways makes it clear that just standing next to him would be a danger. Giving him a few extra tricks like a flaming sword makes this a visual design that should be reused for the character in the future.  

In short, this is a great design by Masters, and I tip my hat to you sir. 

Firefly, however, is not the main focus of this issue. Rather, Dick and Babs and their romance are at the emotional center of this story. We finally, finally get exactly what I wanted; a little definition to their romantic history and a rekindling of that old flame. I was afraid that the DCNU versions of these characters had been altered too much for the romance to still click, but they prove to still have some sparks. Granted, it doesn't feel like we are dealing with the same dynamic as the pre-Flashpoint pair had, but their romance does make sense for two younger less mature adventurers which befits their nerfed age in the DCNU. All of their moments together recaptured that feeling of family which has been so painfully missing since the reboot, and the story painted a reasonable picture of the two's current feelings for each other, gave their relationship a little arc, and left them in a bittersweet place that should give those fans of DC drama something worth remembering.

Of course, the issue was not all about the drama, and that's where things start to stumble a little. As cool as this new Firefly's costume was, the character was less satisfying. I get that Batman's rogues usually have some fixation and their crimes stem from this fixation, but I've grown a bit tired of the predictable nature of, "I'm obsessed with X, so I'm going to kill a bunch of people with X." It seems like a crutch at this point. The justification for Firefly's crimes does tie in thematically to the issue, but he never does anything to move him out of the realm of generic, obsessed crazy person, and his entire involved caper and the attempt to bring him to justice just feels a bit generic except for the charm of our two leading heroes and the exploration of their romance that walks beside the menace of Firefly

Conclusion 9/10

I'm right on the verge between an eight and a nine on this one. The Firefly caper is pretty typical stuff, but the exploration of Dick and Babs romance really is a boon for people like me who've been waiting for it with baited breath. 

BatWatch Review: Nightwing #23

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World Turned Upside Down

I have not been feeling great the past few days. I'm not sure why. I'm not sick in the typical sense, but I just feel like I'm lagging a bit, and thinking is a real effort sometimes as I struggle to force my brain to work through my mental sludge. In addition to this, I've just read Batman #23 which did not thrill me as much as I hoped. So on this evening of sleepiness as I strive to focus my brain and have fun with today's comics, I am hopeful that Nightwing will handsomely reward my efforts. Higgins has done a great job with Nightwing since the move to Chicago, and I can only hope that this Prince of Gotham continues to reign gloriously in the Windy City.

Does Nightwing #23 continue this series' superb run or have the good times come to an end?

In this issue, Nightwing tries to stop Praknster's thugs as the police draw closer to Prankster.  

But, What's My Motivation?

The four week trend of rating nines or better to this series has come to an end. I simply did not enjoy this issue quite as much as the last several though there is still a lot worth checking out. There are a few teeny, tiny little hiccups in the story, but the main issue is that I no longer understand the motivation for most of the characters.  

In the plethora of ill defined motivations, Prankster is the lead of the pack. He started off being a sort of dark vigilante preaching that the government was screwing up and people needed to pay attention as he dealt justice to those bad guys who had slipped through the cracks. Okay, that's a villain I can support, but last issue, he went much further by attacking innocents, presumably killing many, and inserting police officers in death traps. This shifts my understanding of Prankster. He's still motivated by a desire to see justice done to those who appear beyond the reach of justice, but he's willing to be a terrorist and kill people he believes are working for the corrupt city, like police officers. He goes even further and is willing to kill civilains riding on the Chicago subway. You could still see that as targeting a government system, so there is kind of an anti-government connection there. "Wake up to corruption or I'll kill you," is his basic message. It kind of a Timothy McVeigh sort of thing.

In this issue, Prankster seems to be killing indiscriminately. His thugs kill police, reporters, random tourists and torch Ferris wheels. (sidenote, if a Ferris wheel appears in an issue of Nightwing, it is going to die. I'll be starting the Higgins Hates Ferris Wheels Truther movement soon) I'm not even sure what thin justification Prankster could be making for his actions anymore. He's just plain old killing people. He sees the people in the streets crying for justice and trying to dethrone the mayor, and he doesn't seem to care, so why is he doing this?

Tony Zucco is also a big unknown on the motivation front. Why is he acting...somewhat responsible. This is probably my fault in thinking he should be acting like his pre-Flashpoint self, but I can't figure out why he's acting human when he is supposedly a cold blooded killer.  

The mayor is equally mysterious. What's his game? 

Now mystery is the key word here. This very well might all come together in some beautiful end game, and the ending comment from Zucco certainly makes it clear that something else is at work in these characters, but for the moment, I'm lost, and I found my disorientiaton distracting to my enjoyment since the villain no longer makes sense to me.

This, That and Everything

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There were a couple other things that kind of bugged me. The skywalk referenced on the first page is not shown in the panel that sets the scene. Parts of the fight scene on the skywalk don't make things clear. For example, a thug is thrown over something at one point and Nightwing hits him with a bola. We later see he was actually thrown through a window and out over mostly open space and is suspended high above the ground. This is cool and all, but you'd be hard pressed to guess that by the earlier panels. There were other things in this scene which did not quite look right, but I don't have the time to mention them all.

Another thing that kind of bugged me was the way the ending scene was held as some last second reveal, but I could really feel it coming from a ways off. (Spoilers) It was clear that Higgins was bringing Zucco around for a redemptive arc, (though I would not be surprised if Zucco returns to his wicked way before story's end) so the revelation that the sworn enemies will have to work together is not really all that shocking.

Go Buy Your Copy Today!

This is one of those reviews where I get focused on a few little hangups and make it sound like I hate the issue. I don't. The story is still really, really good. Dick is nice, pithy and creative, the overall story is quite intriguing, the art is nice even if I was not ever impressed in this particular issue, and Prankster's death trap gimmick is fun. There is a lot to love here; I just didn't love it quite as much as usual.

Conclusion 8/10

I didn't enjoy this issue quite as much as the past several, but it's still a good time. If you've been following along so far, you should pick this one up because even though parts left me feeling a bit off kilter, I suspect these unknowns will probably have a pretty cool resolution.  

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BatWatch Review: Nightwing #22

Showtime

Images will (hopefully) be coming soon.  

Nightwing has been amazing since his move to Chicago. Dick's been drawn deeper and deeper into the mysteries of the Windy City as his cast of strong supporting characters continues to expand and deepen. Tony Zucco, the mayor, Prankster, Mali, and the unnamed mask killer are all threats lurking around every corner. If the cover is any indication, Dick might finally be getting his shot at the man who killed his parents, yet Zucco's portrayal in the previous issues have not indicated the sociopath we previously believed Zucco to be. If the cover of this issue is any indication, perhaps this issue will shed a bit more light on the truth of the situation.

Does Nightwing continue to live large in the Windy City or will the stormy winds of fortune blow our hero off course?

In this issue, Mike gets his shot at the big time and Grayson deals with challenges on multiple fronts.

I Love Dick!

If you look around on the internet, you can drudge up some T-Shirt designs that say, “I love Dick” on the front and “Grayson” on the back. I'm not sure if I'm quite enough of a fan to don that T-Shirt, but I have to say that I am once more thrilled with this issue. There is hardly a flaw in this story though I did find two I will mention later.

As far as the overwhelming good of this series, it's the same stuff I've been saying for the past several issues. Dick is well represented in both terms of his personality and his ability. There is a subtle nod to the depth of his detective skills in his interrogation with the mayor. Of course, he does the typical Bat route of intimidation and spying, but beyond that, he actually starts by asking the mayor about Tony Zucco's by using Zucco's actual name rather than his new alias. It was a long shot, but if the mayor had given any indication of knowing who Nightwing was referencing, Nightwing would have had him dead to rights on the issue.

The art is also top notch. I do think Brett Booth was the perfect match for Grayson in terms of style, but  never once while reading this issue did I even consider the fact that he was gone. The new artist, Will Conrad, (former artist of Birds of Prey and inker of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and current penciler for Nightwing) has a less smooth more photo-realistic style, and as far as I'm concerned, he can stick around for the long haul.

The supporting characters continue to gain depth, and this subplot with Mike, which might easily work its way into the plot plot sometime soon, is also pretty amazing.

Prankster steps up his game in a big way, (Spoilers) but sadly, I can't say I'm a fan of his anymore. I mean, I like him as a character, but I was actually a supporter of his ironic and bloody justice when he was feeding sex slave traffickers to wolves. Now, he's taken things way past the point of targeting those directly responsible for crimes to destroying innocent people to call attention to government corruption, and as much as I despise government corruption, (and when talking about government corruption, there is no better city to use as an example than Chicago) killing random people to gain attention puts you squarely in the irredeemable bad guy category for me. Too bad.

