Nightwing 16

nightwing 16 DoF

Today, Mikyzptlk and Scott are discussing Nightwing 16 originally released January 23rd, 2013. This issue is part of the Death of the Family crossover event. Click here for complete DotF coverage.

Mikyzptlk: “BOOOM” “KAKOOOM” “BOOOOOM” That is the “sound” of the Joker blowing up this series to smithereens. I’m sorry, have I gotten ahead of myself? Let me explain. A good fictional narrative will take one or more characters from point A, to B, and eventually to, you guessed it, point C. If we, the audience, are lucky, we’ll get a few good themes tossed in along the way as we watch our characters grow and progress throughout the story. A big theme behind Nightwing of late, has been “you can never go home again.” In Dick Grayson’s case, “home” was Haly’s Circus, and his recent life has been consumed with rebuilding it. It’s too bad then, that in the course of two issues, The Joker has not only destroyed Haly’s Circus, but made the series practically pointless and completely lacking of any payoff.

Nightwing rushes back to Haly’s Circus as he’s received a rather gruesome invitation from the Joker. He arrives to see Haly’s decked out Joker style. He heads in to find, well, something completely impractical. The Joker has somehow managed to dig up the bodies of the former members of Haly’s Circus.

"Mommy? Can we go home now?"

Nightwing attempts to stop the Joker but is quickly gassed and as such, begins tripping some serious balls. Then, Joker BLOWS UP THE ENTIRE CIRCUS. Fortunately for our hero, he makes it out relatively okay, but is quickly confronted by some folks who should be dead. Jimmy and Raya, who were both super killed off in the last issue, have somehow managed to come back to torment Nightwing. Or…it’s a hallucination. I’m not quite sure. Anyway, as if THAT wasn’t enough, Joker has also managed to track down every active member of Haly’s that supposedly left town. Mind controlled by the Joker, they knock Nightwing out and he awakens with the scene we are all familiar with at this point: Joker standing with the Platter O’ Mystery.

Let me start with the minor complaints before I move on to the major one. First of all, something that has really stretched my suspension of disbelief has been the many, many, MANY things that Joker has been able to pull off not only with Batman, but with all the other members of his family. I know I’m not alone in this feeling and, for the most part, I’ve been able to explain it away. The Joker has been planning this assault for a year now after all, so I could see him being able to pull off some of things he’s been doing. However, what he does in this issue just seems completely impractical to me – simply on the basis of time management. Not only was Joker able to dig up a butt-load of bodies and then meticulously place them inside the circus, but he was also able to track down a butt-load of people who had already left town! I’m sure one could find a way to explain the logistics of this to me, but you’d have to be one hell of a logistician (And yes, that is a word. I Googled it).

The bigger problem I had with this issue though, was how it has completely derailed the narrative that Kyle Higgins has been building since issue one. I’ve been incredibly interested in the story of Dick Grayon rebuilding Haly’s Circus in Gotham City. It’s been great seeing him try to find his own identity again after taking on the mantle of Batman. I’ve loved seeing the struggles of him being a superhero and attempting to run a business with people who are slowly learning to trust the man that essentially abandoned them and the lifestyle when he was a child. I was extremely interested to see Haly’s up and running and was curious to see how something so bright and cheery as a circus would work against the dark and dreary Gotham City. I wasn’t quite sure what the payoff would be for all of this but I never would have thought the narrative would have been cut off at the knees like it was in this issue. We’ve been introduced to some interesting and promising characters throughout the series, but Joker has seemingly killed them all off. Sure, most of the circus folk could probably make it, but the circus is completely toast. It’s also possible that Higgins intends on having Dick try to rebuild the circus or make the circus a traveling one again, but that seems unlikely to me when you have something as definitive as blowing the thing up.

I feel ya Dicky.  That doesn't sound right.

Sorry Dick, but your Big Top dreams are dead. Maybe you could move to New York in the next story arc. Oh, you’ve already done that? No worries, this is the New 52! Have you checked in on Bludhaven recently? It probably hasn’t even been nuked in this continuity! Oh well, good luck Grayson, love ya bud.

Well Scott, how about you? Did you find this issue as irksome as I did? An argument could be made that the Joker is chaos incarnate and that his mere presence should be the cause of all sorts of disruption. I know Scott Lobdell is planning on playing it that way in Red Hood, but does that idea work here for you? Also, I didn’t mention Eddy Barrows artwork in the issue. I’ve been a fan of his since the start, how about you? Or, feel free to ignore any or all of these prompts. The keyboard is all yours!

