Nightwing 13

Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing Nightwing 13, originally released October 17th 2012.

Scott: The other night I just could not get to sleep. I was lying awake restlessly, my mind racing through any number of thoughts until the desire to know what year a certain Guided By Voices album came out was nagging at me so much that I convinced myself to open my computer and look it up. 40 minutes later I found myself on John Woo’s Wikipedia page and decided it was time to call it a night once and for all. Dick Grayson is having one of those restless nights, but instead of GBV’s chronology, what’s nagging at him is Gotham’s lack of gang activity — the city is too quiet for him to sleep easy. The sequence of events that follows is something like a night spent with Google and Wikipedia: a bunch of tangentially related bits and pieces — some very intriguing, others merely dead ends — that by the end has you wondering what you’ve really learned.

The issue begins with Dick telling us that the Joker is back in Gotham, which usually means an increase in crime around the city, but tonight the streets are quiet. Dick knows this can’t actually be a good thing. Unable to find any leads or reach Batman or Alfred, Dick puts the Nightwing costume on and goes to get some answers from the Penguin at the Iceberg Casino. Penguin gives Dick the alarming news that Lady Shiva is heading back to Gotham, and Dick knows it is up to him to deal with this threat while Batman and the police are occupied with the Joker. In the morning, Dick goes to check on the progress of his circus and is interrupted by Sonia Branch, who has some papers for him to sign and asks him to meet her later for what may or may not be a date, although she has to cancel in favor of more pressing business with a sniffling bank auditor.

Dick heads out for the night and runs into Batgirl, who’s solely focused on making the Joker pay and can’t understand why Dick’s priorities are any different. Dick goes undercover to get a tip from thug Handsome Johnny; smalltime mobster Chipper Panoicia is planning to take out Lady Shiva when she arrives in Gotham that night. Of course, Dick can’t let this happen, so he’s left with the dangerous task of stopping a bunch of hitmen from shooting the assassin that he’s trying to catch. But Lady Shiva is way ahead of them, she’s not even on the boat, she’s off intercepting the briefcase of that sniffling bank auditor.

My immediate response to this issue was that just feels busy. I was interested in Dick’s pursuit of Lady Shiva, but after stops with the Penguin, the Circus, Sonia Branch, Batgirl, and Handsome Johnny, I started to wonder if we ever going to get to Lady Shiva. I realize now, or at least I hope, that the little bit of progress that guest writer Tom DeFalco gives us in each of these scenes is laying the groundwork for a big payoff down the road. I expect whatever’s happening with Sonia to have major consequences in upcoming issues, and I can see Dick’s conflict with Batgirl coming back into play as well.

The issue started to pick up steam once it became more focused on Lady Shiva. I really liked the concept of Dick risking his life to save Lady Shiva from Chipper’s gunmen. Even Dick saw the humor in that.

To be honest, I expected a little more from guest penciller Andres Guinaldo. Nightwing is known for featuring some rather creative layouts, but the design in this issue was very straightforward. Maybe that’s just Guinaldo’s style, but it would have been nice to see him use this opportunity to take some risks and have a little fun putting panels together. The panel showing Dick turning off the E.M.P. mask was a great idea and well-composed, but it felt like a missed opportunity. The face-morphing happens so quickly and with so little detail that instead of seeming like a high-tech gadget it just feels too-convenient, like magic.

The most effective work came on the last page, as Dick’s inner-monologue wondering about the whereabouts and motives of Lady Shiva are accompanied by images of Lady Shiva cutting the throat of the bank auditor in a dark alley and making off with his briefcase.

Ultimately, I don’t think we can fairly judge this issue until we see how all of the pieces come together in the coming months. I have a few predictions: Dick seemed to see something of himself in little Christina, which can’t bode well for her circus-performer parents, and there was something fishy about Sonia’s assistant, Melody Martin, and her eagerness to “drop by” Dick’s place. She really sent a Shiva down my spine, if you know what I mean. But I’m interested to see how it all plays out. What do you think, Shelby, is this issue setting the table for something spectacular, or is it a whole lot of nothing?

Shelby: This issue may be setting up something big, but I don’t know if I’m interested in waiting around for it. You are 100% correct about the frenetic pace of this story. Adding to the busyness of the plot is the busyness of the pages themselves. DeFalco commits the cardinal sin of too much exposition. I don’t need a dozen boxes on each page outlining Dick’s every thought. I don’t know how many times I need to say show, not tell makes for more interesting and nuanced storytelling; I guess as long as writers insist on burying the story in exposition.

I also do not care for DeFalco’s take on Dick and Babs. Maybe it’s the excessive inner monologue, but Dick just strikes me as an idiot. The worst is when Sonia tells him she’ll stop by later to pickup the paperwork. His (inner) response is, “Is this just a business dinner or…? Talk about confusing!” Last I checked, Dick was a grown-ass man, not some ‘tween with a crush. Plus, at this point, he’s got the Joker AND Lady Shiva in town, plus troubles with this massive business he’s constructing; I don’t believe that his primary concern at the moment is “does she like me, or LIKE like me?”

As far as Barbara goes, it’s true, she is direct, single-minded, and driven. In DeFalco’s hands, though, she just seems cold and kind of bitchy. Maybe it’s because of some event I don’t know about, as this issue inexplicably takes place after next month’s issue of Batgirl.