Bat Droppings

1. It will be interesting to see why the cops are framing Nightwing as working with Prankster. I'd guess they are just trying to turn public opinion against any vigilantes.

2. The one complaint I can find with this issue is Dick's appearance in the mayor's office. He appears hanging from a light in the middle of the office while the mayor is at his desk facing him, yet the mayor does not notice him? Yeah right. I realize that this is a variation of the classic Batman trick, but Batman always has the dark as his ally. This takes place with all the light on in the Mayor's office and broad daylight in the background.

3. Joey's tactic of overcoming the Prankster's visor hacking is genius in its simplicity.

4. The sleaziness of Mike's boss is hilarious.

5. It's worth mentioning that the solicit for this issue said a conflict would happen between Nightwing and Ghostwalker, yet we never met a Ghostwalker in this issue. DC sure seems to be changing things up a lot last minute these days. What gives, I wonder.

6. (Spoilers) It seems like something must be up with Tony Zucco. It just doesn't track that he is the All-American family man if he was once a sociopath. There needs to be a good explanation for this; I hope one is forthcoming.

Conclusion 10/10

I cannot praise the series enough. Kyle Higgins (former writer of Gates of Gotham and current writer of Nightwing) is on fire right now, and I hope he continues to bring the heat.

BatWatch Review: Nightwing #21

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Cost of Living

I've been loving what Higgins (former writer of Gates of Gotham and current writer of Nightwing) and Booth (former artist on Wildstorm series Backlash and current penciler for Detective Comics and cover artist for Earth 2, Superman Unchained and Justice League of America's Vibe) have been delivering on Nightwing. This is only the third issue in Chicago, and it already feel like Dick has come further as a character than he did in the first nineteen issues of this series. On his ongoing quest to find his parents' killers, Dick ran into trouble with  Prankster last issue, and the issue ended with Nightwing in an apparent deathtrap forced to choose between his life and his secret identity. Let's get to it.

Does Nightwing turn the tables on the Prankster and have the last laugh or is the only joke in this book the fact that we all pain three bucks to read it?

In this issue, Nightwing partners with Prankster and we learn more about Chicago crime.

Strange Bedfellows

It is possible I might be falling in love with Kyle Higgins because as this arc continues to get better and better, I find that I have warm fuzzies in my heart when I think of him.

Everything in this issue is awesome! I mean, really, it's just that good. I'm finding it hard to pick things apart because there is almost nothing bad and I don't want to spoil anything that is good, but you came here to read a review, so let's kick it.

In the first few pages, we learn more about why there are no superheroes in Chicago, and it goes in a direction I did not expect. I figured the story would be something along the lines of the corrupt mayor trying to get rid of those rascally heroes who always ruin his plans, but instead, we find that there is a villain who has, it appears, murdered all the heroes one by one. We get a view of the murder of one of these heroes, and I have to say that the fall of this one poor guy, Slipshift, was done amazingly well because I felt much more for his death than I did for the death of Catwoman. In but a few pages, I felt like a sort of knew this guy, and to see so much promise and heroism cut down casually was, well, brutal, yet it fit perfectly for what this story intended.

What about Nightwing? Well, if you've been wanting to see some high quality Dick action, then you've come to the right place. This issues delivers a great version of Grayson on both a fighting and personal level. If you read this and don't find yourself thinking something along the lines of, “That's right! You don't mess with Nightwing!” then you must just not be a Nightwing fan because this should really hit the spot for any Dick lovers. Though personality is probably more important than fighting prowess, I have to say the fight actually sticks out to me more in this issue because Grayson has often performed so poorly in his own DCNU series. The ultimate example of this is his fight with Paragon where Dick nearly had his clock cleaned and his body bisected by a complete noob. This comic goes a long way in redeeming the prior poor treatment of Grayson's abilities.

Screenshot from 2013-06-12 18:44:31.png

Putting aside the fight for a moment, this issue continued to develop Prankster into a respectable opponent. Prankster is clearly the physical inferior, but he still seems like a very credible threat because of his indirect means of attacking Nightwing. If Higgins can think of some more ways such as the hacking of Nightwing's HUD to give Prankster an edge, then this is a villain I hope to see time and time again.

Bat Droppings

1. The way Slipshift died was a little awkward. I have no problem with him dying while phased into the wall; that is actually fitting and poetic, but rather, he did not seem to crumple to the ground after dying. Truth be told, I'm still not sure if he was supposed to have died there or if he crawled on to slip and shift another day. Perhaps we'll find out later.

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Spoilers until Conclusion

2. Tony Zucco is turning out to be a much more fascinating character than I ever would have guessed. I have no clue as to where Higgins is going with this. You do not go from sociopath to family man. It simple does not happen.

3. I was sure I knew the identity of the Prankster. I was so sure that I guessed multiple people multiple times. Turns out Higgins threw us off in the most old fashioned of ways...by making Prankster a character we had not previously seen. It might feel cheap to some, but Higgins never said it was a preexisting character, so all's fair. Also, I still wonder if Prankster might have a connection to one of Dick's roommates.

Conclusion 10/10

I freakin' loved this issue. I try not to give 10's out very often, but if I'm not going to give it after the third absolutley excellent issue of series in a row, then when am I going to give it? This is an extremely good arc.

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BatWatch Review: Nightwing #20

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Flying Blind

In general, I have not been too impressed by Kyle Higgins run on Nightwing, but holy crap was I ever blown away by the last issue of Nightwing. Throw Dick into Chicago, and he spontaneously develops a supporting cast. Intrigue was around every corner in last issue as we met a host of new characters, and maybe I'm wrong, but it also seemed as if Dick had a bit more of his pre-Flashpoint skill, flair and humor back. Regardless, I laughed, (well, I chuckled) I cried, (well, okay, no, but it was cool, okay?) and I enjoyed myself thoroughly with Nightwing #19. I'm definitely ready to learn more about the corruption of Chicago, the history of Tony Zucco, the motivation of Prankster, and the psychosis of Mali.

Does this issue prove that Windy City is the place for Dick Grayson or does all the progress of the last issue swept aside in this one?

In this issue, Nightwing meets his new roommates and gets a lead from Spade, the police come across more of Prankster's handiwork, and Tony Zucco is revealed as a much more complex character than we originally suspected.

Upgrade

It seems like the entire dialogue of the book has really stepped up a notch or two...or three. Whereas most of the previous issues of Nightwing have never really made me feel overly attached to the characters, the people in this issue all seem to have depth and personality. Mike gets some more development this issue, and Dick gets to know his other roommate, Joey. Joey seems like an interesting character, and she is yet another suspect for the identity of the Prankster. The conversations between Dick, Mike, and Joey felt completely natural and really gave a good sense of who these new characters are in just a few pages. Similarly, Tony Zucco and the mayor also had a conversation in this issue which did a lot to deepen the plot while building intrigue and making these characters feel more fully realized. There is still a definite and even probable chance that the mayor and Zucco are evil, but at least they are not the typical mustache twirling variety of villain.

Booth's pencils continue to look amazing, and I think he is the perfect artist for this book. His sleek, fluid style just pairs well with Nightwing. Also, I've grown more and more appreciative of Dick's new costume. It was not really announced because it was not a huge change, but if you look back to the way Eddy Barrows drew it to the way it is now, there are many small tweaks. The red stripe across his chest is thinner and it now goes all the way down to his fingers like his pre-Flashpoint costume. Booth also added a neck stripe and hip stripe which, though small, actually help break up the otherwise all black of the suit. I've always felt Dick's pre-Flashpoint suit was better, but now looking at this one, I feel a little torn for the first time. Replace the red with blue, and I think I'm sold on this being the superior design.

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As much as I love Booth's sketches, there were a few moments where I was a little lost in the final battle scene. I think Booth would benefit by doing a little more surrounding details since most of my confusion involved figuring out where exactly Dick was in relation to his surroundings. (Spoilers) For instance, Dick ends up in a death trap after Prankster pushed him, but how exactly did he get there? Did the trap spring up around him, did Prankster push him through a door and then seal it, or did Dick fall into the box? I'm guessing he fell from above since we saw the top hatch slam shut a second later, but it's difficult to be sure. The scene where Dick rescued the guy from electrocution was also just a smidge confusing.

Bat Droppings

1. Dick should really find a better place to hide his suits when he has roommates. If I were him, I probably would have panicked when I realized people could see the suit, though in reality, most people would probably not think anything of it.

