Today, Peter and Patrick are discussing Nightwing 11, originally released July 18th, 2012.
Peter: Sometimes all the right pieces just fall into place, just as they have here, weaving an incredibly compelling story. In Nightwing, Kyle Higgins treats us to not only a standard superhero book, but a carefully crafted mystery/thriller story. It almost reads like a police procedural. Dick continues to try to clear his name, and reasserts his place as one of Gotham’s premiere crime fighters in the process.
As issue 11 begins, Dick is already locked in a heated battle with Paragon and his organization – the Republic of Tomorrow. After some explosions, gunfire, electrified escrima sticks, and an exploding clock, the fight is over. The Republic of Tomorrow still thinks that Dick killed the Strayhorn Brothers, two of their members, and are out to take on the costume heroes of Gotham.
Dick goes after Detective Nie, who he believes is trying to frame Nightwing for the murders. Dick stalls long enough during their conversation to get a scan of his cell phone signal to track him. Then, it’s off to bed for the Birdboy. The next morning, Sonia Zucco stops by Dick’s apartment to deliver some bad news about a bank loan for his Amusement Mile project. Turns out the bank voted him down: he’s a liability. Cranky, Dick heads to the Batcave, since their computer is faster. After a talk with Damian, Dick has a ‘eureka’ moment about the frame-up.
Back that the station, Detective Nie and Commissioner Gordon and one of the mayor’s lackeys discuss the case. Turns out Gordon wants Nie off the case. But Nie objects, and sobbingly confesses that he was in love with one of the cops that Saiko killed way back in issue 1. While being emo back at his place, Nie is confronted by Paragon, with weapons drawn!
There’s a lot to like here. Higgins has again crafted some fantastic scene of dialogue, and Andres Guinaldo’s pencils match the tone and depth of the story. However, there are bunch of different on-going story elements, as well as fresh to this issue, so the whole thing a little cluttered. Just look at the HUGE number of editor’s notes spread throughout the issue. They are all fairly relevant, especially since Higgins refers back to issue 1, as well as to Batman and Robin, but I always feel like a note referring to previous issue is a little bit of a waste. This is obviously not a good “jumping in” issue, since there is very little explained about the overarching story.
Higgins continues to develop Dick’s character a bit here, especially with the Sonia Zucco conversation.
Dick is willing to jump straight to conclusions, about the bank’s decision. Since he has a history with the Zucco family, I understand his resentment. However, it does seem a little out of place, like his opinion of Sonia has taken a severe back-slide since last issue. Also, what is going on with Dick’s eyes in that last panel? It’s like he’s all of a sudden had a stroke.
And hey – what’s going on with the Republic of Tomorrow? Clearly, Paragon hasn’t been completely honest with the people he has recruited, and there is some obvious unrest within the organization.
This provides an interesting dynamic to the Republic’s character, and Paragon’s as well. He is clearly not as powerful as he has made himself out to be. Perhaps this will lead to either self doubting or over compensation later?
Nie’s sudden homosexuality makes me sympathize with him more, and think of him less as a complete dick. It doesn’t matter that he is gay, but that he isn’t just out to get Nightwing, but to avenge his lover. His story could easily turn into something that deals with the trouble that superheroes indirectly cause. How Nie’s potential involvement with Paragon is still a mystery but I predict that Nightwing will eventually end up rescuing Nie from Paragon and the Republic. Nie will end up sympathetic to Dick, and eventually forgive him for Chris’ death at Saiko’s hands.
The layouts here are nothing very fancy for the most part, but there are pages that stick out. While he is talking with Damian and has his startling realization is absolutely gorgeous.
I also really like the intertwining of his conversation with Damian and Gordon and Nie’s conversation. With the change in the color pallets, and slightly overlapping panels gives a great flow this part of the book. It builds momentum to right up to Paragon’s appearance at Nie’s apartment, leaving us all on a cliffhanger for next issue.
I can’t say enough good things about this book and Higgins’ reinvention of the Nightwing character. The story is definitely moving along, albeit at a slow pace. Higgins is taking care with each of his characters, devoting several pages to each. I also really like his use of the Batman and Robin storyline, and the dynamic between Dick and Damian that creates. There is clearly still a powerful relationship between them from their days as the dynamic duo, and I hope that the Batman writing team continues to use it. If you aren’t reading this book right now, you are stupid. Did you have the same reaction Patrick? Or am I overreaching?
Patrick: Oh, I think the “stupid” comment is overreaching. Nightwing is a strange title in that it’s perfectly capable of delivering action and pathos on its own, but it truly shines when it’s tagging along with better books. There were some really weird stumbling point between issues 4 and 6, and it wasn’t really until Higgins zeroed back in on Scott Snyder’s plans with Night of the Owls cross-over that this series found solid legs to stand on. I feel much the same about the end of this “Who’s framing Nightwing?” storyline: it’s working because it shares so much with Batman and Robin.
Not only is there a hint of this War of the Robins business, the villains are motivated by the collateral damaged caused by Gotham’s costumed heroes. It’s actually sort of unfortunate how similar these groups are, but aren’t actually the same. Just collapse the groups trying to make the city fear the Bat-family into one group, that’s all I’m suggesting. Especially as I’m not getting the strongest sense of identity or purpose behind this “Republic of Tomorrow.” Yeah, Paragon definitely has a beef with Batman (and, by extension, Nightwing), but the rest of those dudes weren’t even drinking their own cool-aide. I guess it’s kinda neat that Paragon is willing to slaughter his whole team before letting them walk away, but it does kind just reduce the guy to “crazy.”
I miss Eddy Barrows’ cold, calculating pencils. Guinaldo certainly has a cinematic eye and selects clever camera angles that effectively echo the emotion in a scene. But christ-on-bike, his faces (particularly his eyes) are distractingly bad. You point out that in that last panel of his conversation with Sonia, it looks like Dick’s had a stroke – look at the first panel: where the hell is he looking? Or, again from a picture you posted above, look how bugged-out Dick’s eyes are during his “ah-ha” moment. I think Guinaldo’s got great visual ideas, but doesn’t have the tool set to pull them off. I hate to fault ambition, but a drawing like this just plain doesn’t work:
Ultimately, I think the best criticism you leveled against this issue – that it’s too cluttered – is one of the primary things keeping me from enjoying it. There’s a time and a place to work on Dick’s reason for staying in Gotham City and rebuilding the Amusement Mile, but when the boy has multiple murders (and a possibly crooked cop) to investigate, it seems like we shouldn’t focus on that other stuff right now. Think about how Bruce’s revitalization project slid into the background of the Owl’s story, only to surface when it was thematically or dramatically relevant. As it stands, the Sonia/Dick interaction seems like a two-page non sequitur.
Also, note to gay couples in the DC Universe: your boyfriend will be killed to motivate you to some extreme action. SORRY FELLAS. I guess it’s interesting that the cops were lovers, but the reveal comes about in a really strange way. I mean, if their relationship was a secret (which it must have been or Gordon would have known about it already), why would be bust out with the full confessional “WE WERE IN LOVE?” It just rings hallow, and I can’t help but feel that it’s meant to hit harder than it actually does.
This is a petty thing to complain about, but I hate it when a character experiences a revelation, but the audience isn’t privy to the substance of the revelation. It’s usually fine when it’s a “I’ll explain on the way” kind of situation, but we’ve got to wait another month to learn what Dick already did. Like it’s hard to get excited about the detective solving the crime when I’m not empirically sure that he did.
But there’s also this very primal level on which I respond to this story. Pieces, as you say, are coming together and that’s pleasing to watch – despite my specific reservations about how they’re playing out.
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