I have a hard time wrapping my head around this one. Batgirl 13 was last week, so there are two issues of Batgirl (14 and the annual) that have to occur before this issue of Nightwing. Assuming the rest of the Batman timeline is happening in approximately release order, we also have a Batman Inc, a Batman, and a Batman and Robin, all which happen before this one. That’s confusing, right? Also, why would you write it like that? Generally, editor’s notes like this one reference something from a previous issue, so potential new readers can go back and find what they’re missing. I can’t “go back” to read Batgirl 14, so what’s the point? If I’m missing something blatantly obvious about the way time is progressing in this story, please someone let me know in the comments.

This issue was a big miss for me. Between angry Babs and Dick’s excessive exposition, I was kind of bored and frustrated with it. I’m obviously going to keep reading, because of Death of the Family and because Kyle Higgins will be back on it sometime. Unless DeFalco proves to be setting up something awesome as Scott thought, it’s going to be a rough couple of months on this one. 

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

12 comments on “Nightwing 13

  1. Hahaha. Shelby new we were going to disagree on this one — she told me we were going to have a fun time discussing this one. I actually thought DeFalco did a great job capturing the voice Higgins had established for Dick. He also picked up on a number of the thematic threads that have made me like this title so much in the first place.

    I can agree that Babs comes off as a total bitch here, but I’m way less bothered by the editors note. It strikes me as an unrealistic expectation that publication order should have anything less than a very loose correlation to chronology. The fact that they fit together at all is more than Justice League can manage with pretty much any of its character’s solo titles, so I’m totally willing to accept that this issue 13 happens after that issue 14. To me, the only weird thing is that the editor’s note is in this issue instead of Batgirl 14. Obviously, we can’t do anything with this information until Batgirl 14 comes out, so I’m not really sure why we’re getting it here, other than to suggest that there’s an explanation for why Babs is so curt.

    Otherwise, I thought this issue was actually better than the previous arc, which left me pretty cold. It may not be a full return to form, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

    • I guess I just have a hard time getting around how a story can’t approximately follow publication order because publication order is the only way I can read it.

      I think it probably comes back to Drew’s point of including the editor’s note in this issue. I don’t have a problem when stories reference issues that already happened, but to reference events that, for me as the reader, haven’t happened yet and can’t be accessed is confusing and frustrating.

      I haven’t read a lot of Nightwing. I’m not going to lie to you Drew, if this issue is a step in the right direction, I don’t know that I care to read much more. Is Higgins work on this usually so heavy on the inner monologue?

      • The editor’s note to Batgirl 14 actually got me excited. I also felt that Babs’ voice was way off – it normally doesn’t matter how dire a situation is, Batgirl’s got some kind of hilarious, self-deprecating quip to make. But the events of Batgirl 14 have rattled her so much, that she can’t even muster that.

        And also, it’s just helpful. Without that note we’d be all like: “isn’t she supposed to be blah blah blah.”

      • Dick’s voice is definitely central to the tone of this title, but I would say the same of Batgirl. Both titles can overuse the voice-over from time to time, but it’s never bothered me too much (but be warned: this issue didn’t really bother me with that, either). I suppose I’d prefer an older, more mature Nightwing, but I think Higgins is making him work as an early twenty-something. I think it’s totally acceptable to have limited patience for a post-adolescent male character, but its a type that still interests me.

        • I feel like the voice-overs in Batgirl are tempered by more dialogue than seen here, which makes me more tolerant of if.

          It could be, too, that I can just relate more easily to Batgirl’s inner dialogue because of the obvious female voice, and so am more tolerant of it.

        • DeFalco may be writing Dick a little less mature than Higgins has been. I used to think of Dick as my peer, but this one has me thinking of him as a naive kid. Could also be that I’m getting old.

  2. The only issues of Nightwing I picked up were 7, 8, and 9 and found it to be a pretty good read, I just never picked it up. I like Eddy Barrows’ art though, and at my LCS they brought back a page of his Nightwing original art to sell; I don’t know if this is the inkers’ prerogative or the artist’s, but the page is still just the pencils. The inker must have worked over a reproduction or something. Are there digital inkers? Anyway, at least *some* of Barrows’ original art is preserved in pencil form and it looks just stunning. I saw a page of Aquaman 12 by Reis uninked, too

  3. I was thinking about picking up the first Nightwing trade but now I’m having second thoughts. Do you guys think it’s worth reading or no?

    • That’s a tough call. Patrick and I really enjoyed the issues that are collected in that trade — it deals a lot with Dick discovering his identity, which plays both to his age and his having recently stopped being Batman. Mileage is going to vary mostly by how much you identify with Dick. I think this title is largely underrated, but it hasn’t ever cracked my top-five list (maybe top-ten). We’ve often compared it to Batgirl, which is probably more fun, but the two are of similar quality. I hesitate to make a purchasing recommendation, but I will say that there are a lot of titles I would get the trade for before Nightwing, if that helps.

      • Thanks. I just wanted to know the quality level of the first arc or so. Dick Grayson is not my favorite character so I was a bit on the fence.

    • I liked the early Nightwing issues (that are collected in the trade you’re talking about) better than the current issues. The early issues dealt with Haly’s Circus, Dick “coming home” to the circus, and issues that some of the circus characters had with Dick. I found this interesting, mostly because it’s never been dealt with in previous continuity. It gave the new Nightwing more background. Especially since in the current continuity, Dick wasn’t Robin that long, before he became Nightwing. So going back to his roots made sense.

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