2. I must admit, I enjoyed seeing the human trafficker lose an arm. Whose a good dog? You are! You are!

3. It was also cool that they pointed out that a tame wolf would probably need to be drugged to attack someone. I'm no expert on wolves, but I would suspect this would probably be the case. From my understanding, canines do not become aggressive unless they are either trained to be or their need for food forces them. I do not think a wolf who has lived in captivity would be prone to immediately make a scumbag his lunch.

4. Joey is definitely a likely suspect for Prankster. She has some computer skills, her hair is the right color and length, and her location in this apartment gives her the same access to the train that Nightwing has.

(Spoilers until Conclusion)

Screenshot from 2013-05-15 11:31:05.png

5. I like the idea of Spade betting information on card games, but he says that Dick and he are going to, “play one hand.” First up, I would not trust a card shark to shuffle with his own deck, but I guess we can trust Dick's previous experience with card sharks to spot any tricks...maybe. More importantly though, what card game were they playing? Most card games only involve skill after several hands are played. By betting on how good your hand is in any given round, you can slowly increase or decrease your winnings, but if you are only playing one hand of something, then you are pretty much limited by the luck of the draw, right? Again, it depends somewhat on the game they were playing. I'm not sure why Higgins decided to leave that detail out.

6. This whole insulation thing confuses me, and I guess I should do some research and write an article on it sometime, but electricity can jump small distances, right? Doesn't that happen? So if you are insulated in your body, but your face is still exposed, isn't there still a good chance you could be electrocuted?

7. I really enjoyed the fight with Prankster. Knocking out Dick's HUD is genius, and I kind of wished I'd thought up the idea myself.

8. Prankster gets a chunk knocked out of his mask, and he appears white underneath, so I guess my theory about Prankster being Mike is busted. Again though, it does still track with Joey.

9. This final death trap really bugs me because it is full of holes. Here are a few ways Dick could get out of the trap. A. Put out the fire. B. Break the case. C. Leave the way you entered. You know it is safe. D. Take your mask off, put your hand over your face, spy through your fingers to figure out which exit you should use, put the mask back on and exit safely. E. If Pranksters leaves, then just turn your back to the camera and take off the mask. F. If all else fails, just take a guess. You have fifty/fifty chance, the blow back will only last a second, you can shield your face from the worst damage and your suit is flame retardant. You would lose the skin you couldn't cover on your face, but you wouldn't die.

Conclusion 9/10

I almost dropped it down a notch just because of that final scene, but the rest of the issue was awesome. This issue was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it immensely. Nightwing fans rejoice!

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Review: Nightwing #19

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Second City

It's time for some Bat Family goodness, or at least I hope that's what we have in store with this month's Nightwing. The last issue left us with the massive cliffhanger when it was revealed that Anthony Zucco, the man who killed Dick Grayson's parents, is still alive and operating in Chicago. Kyle Higgins has already leaked lots of hints as to what's to come in Dick's adventures in the Windy City, and I haven't heard a bad note yet. Brett Booth (former artist on Wildstorm series Backlash and current penciler for Detective Comics and cover artist for Earth 2, Vibe and Superboy) is adding his smooth and spectacular art style to the book, and Nightwing gets a brand new (to him) villain in the form of Prankster who will apparently become a significant threat, so I'm geared up and ready for this issue.

Does all of this promise send Grayson flying to new heights, or is this one flight of fancy that needs to be grounded?

In this issue, Nightwing makes some friends, makes some enemies and meets at least one crazy person in Chicago.

Brett Booth FTW!

I know I'm totally sucking up to Brett Booth at the moment, but his work on this title is pretty much everything I hoped it would be. Nightwing's movements look as beautiful as they have ever been portrayed, Brett's sleek style does indeed fit the tone of the book, every image does a great job of conveying the story, faces are expressive and distinctive and even the panel layout is fresh keeping readers on their toes during fight scenes and conveying the chaos of the moment. The colorist, Andrew Dalhouse, (former colorist for Boom's Irredeemable and Teen Titans and current colorist for Detective Comics, Nightwing, Threshold and Fairest and cover artist for Earth 2 and Justice League) also does a great job giving the entire issue a vibrant feel which compliments Booth's pencils perfectly.

The only flaw I saw was that Nightwing causes something to explode at one point to give himself some cover for an escape, and I could not at first decipher what he hit to cause the rupture/explosion. It took me about four times viewing the scene until I finally made sense of it. Beyond that, this issue was a sight to behold if you like Brett Booth's style.

New City, New Rules

As I suspected, Chicago has apparently outlawed capes. If I had paid close attention during the preview, I would have known this for certain because papers saying, “No Capes,” are littered everywhere and even plastered across digital billboards. Despite this, Nightwing acts as if he is unaware of the ban on capes which is more than a tad difficult to believe. This was obviously something being talked about constantly on the streets of Chicago, and it should have been abuzz in the superhero community as well.

Screenshot from 2013-04-17 23:01:04.png

It's definitely nice to see Dick back in a more mainstream life though. Though I enjoyed the concept of Amusement Mile and I was disappointed with how that entire story point was built up only to be burned down, stripping Dick of his fortune (or at least most of it) and the luxuries provided by being Batman's Jr. partner has definitely given Dick a more everyman vibe which is something we have not seen from him in at least five years. Living in a crummy apartment might be a small change in and of itself, but it causes a tone shift for the character that I believe is important.

Putting him in a situation where he has to learn the ropes with new rules, new enemies, new problems, and new threats does a lot to make our hero more relatable. In essence, we are learning about Chicago at the same time as Grayson.

Villains Galore!

We are introduced to a bunch of new villains in this issue, but Prankster was the one that stood out to me, and I found myself really spending a lot of time wondering about him. His only direct appearance in this issue is at the end, but it's a powerful one, and if this is Prankster's M.O., then I look forward to seeing a lot more of the character. However, I noticed that his identity was not revealed

When writers keep the identity of the villain a secret, it is usually because they want the identity of the villain to be a shock to the readers when it is unveiled, and a villain's identity can only be a shock if it is something readers could potentially have guessed, and readers could only have a chance to guess if it were a character already appearing in the story, so with all that in mind, who is the Prankster?

Screenshot from 2013-04-17 23:05:09.png

The identity of the Pranksters seems pretty obvious since there is only one character who fits the bill, Johnny Spade, the information broker. Even without the informant angle, Spade quickly makes an impression as an extortionist extraordinaire. Without so much as lifting a finger, you know this is one man you would never want to cross. Spade matches the basic physical appearance of Prankster as shown on the cover, and he clearly uses brain over brawn and has an affinity for mind games which are both characteristics completely consistent with Prankster. Spade clearly pumps information from the underbelly of Chicago which he no doubt uses to full advantage as the Prankster, right?

Wrong.

(Spoilers for Rest of Section) I thought Slade was Prankster at first, but it started gnawing at me that it was just too obvious, and after further contemplation, it doesn't track for other reasons. Spade appears to be in the business of taking advantage of people, but Prankster's only clear action in this issue was clearly for the benefit of others. Spade turns tail the second things go South, but Prankster actively seeks out dangerous situations. Most importantly, Spade has no defense when Mali pulls a knife on him. There is no way any character who has ever used the name Trickster would ever be caught without an Ace up his sleeve in this situation especially if he had the foreknowledge that something was amiss with Mali.

No, the real identity of Prankster is Mike, Dick Grayson's roommate.

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As I already said, it does not make much sense for Prankster to be Spade when you really get down to brass tacks, yet writers like to hide villains in plain sight, so what other options are there for the role? None that make any sense. Mike, however, does have a few things that jive with the concept of Prankster. He is apparently a journalist or at least a news photographer which indicates an interest in exposing truth for the the benefit of mankind. If Mike is the Prankster, then he is a character who has grown tired of looking at the city's problems through a lens and is now ready to take care of it personally, and this is a compelling setup for an antihero especially one who does good in such a brutal way. Mike's placement with the news service would probably give him good insights into the criminal activity of Chicago, and he just so happens to be covering one of the mayor's speeches, and we know that the mayor is a bad guy. Coincidence? Perhaps, but there is more. The exact nature of the Praknster's cyber attacks were never disclosed, but I wonder if it might perhaps be an effort to get information out or call attention to things in an Anonymous type style which would again fit with the operation pattern of a reporter fed up with the system. Also, the subway that goes over Grayson's apartment which gives Nightwing good cover for his entry and exits and easy access to quick transportation across the city would work just as well for Mike. Even more, Mike is an extremely lean and tall fellow; the first image of Dick and Mike together shows Mike towering about five inches over Grayson. Prankster also appears to be extremely lean and tall though he is not standing by anything to give scale to the image so it is impossible to be sure. Finally, Prankster's costume covers nearly every square inch of his body which is rare in costume designs. This would makes sense, of course, if you were trying to hide your ethnicity.

There are two major problems with this theory. First, why would Mike take a roommate if he needed to cover his illegal activites? Second, Prankster has blond hair and is shown to have white ears on the cover.

In regards to the first point, it could be that Prankster simply needs help with rent because he refuses to take dirty money. He certainly appeared uninterested in taking human trafficking money in this issue. Regarding the racial characteristics, this could easily be faked. In fact, why would Prankster cover every part of his body and leave his shaggy hair exposed except to mislead people? Black Canary used the hair trick for years. With the white ears, that is a slightly larger problem, but in terms of concealing your identity, getting Caucasian ear prosthetics is hardly an impossible or even impractical precaution.

Of course, I could be completely wrong. Remember, I'm the guy who thought the new Batwing was Stephanie Brown. On the other hand, I'm also the guy who called Alysia Yeoh being transgendered four months ago, so my random speculation sometimes pays off.

Bat Droppings (Spoilers)

1. Mali could be an interesting character, but I hope Higgins has something more in mind for her than just, “She's crazy.” The brief mention that she, “mimics” sounds promising.

2. What exactly is an “underdeveloped trigger finger?” This sounds like something made up by someone who has never been around guns.

3. I was totally going to call the mayor being evil, but this issue revealed it for me. Too bad. I was surprised by Tony Zucco's role in the mayor's office though. Consider my interest piqued.

Conclusion 9/10

Screenshot from 2013-04-17 23:10:06.png

I'm very tempted to give this a 10/10 because I absolutely loved the ride, but there were a few minor hiccups such as Dick's apparent obliviousness to the ban on capes which make this issue fall just a hair short. Still, this is one of and maybe the best issue of Nightwing in the DCNU thus far, and it's a great beginning for a new chapter in the life of Nightwing. If you have any interest whatsoever, pick this issue up.

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Review: Nightwing #18

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Slow Burn

I'm not sure I've come straight out and said this in any previous reviews, but I've really been a bit disappointed with Higgins' Nightwing. I've heard lots of interviews with Kyle Higgins, and it is clear the guy is a true fan of Dick Grayson; he seems to get the character, yet when pen meets paper, the results are mixed. There are almost no issues of the DCNU Nightwing I would classify as bad, but Dick Grayson has no longer been adopted and/or raised by Bruce, Dick Grayson gets routinely routed by villains he should be able to school in a heartbeat, and Raya was introduced as a shallowly developed love interest for the sole purpose betraying Dick who is subsequently used as a pawn by Joker to create false melodrama, and let's not forget that future solicits make it appear as if the narrative gem that was Raya will be making a return from the dead in the near future. I find all of these plot elements to be severely disappointing. That's not to say the series does not have its moments. The last two issues have been very strong, but I cannot help but feel that Nightwing deserves more.

Though my expectation level is capped, this does appear to be a good issue. Grayson will be going after his Flying Graysons costume which appears to have been marked by the Joker, and this might imply that Joker has made a connection between Dick Grayson and Nightwing. Also, Robin has died, and this should affect Dick greatly. Finally, we know Grayson will be traveling to Chicago in the near future, so it will be interesting to see what prompts that move. Does Nightwing #18 deliver a satisfying chapter in the unfolding tale of Dick Grayson, or does this story stumble, fall, and crumple?

In this issue, Nightwing mourns the loss of Damian, spends some time with Sonia Zucco and mounts a rescue operation for his father's costume.

Delivered as Promised

It's nice when an issue actually delivers what is promised.

Some of the other tie in issues to Requiem have been less than satisfying by failing to actually address the death of Damian in any detail, but no such criticism can be made of Nightwing #18. About half the issue deals with Damian's loss, and it is a pretty good handling of Damian's death. It did seem a little odd to me that we never saw Dick cry because, quite frankly, he strikes me as a big crier who would simply let his emotions run wild though him, but we never really see Dick lose control in this issue except for one brief move. On the other hand, the story takes place two weeks after Damian's actual death, so it makes sense that Dick would have come to terms with his initial emotions. Still, I kind of wanted to see Dick shed some tears. Another thing that struck me as slightly amiss was the way Grayson referred to Damian as his brother. True, they were brothers in a sense, but Damian was also the only sidekick Grayson has ever had, and that master/apprentice and father/son type of relationship was more important than their relation as brothers. However, I am nitpicking, and this was actually a good handling of Dick's grief.

Oh, one more thing in the Damian gripes department. In this issue, Damian's graveside is shown as being marked by a monolith, and I am curious about the reasoning behind this. It just does not seem very Damian-esque to me. Also, Damian's grave was simply marked by a headstone in Worlds' Finest, (unless I am greatly mistaken) so we have bad editorial coordination on this one.

The Joker plotline was also remembered in this issue, and it was handled well. However, it seems that the series is not going to make a big deal of Joker marking the Flying Grayson's costumes even though it had a clear resemblance to Nightwing's costume, and it would seem to me that this would be a big event for the series, but I guess I am making more of it that was intended. Regardless, the use of the Dealer was very cool, and I hope to see more of him in the future.

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Finally in the category of things promised and delivered, we find out why Nightwing is going to Chicago, and believe me, he has a very good reason for the move. (Spoilers) Anthony Zucco's possible return is an interesting premise, and I think I enjoy the idea. He was always an underutilized character; he killed Grayson's parents and then he more or less disappeared with only a handful of other appearances. He died in Batman: Year 3 when he was assassinated right after getting out of prison. Zucco had dirt on all the Gotham mobsters, and he intended to blackmail them all into working for him, so the mobsters took him out before he could use their secrets as leverage. As Dick said in this issue, he did witness Zucco's murder for Batman and Nightwing were watching Zucco's release from a nearby hill. It will be interesting to see if the old story is still cannon and if Zucco can be evolved into an interesting character in his own right rather than simply being the guy who killed Grayson's parents.

Juan Jose Ryp

When I commented on the preview for this issue, I said that Brett Booth seemed to be having some trouble getting the art style on this issue. However, that was me being stupid. Brett Booth takes over pencils next month, but now Juan Jose Ryp is doing the art.

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I cannot say I am a huge fan of Ryp's work. As with last week, some parts look good while others look...less than good. My only real issue with Ryp's work is the faces. Most of them look a little odd, but Nightwing especially looks off. Most of the time Grayson was drawn in here, he does not even look like Dick Grayson. If you gave me this screen shot of Rpy's Dick Grayson and tried to get me to guess who it was, I doubt I would have any idea.

Apart from faces, everything looks great though in some action scenes, I did feel that Nightwing took up to much of the panel giving me very little idea on what was happening around him. If the camera could be pulled back a little, I would greatly appreciate it.

Bat Droppings

1. Reusing past pages (both art and dialogue) from the last issue is a little lazy.

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2. The Swordwalkers bit was cute, and I can sympathize with Grayson's outburst. I broke a walkie talkie the other day during my 110 hour week when I got fed up with it giving me issues and threw it against a wall. Not my smartest move, but sometimes you just want to smash something. All the guys out there know what I'm talking about. I don't know if girls get those random flashes of violence.

3. Sonia Zucco did not annoy me in this issue. I'm still not like, “Yay, it's Sonia,” but at least she did not grate on my nerves.

4. I know Dick is having a bad day, but his whole, “Bruce lied to me about Joker,” thing is old. Brouce did not lie. He withheld information from you because he thought you did not need to know it, and guess what He was right.

5. “They think that darkness made them divine. Maybe it does. It's certainly easier.” What the crap are you talking about Nightwing/Higgins?

6. The twist at the end was very cool. This is how comics should end.

7. I'm continuing to enjoy Channel 52.

Conclusion 9/10

This might be a surprise with as many problems as I have pointed out with this issue, but really, most of the problems I pointed out were minor, and I love surprises, so the twist at the end worked for me. If you are a Nightwing fan, you should go ahead and shell out the money for this issue.

Review: Nightwing #17

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The Long Week

Death of the Family is finally over, and we can finally see the fallout left over from Joker's rampage. A lot of people are complaining that Death of the Family has not made a lasting impact on the universe. Personally, I don't feel that every plot line has to be a game changer to justify its existence. On the other hand, almost all the authors of the various tie ins claimed that this crossover was going to affect the characters for years to come, and this is nowhere more evidenced than with Nightwing who, if appearances are not deceiving, lost his entire business through Joker's attack. We also know that Joker managed to get under the skin of Dick and all the other members of the Bat Family, so at bare minimum, I expect to see some emotional fallout in the upcoming issues of the bat protégées. Does this current title live up to expectations and show that Joker did leave a mark on Dick Grayson's soul, or is this just a throwaway issue following up a throwaway event?

In this issue, Grayson tries to process his emotions while all his friends reassure him that things will be okay.

(Slow Clap)

Kyle Higgins, the author of Nightwing, promised emotional fallout, and that is exactly what we get. I really respected Higgins slow burn approach to this issue, and by that I mean that this was about as slow paced an issue as you ever get in mainstream comics. The typical formula of superhero comics is battle or surprise at the beginning, narrative development in the middle, and battle/revelation/cliffhanger at the end. This issue gives the finger to all that, and its for the better.

I loved the first page of this issue which, rather than a big battle, opened up with a sort of montage of panels highlighting the effects of Joker's rampage and the pain he brought with him. The story then goes into totaling up the damage to Grayson personally hitting every category. We learn the damage to Dick physically and fiscally not to mention in terms of friends' lives. All the while, Dick stays stony and resolute trying to put on a brave face for the world, yet any fan of Nightwing should know that Grayson wearing a game face is an easy indication that something is wrong, yet the other members of the Bat Family seem to be missing the signs perhaps due to their own emotional stress. It's an odd pacing for a comic, but it succeeds in creating a solemn tone for the story.

Revelations

There are quite a few revelations about what exactly happened in Death of the Family and the direction of Nightwing's future in this issue, so lets talk revelations. As usual, I'll put a spoiler warning on those events half way through the issue.

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First up, Amusement Mile is destroyed, but Dick's troupe of carneys made it out alive. I have mixed feelings on Amusement Mile. I thought it was a really cool project for Dick, and I hate that they scrapped it. On the other hand, I've been sick of Nightwing hanging out in Gotham, a city with more than its fair share of heroes already, so perhaps this severing of ties will serve as Grayson's impetus to leave Gotham. On the other other hand, I am unequivocally happy that Dick's troupe lived to tumble another day. I thought the carneys in refrigerators bit, though certainly a menacing move on Joker's part, was a bit of a waste of characters, and though Haly's Circus currently seems to be out of commission, at least those characters are still in the universe and available for future possible use. Regarding Joker's motive for allowing the troupe to live, I think Grayson might be overthinking it. Joker has many varieties of Joker toxin. Maybe he just didn't have enough of the lethal variety laying around.

In another development, Nightwing is financially bankrupt. Now that Grayson is only extremely attractive and nice and not extremely rich, I suspect all his fangirls will immediately find greener pastures. In all seriousness, I'm pretty neutral on this point. I didn't even know Grayson had significant amounts of money until some recent research on the character. It's never really been an important part of who he is, and if he does need money for some reason, he can always get some cash from Daddy Bats.

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(Spoiler) The “Does Joker know?” question which was so heavily asked during Death of the Family is still in play much to my surprise. I have to say, Higgins caught me completely off guard with that one. Dick speculates that maybe Joker let the troupe live just so Nightwing could feel the pain of the carney's turning their back on him, and as I said, I think that's an unnecessary logical jump, but at the end of the issue, we see an old Flying Grayson's costume that was dug out of the rubble of Amusement Mile which bears a joker grin which simultaneously mimics the red slash of Dick's Nightwing outfit. Holy crap! This was a very clever design on either Higgins or Ryp's  part, and it really makes the mind wonder. If I had to make a guess, I would say that Joker probably saw the costume while at Amusement Mile and recognized the influence on Nightwing's design. Did he realize Grayson was Nightwing? Maybe.

(Spoiler) Finally, Channel 52 makes a return this issue, and I'm a fan thought I do think they should have gone with “News 52” myself. Anyway, this has another revelation about Grayson. Dick will be moving to Chicago! I'm surprised just because I figured this would have been solicited or leaked, and if it has, I missed it. However, I'm not really a fan of putting Dick in Chicago. I am a fan of getting him out of Gotham, but I would have chosen something more reflective of Dick's personality. For instance, Bruce and Gotham are very similar, cold, dark, and dangerous. Nightwing, in my mind, is clearly Las Vegas, but I suppose I should be grateful that he will at least be gaining some independence.

Off Rhythm

I was not crazy about everything in this issue. There were definitely some moments which broke the flow of what otherwise was an excellent issue.

The first off beat moment happened just on page 2. After a beautiful first page, we see Alfred tending Nightwing, and Dick's pose just does not look good. It looks like he is caught between crying, passing out, and engaging in an overly dramatic stage monologue. I get the vibe that the issue was trying to convey, and Nightwing's pose really ripped me away from it.

Also, I have to mention this though I feel kind of bad saying it, Raya's rack is way distracting. Grayson goes to pick up Raya's body and turn her over to the police in a scene which actually made me care about Raya's death, but the angle they chose to frame Dick's approach to Raya's body just happened to give the reader a nice view down Raya's low cut shirt. I can't speak for any of the other guys out there, but at least to me, this scene read emotionally as, “Oh, how sad. Her body is still lying their dead, and oh, boobies!”

Next up, Barbara comes off as a completely unsympathetic...(ahem) person. I...I guess this is just the DCNU version of the character. I keep wanting to think she is being written badly, but I guess she is just closed off, snippy, and bitter in this universe, and that's a shame.

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(Spoiler) Finally, there is a battle in this issue, and there really did not need to be. I get that it set up for Grayson letting his emotions slip and losing control, but I wish Higgins had found some other way to get Grayson's mask to slip. I can't quite pinpoint what about this scene bugged me, but I think it was because it just felt like an excuse to have a fight in the comic. It's as if Higgins suddenly remembered that you can't get through a superhero comic book without making the hero wail on someone, and that is kind of a shame. The way Dick utterly failed to try to uncover the villains motivations or even turn them in to the police just underscored the way this plot point was inserted into the issue for reasons other than telling a good story. It was there for the emotional break for Grayson, the revelation about the Nightwing costume, and to have a fight, yet it felt forced to me.

Bat Droppings

Eddy Barrows, the penciler, did an amazing job with last month's issue. This month, Juan Jose Ryp (former cover artist for Boundless comic Lady Death) took over art duties, and he did a pretty good job. I really respected a lot of the visual designs in this issue as well such as the first page, the Flying Grayson costume smile, and the little tear in Dick's domino mask that gave the impression of a tear, but it was not quite of the quality of the last issue in my view.

Alfred should be in bed, but it seems in character that he is not.

Sonia Zuccuo won me over to being a fan for all of about one panel by paying for the funeral before she started talking and ruined things. I hate her.

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As you would probably guess from the cover, there are some great Dick/Damian moments in this issue. (Spoiler) Damian: “And as for the Joker...you realize the man literally cut off his own face, yes? Are you really that concerned with his opinion?” Nice.

Conclusion 9/10

The slow burn sold me on this issue. I almost dropped it down another rank because of all the flaws I mentioned which broke the flow of the story for me, but really, none of these were huge deals, and this issue made me feel for Grayson in a way I have not through most of his DCNU comics. This is definitely worth purchasing if you are a Nightwing fan.

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Review: Nightwing #16

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Curtain Call

I was not particularly impressed with the last issue of Nightwing which puts me in the vast minority. I would not say it was a bad issue, but it simply failed to wow me. Joker killed a guy who looked like him and then left him hanging in a creepy place, but beyond that, all he did was give Raya a dose of laughing gas and turn her loose on Nightwing. I found the whole setup rather boring because Joker uses innocents against heroes all the time, and Raya's death just felt like a waste of a potentially interesting supporting character. I certainly do not feel any personal loss over a character who was created for the sole purpose of betraying Dick Grayson, yet apparently, we are supposed to feel great loss over her passing. I'm afraid I do not invest in characters that easily.

At the end of the last issue, we are left with the threat of Joker heading to Amusement Mile to wreak havoc. Has Joker planned a fun filled evening of thrills and spills for Grayson, or is Dick's date with destiny a disaster?

In this issue, Nightwing confronts Joker at Amusement Mile where the Clown Prince of Crime tortures Dick with his past while destroying his future.

What a Finish!

I was extremely impressed with this conclusion, but I am not speaking of the conclusion of Nightwing's role in Death of the Family but the conclusion of Eddy Barrows penciling on the Nightwing series. Overall, I've enjoyed Barrows run, but I think this issue is probably his best yet. Nearly every page was a piece of art that stands above the crowd. Barrows really caught the elegance and flow of Dick's movement. The first page is beautiful and deserves to be screen capped and added to the Nightwing gallery page of BatWatch. Pages two and three featured a spread that has Dick's ghost movements tracking his graceful parkour move across the Gotham skyline. We get our first real glimpse at Joker's face on page 5 where Barrows has found a new look for Joker with the skin pulled so tight as to be near the tearing point and plenty of extra muscle showing around the gums. There is a beautiful, if morbid, spread featuring some unique use of skeletons on pages six and seven. Nightwing uses some throwing knives with a Nightwing symbol design I do not believe we have ever previously seen. (I'm a fan for whatever creators might be listening) Again, that panel deserves a screen cap. On pages nine and ten, Dick experiences some visions which are excellently executed. Throughout the rest of the comic, every move that every character makes seems to have real weight behind it.

I'm a big fan of Brett Booth's work, and I am looking forward to him taking over Nightwing's art, but now that I know Barrows can deliver this quality of work, I am eager to see his take on the Teen Titans as well.

Rod Reis deserves a lot of credit on his coloring as well. I'm no expert on comic coloring, but I can tell he did something on pages six and seven to give that scene a haunting, foggy feel. The vision scenes are also a highlight with great use of green on the gas.

I know I am belaboring the art on this review, but I would not feel right without giving Eber Ferreira, the inker, his due . The shading in this issue adds a ton of depth, and it is in high use considering the dark setting and dark tone of the story.

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Packed Full of Surprises or More of the Same?

If you want to impress me with a story, the number one thing you can do is surprise me. I love a good, turn of the unexpected. It doesn't have to be a huge plot twist, but just something I did not see coming.

Since I've started BatWatch, I'm hearing theories on future happenings from Bat fans on a daily basis, but despite this, there were still several things that happened in this issue which I did not see coming nor did I see anybody predict. Yes, Dick fights Joker at Amusement Mile. Yes, Joker talks about how Dick drags down Batman. Yes, anybody with half a brain knows what they will find on the final panel. However, much of the surrounding events came as a surprise.

Sadly, I'm kind of hamstrung in respect to how much I can discuss without ruining the issue. I was glad Higgins did not try to squeeze Sonia into this issue. I hate it when heroes are in a life and death situation but take time for personal drama. I thought the way Joker used props at Amusement mile was a good way to get under Nightwing's skin, and it added to the mystery of whether or not Joker knows Dick's identity.

(Spoiler) I also liked that Joker did not slaughter the performers at Haly's Circus. I was quite afraid that we were going to see an example of bearded women in refrigerators, but no more carneys were harmed in the making of this issue. I despise the casual disposal of supporting characters, so assuming the laughing gas was of a non-lethal variety, their treatment in this issue was a relief. Joker was able to use them to a menacing affect without chopping them to bits.

(Spoiler) In that same way, I am less than thrilled about the destruction of Amusement Mile. I think it was a very clever investment for Grayson, and if that has all gone up in smoke, I'm going to be disappointed. We know at least one Ferris wheel and one roller coaster were destroyed, and it is definitely possible that the main performance area was destroyed or badly damaged. Is that all there is to Amusement Mile, or is there still a lot left standing after Joker's rampage? Grayson no doubt has insurance, so he should not be financially crippled, but this will have to put a kink in his plans, and if Higgins spent 16 issues building to the creation and opening of Amusement Mile only to have it destroyed by Joker and swept under the rug, will be very disappointed.

(Spoiler) Probably the greatest surprise for me was that Grayson kept on fighting until the bitter end. I've been rather disappointed by other members of the family. So far, Red Hood is the only member of the family who refused to give up to the Joker. Red Robin just stood at the bottom of a pit and listened to Joker's rant, Babs went along with Joker's crazy wedding plans, Damian refused to fight for fear of killing his dad, and Bats called it quits when he thought his family was in danger. Dick though fought to the last possible second with his last ounce of courage. Good stuff!

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Are There Any Editors at DC?

Admittedly, I'm suffering from DotF burnout at this point, but seriously, how the crap does Joker have time to do all this stuff in one night. Ignoring his redecorating, kidnapping, poisoning, and death trapping at Haly's circus, just consider the grave robbing operation. Joker spent the past year going around the country digging up the graves of old Haly's performers just to steal their bodies and pose them around the circus? Really? Come on! How long would it take him just to unload all those bodies and pose them? If he had an army of thugs with him, I could somewhat accept this crap, but unless Joker ends Batman #17 by saying, “And I want to give a shout out to my Jokineers for their help,” then I call complete and total bull crap!

Why do all the writers think they need these big over the top setups anyway? Think about The Killing Joke which is generally regarded as the best Joker story of all time. It is a chilling story, but it did not need any ridiculous set pieces to be scary. The most exotic element was an abandoned circus, and really, the story would have been nearly as good set anywhere else. Even though the circus was in The Killing Joke, it is not what is remembered from the story. The scene nobody can forget is when Joker shot Barbara and started taking pictures of her while wearing a Hawaiian shirt. A gun, a camera, and a flamboyant top is all that was needed to create the most riveting Joker moment of history. You do not need a zillion dead bodies and an interior decorator on crack.

Another complaint: why is Dick being so harsh on Bruce? Dick has been more assertive with Bruce in the DCNU, and I approve of this change, but I still think Dick should have a deep trust and admiration for Batman, yet in this issue, he seems completely furious with Batman because it appears he was wrong about Joker breaking in to the cave. The entire dynamic between Dick and Bruce has changed since the reboot, and I really miss the trusting and nearly star struck image Dick had of Batman. Sure, Nightwing has always been one of the few people who can get away with making fun of Batman, but at heart, you know Nightwing had nothing bur respect for him. I don't get that feeling anymore.

Last point before I close, Joker started to talk about Nightwing as being the protege who abandoned Batman, and Joker tied it into the idea of a young kid running away to join the circus. I thought this was an interesting way for Joker to undermine Dick's unique relationship with the Bat, but it never really develops past that point. That was a missed opportunity.

Conclusion 8/10

This issue is right on the verge of earning a nine, but I'm so sick of Joker doing the impossible in this crossover and there were a few other minor hiccups that dropped the quality a little. Still, its a good issue and worth picking up if you are a Nightwing or Death of the Family fan.

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Review: Nightwing #15

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Cleaning House

Due to my computer crashing, I may or may not be able to attach pictures to this week's reviews. I'll get them up as soon as I can, but I will need to take time to wipe and rebuild my computer soon which might cause a brief interruption on BatWatch. Your patience is appreciated.

Nightwing has been a solid book throughout the DCNU, but it has rarely wowed me. The last arc featuring Lady Shiva was okay, and though I enjoyed the revelation that Penguin was behind Lady Shiva’s machinations, the lack of a conclusion to the fight between Nightwing and Shiva made things feel a bit hollow. After what seems like an extremely long wait, Joker has finally come to visit Batman’s original son, Dick Grayson, and he’s just in time for Haly’s Circus to open on Amusement Mile. Is this the greatest show on Earth, or just a sideshow attraction?

In this issue, Joker murders one of Haly’s Circus’ star performers, Raya wakes up in a hangar, Batgirl commiserates with Nightwing, and Dick has to decide how to respond to the threat of Joker in light of Joker’s possible knowledge of Nightwing’s secret identity.

Joker the Monotonous

This reflects more on the spamming of tie ins to Death of the Family rather than the actual quality of work on this issue, but Joker is beginning to become extremely tiresome. I mean, I literally yawned while writing that last sentence because that is how predictable the Clown Prince of Crime has become in this series. Don’t get me wrong, there are flashes of brilliance across most of the tie ins, but there are no bright flashes in this issue.

Let’s review the case. How does Joker begin his master plan? By killing someone with Joker’s laughing gas! How does he lure Dick into a trap? By planting a clue so subtle and convoluted that it is unlikely to ever be discovered. What happens to Nightwing when the trap is actually sprung? (Spoiler) He has to fight Raya…who is poisoned by Joker’s laughing gas! Wow! Amazingly creative writing!

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(Spoiler) To make matters worse, we are apparently supposed to feel like Dick Grayson actually experienced some great personal loss because Raya dies, but you know what? I don’t care because I am way past the point of investing emotional attachment to love interests for heroes when the love interests have no real character development and only show up in a handful of issues before being killed off by a villain of the week while the creative team stares expectantly at me waiting for some sort of emotional response! You know what actually makes a death meaningful? Killing off a character that readers know and like rather than offing some floozy that showed up in a handful of previous issues just to provide a halfhearted emotional betrayal!

Anyway, not the best portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime nor the best use of supporting characters.

Does Joker Know?

I’m not making a bet on whether or not Joker actually knows the identity of the Bat Clan, but I have suspected that he probably does not know because it makes no sense to me for him to have this information and not prove his knowledge. However, these tie ins have become extremely convoluted if Joker does not have knowledge of the Bat Family’s secret identities. Just looking at this issue, Joker specifically targets Haly’s Circus, Dick’s business, and Raya, Dick’s ex-lover. You could say that Haly’s circus was the focus of attacks just because it is the circus, and Joker likes sticking to his theme. Similarly, the Raya decision might seem like it proves Joker’s knowledge, but actually, Joker has encountered Dick many, many times over the years, and it is not unreasonable to think that Joker might have deduced Nightwing's acrobatic roots. Therefore, it is not completely unreasonable to think that Joker might have wanted to put Nightwing up against someone with similar skills. Individually, each one of these occurrences is plausible, but put them together with all the other possible coincidences, and it becomes too much to swallow.

Perhaps Joker does know.

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Bat Droppings

In Batman and Robin #15, Joker spends the entire issue manipulating Damian using the theme of birds to play off the name Robin. I thought it was clever that Joker scheduled his meeting with Nightwing in an airplane hangar with the silhouette of a plane wing arcing over the entire scene. It’s a nice little nod to Dick’s superhero name. Oh, and it was at night too.

I would like to see that Bat Clan get back to doing some real detective work rather than simply having a piece of technology figure out their cases for them.

I still dislike the entire Sonia Zucco plot line  If anything, it seems more out of place now that she has gone from cold to hot in her affections for Dick.

I’m really tired of seeing Nightwing struggle through every fight. He should be able to take out an untrained civilian with no effort. Being trained to tumble is not the same as being trained to fight.

Conclusion 7/10

This is not an awful story, but it is not a good one either. It’s an adequate story that goes through the motions. If you are eager to buy all the Nightwing issues or Death of the Family tie ins, go ahead and purchase this one, but if you only want to shell out money for solid stories, you might want to flip through this one before purchasing. 

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Nightwing #14

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Die for Me

Nightwing has been a solid book all throughout the DCNU. Last month, readers got their first glimpse of the new creative team with the new writer Tom DeFalco. DeFalco’s first story brought mixed responses from fans with many feeling that his story meandered without any solid focus, but I rather enjoyed DeFalco’s pacing as he gave due time to all the different aspects of Nightwing’s life. The focus for this month’s issue should be solidly on Lady Shiva, the assassin known as scourge of the underworld. No doubt, Nightwing and Shiva will come to blows. Do sparks fly at their reunion, or does their battle have no passion?

In this issue, Nightwing looks for leads on Lady Shiva, checks up on Amusement Mile, finds out why Sonia Zucco missed their date, and does battle with Lady Shiva.

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The Lady Is a Tramp

I’m sad to say that Nightwing’s battle with Lady Shiva, which took up more than half the issue, left me a tad disappointed. Previously, Lady Shiva always fought for her own personal honor, but in the past two issues, it appeared that the reboot had changed her into a vengeful slayer of criminals based on her actions and the scuttlebutt among the underworld. This is a much more generic motivation, but I could probably get used to the idea. (Spoiler) This issue changed things once more as it was revealed that Lady Shiva actually fights for the noble cause of money. Freaking money! Oh how original. (Spoiler)

Along with her motivation being unclear, her target was a bit mysterious as well. Nightwing fights her for many pages, yet readers are not even sure what they are fighting over. In fact, Lady Shiva could have completed her contract quite easily without ever having faced Nightwing, but I suppose she probably wanted to toy with him.

As far as the battle itself, it was pretty entertaining. Though I am disappointed in her rebooted motivations, I can make no complaints about Lady Shiva’s rebooted lethality. She is as deadly as ever. In addition to her hands, feet, and hair spikes, Lady Shiva brings two scythes/flails into battle. Her twisting style of fighting makes her a virtual tornado of unrelenting attacks. I do hope that in future appearances, Lady Shiva does not rely exclusively on these weapons for it is much more impressive for her to be a living lethal weapon without the crutch of tools, but for a one time fight scene, it was pretty awesome.

My one complaint about the scythe flails is that Shiva throws one of them scythe first in the battle, and that does not make any sense. The scythe could not possibly have enough mass to send the flail trailing after it. If someone tried that move in real life, it would end very awkwardly.

Detective Dick

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Nightwing’s detective skills could use some work in this issue. He wonders if Joker might be behind Lady Shiva’s assassinations, but then he dismisses the idea because it is completely out of character for Joker and makes no sense as a motivation for him. Despite his initial dismissal, Nightwing questions Lady Shiva about it during their fight. Clearly, the creative team just wanted to remind readers that “Death of a Family” was still going on, but I do not think anybody really needed the reminder.

In the end, the person who was responsible for Lady Shiva’s attack was revealed, and I think that this person’s scheming did make sense and was a strong resolution for the story.

Amusement Mile

Amusement Mile is still the aspect of this current run that holds most of my attention. I think it is an excellent project for Dick, and I am curious to see how it develops. It appears as if DeFalco is adding more supporting characters around Amusement Mile, and I hope there will be a lot more action happening there in the future. I suspect that Haly’s Circus, which was said to be opening soon, will attract the attention of a certain rogue clown next month.

Conclusion 8/10

This story was pretty good, but it felt like it was rushed to make room for Death of a Family, and the physical battle between Lady Shiva and Nightwing did not carry very much weight since we did not understand Lady Shiva’s motivations or target, but still, this is a pretty good issue which delivers a decent plot and a solid action scene. Nightwing fans will not be disappointed.

Review: Nightwing #13

Transient

The Hunter

I seem to be one of the few people on the planet who was actually offended by Nightwing’s zero issue where it was revealed that Dick was no longer raised by Bruce and the role of Robin was always meant as a temporary gig. How this does not cause Nightwing’s fanbase to react with unbridled venom is beyond me, but I am clearly in the minority. Despite my low opinion of this recon, I have generally enjoyed the DCNU Nightwing, and I am hoping that the series will get back on the straight and narrow so that I may enjoy the current story and pretend that last issue's alteration never took place. Does this issue help me reach my dreams, or am I doomed to cringe every time I now think of Nightwing?

In this issue, Nightwing knows that Joker is back in town, but without being able to get in touch with Batman to coordinate on the search, Nightwing scours the underworld for the mysterious assassin known only as Lady Shiva instead. On a more personal note, Dick deals with trouble from the non-assassin ladies in his life.

The Primo Penciler

I greatly enjoyed Eddy Barrows work on pencils last month, but Andres Guinaldo is clearly the better artist on Nightwing. All his images pop, and he does a great job capturing Dick’s grace of movement and expression. I especially enjoyed Grayson’s showy entrance to his penthouse.

The Balancing Act

In my opinion, every issue of a comic should move a character forward both as a hero and simply as a person. Most comic book writers would probably agree, but finding the balance between a hero's personal life and caped life can be difficult. I think Defalco, who has taken the writing reigns over from Higgins, has found a that balance for Grayson shows significant developments both in and out of the suit in this issue.

I do not believe it would be fair to call this issue filler, but it does largely serve simply to set up for the next issue. It does this by giving plenty of consideration to all the different elements of Dick’s life before the crap hits the fan. With that in mind, it seems like a good moment to evaluate the different Nightwing subplots some of which are working much better than others.

Transient

1. Nightwing’s tangle with Lady Shiva seems promising though I am a bit disappointed that she has been made younger presumably to make her a viable sexual candidate for Nightwing.

2. Dick’s funding of Amusement Mile is interesting, heroic, and in character. I only hope that Amusement Mile will not immediately be destroyed for “dramatic” effect by an unimaginative writer.

3. I am still not feeling the Sonia/Dick chemistry. The sooner that subplot is abandoned, the better.

4. Grayson has some romantic tension with Batgirl in this issue too, but she seems uncharacteristically harsh. I assume she is just venting in anger due to the results of Joker's manipulations.

The Cover Is a Lie!

If you bought this issue to see a conflict between Nightwing and Lady Shiva, get ready for a disappointment. Lady Shiva does not even make an appearance until the last page, and when she does, she is nowhere near Nightwing. Also, she has glowing eyes which I am just throwing out there because…really, what the heck? I hope that is the creative team being poetic because there is no need to make Lady Shiva supernatural. Keep your silly reimagiing for your fan fiction, guys.

Conclusion 9/10

Though less than perfect, I found this issue to be a very fun ride and it geared me up for the next issue. All fans of Nightwing should check this issue out.

Review: Nightwing #0

Perpetual Motion

I love all the Robins, and though Tim is my favorite, there is definitely a soft spot in my heart for Dick. I know Nightwing has the potential to be great, but he has struggled from time to time with poor writers. I have found his DCNU series to be fairly good, but I do not think it has yet begun to fire on all cylinders. Kyle Higgins seems to have a good grasp of the way Dick Grayson talks and thinks, but I felt Higgens undersold Nightwing’s fighting abilities in the last issue. More importantly, the revelation of Pargon’s identity in Nightwing #12 was underwhelming, and the story arc kind of ended with a fizzle despite the fact it had many good things going for it. Now, readers get their largest view yet of Dick’s DCNU past, but does this improve the caliber of Grayson’s adventures or undermine his entire existence?

In this issue, we see glimpses of Grayson’s childhood before the death of his parents and we find out how Dick Grayson became involved in Batman’s war on crime.

Old School DC Fans, Get Ready for a Headache

If you are someone who hates unnecessary rewrites of old DC continuity, get ready to grit your teeth for this issue will have you stressed to the max as Grayson’s origin is majorly altered. Of course, his parents still fall to their deaths and Bruce Wayne still takes Grayson in as his supposedly temporary ward, but everything beyond this has changed. No longer does Batman reach out to Dick because he feels so deeply for Grayson’s suffering. Rather, Bruce sends Dick to the ominously named “Wayne Care Center.” Only after Dick Grayson encounters Batman and discovers his secret identity does Bruce take Dick into Wayne Manor, and Bruce’s interest then is simply to keep an eye on Dick and make sure he will not betray the secret of Batman. From then on, Batman keeps an eye on Grayson as Dick repeatedly goes out in attempt to track down his parents’ killer. I will not give away the rest of the issue, but the changes continue like this throughout.

The Problem

In case it is not clear, let me lay out why these are poor decisions. No longer is Bruce reaching out to Dick in a sense of charity and companionship. Instead, Bruce merely takes Dick into his home in order to protect his secret identity. At the same time, Dick discovers Batman’s identity because he is great at reading people which is something I agree is an aspect of his character, but it is a bit of a leap to say Grayson could immediately recognize Bruce in the Bat Suit just because of Bruce’s hand motions and gritted teeth. Furthermore, this was one of the elements which set Tim Drake apart from the other Robins, but now…not so much.

It Gets Worse

I must complain about one more major change. At the end of the issue, Dick finally dons the Robin outfit for the first time and saves Bruce’s life from Lady Shiva. After Grayson saves Bruce by getting beaten up by Lady Shiva (yeah, I don’t know how that helped either), Batman and Robin make their way back to the Batmobile, but in Dick’s inner monologue, he makes it clear that both he and Batman realized that the role of Robin would just be a temporary gig.

Why would this be on either Bruce or Dick’s minds just a few seconds after a near death experience? Furthermore, why would Higgins make this change in the first place? One of the most important and emotionally gripping stories in the history of Dick Grayson is his transition to Nightwing. Dick was stripped of the mantle of Robin and yet became his own hero, but now, Grayson has never had that formative experience. Instead, it was always the plan for Batman and Robin to go their separate ways? I call bulls***. This is yet another attempt to make the four Robins in five years timetables work, but it still does not compute, and every writers and editors make to try and improve things better only seems to water down the quality of current and preexisting stories.

Ect.

As for the story itself, it is okay. I imagine I would enjoy it if I did not already know the much better history that this issue undermines. Even so, there are quite a few questionable calls. Just for fun, Dick Grayson runs on top and in front of trains at the beginning of the issue before he became Robin. I can see Grayson being reckless with his own life, but I find it difficult to believe he would endanger the lives of others as he does in that scene. He is also a bit of a straight arrow, so why would he go against his parents’ wishes and run away from the police? Commissioner Gordon gives Bruce Wayne the inside scoop on an investigation which makes no real sense…especially when you consider that he was grilling Bruce about being Batman only a day earlier. Finally, I have some serious reservations about Robin and Lady Shiva’s costumes in this issue. I’m not saying they were bad, but I am saying they are questionable.

Conclusion    6/10

As a fan of the old DC continuity, this is an abomination. As a standalone issue, it is okay, but it has some problems. It should be a fairly good ride for newcomers, but longtime fans should take a Tylenol before reading.

Nightwing #11

The Republic of Tomorrow, Today

By mistake, DC sent me the first issue of the DCNU's Nightwing, and I enjoyed it, but I've stayed away since then to focus on other things. However, I picked up Nightwing 11 yesterday to see how things were going with Grayson only to find that he was having a very bad day.

The Villains

Nightwing has been framed for murder and is battling some sort of rogue vigilante group called the Republic of Tomorrow which operates under the leadership of Paragon. The Republic of Tomorrow is an interesting team wherein regular citizens who have been hurt by the inadvertent actions of heroes take vengeance upon them. Unfortunately, Paragon kills off the Republic of Tomorrow halfway through the issue. I'm sure this arc has been going for a while, but I think the Republic of Tomorrow is a good enough concept to warrant a much longer stay. They could easily make problems for the larger DC Universe, but I guess they will not do that...because they are dead. Thanks Higgins.

Thankfully, Paragon is an intriguing enough fellow to make up for this. He seems like an at least somewhat skilled fighter, and his energy whip is a very nice weapon with a distinct visual flair. His look and skills are made even better by the mystery that shrouds him. At the end of the issue, we still do not know much about him though it appears all will be revealed soon.

The Dialogue

Though the overall plot seemed solid, I found the dialogue to be a bit off. I groaned inwardly when Paragon knocked of a piece of the clock tower, and Nightwing dove after it saying, "That clock is heading for the street!" You don't say! You mean gravity is still working? Shocking! Comic characters do not need to narrate their every thought and emotion, and they especially do not need to voice them aloud just so the slow readers can keep up. This is a holdover from the older days of comic story telling, and sorely wish writers would let it go.

Conclusion 7/10

Nightwing is well represented here. Though a few aspects of the story bothered me, Higgens at least seems to understand who Grayson is as a character, and it was especially nice to see him interacting with Damian again. I do find it strange that Nightwing is sticking in Gotham, a city littered with almost as many heroes as criminals it often seems. I think it would be good for Grayson as a character and Nightwing as a book to move to a different city, but even with Dick sticking in Gotham, Higgens has still managed a pretty good Nightwing yarn.

Nightwing #12

Inside Out

This is only my third issue of the new run of Nightwing. I thought the last issue had a lot of good things going for it, but some of the dialogue felt off, and I was dissapointed that the majority of the Republic of Tomorrow died. Still, Nightwing #11 was very good, and I looked forward to seeing the story continue.

In this issue, Nightwing finally throws down with the villain Paragon. When Nightwing follows the police to the pile of bodies which is all that remains of the Republic of Tomorrow, Nightwing discovers that Paragon has been waiting in the shadows for Nightwing to appear at the scene so he can finally kill him.

Final Round, Fight!

The fight scene was pretty well choreographed, but I did feel that Nightwing should have made a stronger showing. By placing the fight in a sewer, Higgins took away much of Grayson's maneuverability which is one of his most powerful skills in combat. Coupled with Paragon's electric whips, it makes sense that Nightwing would have some difficulty subduing Paragon, a relative amateur. However,

Paragon frequently manages to get close to Nightwing throughout the fight, and without the advantage of reach that the whips provide, I do not think the fight should have taken more than a few seconds, yet in the comic, Paragon consistently gets the upper hand in combat.The Positives

There was a lot that was good about this issue. The dialogue problems of last issue are not present here. Nightwing's inner monologue is actually one of the best elements of the writing because Higgins seems to have a good grasp of how Nightwing thinks. The art, especially the rich colors, is very good, and I especially love the way Guinaldo demonstrates Nightwing's movement. In many cases, showing multiple images of a character in the same panel to demonstrate their movement becomes tired and kitschy, but since Grayson's acrobatics are such an important aspect of his skill set, I enjoy every chance I have of seeing his parkour abilities at work.

The Not So Positives

Grayson's relationship with Sonia Zucco holds absolutely no interest for me. If Higgins cannot muster up some chemistry between the two, then I hope he drops the forced romantic tension. I found the revelation of Paragon's identity to carry no emotional weight, but perhaps it would carried more weight if I had seen the entire arc, so I do not fault the comic much for that. Finally, as I already mentioned, I think Nightwing could have made a better stand against Paragon.

Guess Who Is Coming to Town?

At the end, it is revealed that Lady Shiva is coming to Gotham, and in the last town she visited, she killed off much of the city’s largest crime syndicate. Obviously, Lady Shiva and Nightwing are going to have a meeting in the not too distant future. I do find it odd that Lady Shiva would target organized crime since in her pre-Flashpoint appearances, she either killed to prove herself the best fighter, to get an adrenaline rush from completing an assassin contract, or occasionally to prevent a villain from killing in what she considered an dishonorable way. Is this a whole new take on the character or has Lady Shiva decided that all organized crime is dishonorable? Time will tell.

Conclusion 8/10

I found this issue to be okay, but it did not end with the emotional resolution that I expected. I'm giving it a benefit of a doubt that this is due to me missing the beginning of the arc. Regardless, it is not a bad issue, but it is not great either. Giving some slack since I think I missed some relevant information at the beginning of the story, I'm going to say this was a pretty good issue.