Scott: Ignore prompts like these? I would never! But I’ll start by addressing your complaints with the issue. I had the exact same feelings about The Joker’s time management. How many places can this guy be at once? With all of the schemes he’s currently juggling, there’s no way he’s able to devote an entire day to Nightwing, let alone enough time to dig up the bodies of every former Haly’s Circus performer (including the lion!) It’s not like they were all buried in the same plot at some Gotham cemetery, he would have had to travel around the world to find all those bodies. We’re talking about months worth of work here. Not to mention how long it would take to stage them all the way he did. Sheesh. Then he just blows them all up? What a waste of time. Joke’s on you here, Joker.

As for your other, bigger complaint, I’m not as convinced that this issue spells the end for Haly’s Circus in Gotham. First off, I’m hesitant to trust anything we see after Dick gets gassed. Like you said, he was clearly tripping balls something fierce.

Whoa, that's a good squishy

Maybe it’s a stretch to think Dick could have imagined the Circus being blown up, but he does seem to think he’s being attacked by a people who he either A.) visited in the morgue earlier that day or B.) held in his arms as she died just moments ago. So I’m not sure what’s real. But even if the circus is destroyed, I wouldn’t say it’s a lost cause. The Death of the Family event is going to be concluded in Batman 17, which means the next issue of Nightwing is going to pick up, well, somewhere else. I wrote last month that Haly’s Circus had come to define Nightwing as a hero, and I have to think that whatever sort of normalcy this title returns to will involve Haly’s. So long as the performers make it out of this thing alive, I think the circus can be put back together.

Mik, I’m really glad you brought up Eddy Barrows’ artwork because he really killed it in this issue. Some of his page layouts seem like they’re all style, but there’s some real thought going into them as well. He arranges panels to emphasize  how a character is feeling or even to suggest a change in tone. He tilts the panels when the balance of power shifts towards the Joker, warps them when Dick is hallucinating, and distorts their boundaries when Dick can no longer determine what’s real. And when he tosses in a panel that is all about style, well that’s pretty cool too.

More ellipses than words...

A lot of space in this issue was taken up by the word “Boom”. In other words, this issue was kind of light on ideas, and even lighter on interesting ones. Having The Joker come in and destroy everything Dick cares about doesn’t make the story compelling, it makes it directionless. But there’s too much to like about Nightwing for the series to be completely derailed by The Joker’s brief appearance. With DotF coming to a close, Kyle Higgins will have to pick up the pieces and decide how this title’s past will play into its future. The next issue will be an important one for determining what’s important to this series.

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?

13 comments on “Nightwing 16

  1. I appreciate your optimism Scott! There really is a lot to like about Higgins’ Nightwing and I’m confident that he’ll be able to get the book back on some kind of track. I hope that the story goes in the direction you mentioned because I feel that Higgins intent was to continue with the Haly stuff in a less…explosive way.

    • This is really interesting. One of the things we’ve liked so much about this series is watching Dick forge an identity for himself, but allowing actual progress puts a timeline on the series, and risks becoming something fans don’t like. The other option is to insure Dick is always in flux, that kind of illusion-of-progress-by-changing-the-world-around-the-character that we see so much in comics. It kind of voids our investment in the progress he makes, but it also insures that he will always be telling the kind of “becoming his own man” stories we liked so much. I’m inclined to agree with Mik that I would prefer actual progress, but I can also absolutely understand why Higgins (or his editors) might prefer it this way.

      If I’m not mistaken, future issues have Dick moving out of Gotham (maybe Bludhaven, but who knows?), which suggests that he’ll be starting from scratch. I really hope he had Amusement Mile insured, or he’s going to have a new social status to go with his new address.

      • I always liked him in Bludhaven. It always felt like his Gotham City. It’d be great to see it un-nuked in the New 52. You know what could be fun too? If Nightwing got his own sidekick. He worked great with Damian, so I wonder if that kind of thing would work with him as NW.

  2. Ok, the Joker HAS GOT to know the identities of the Bat-family. He mentioned hanging corpses from the trapeze, he’s got to be aware of the Flying Graysons and their only son.

    • I was going to mention that in my right up but then I got to thinking about it and realized that if I included it, it would end up taking over the whole thing. SO, Joker does mention the trapeze, but he didn’t dig up the bodies? Why wouldn’t he dig up the bodies? If he’s trying to shove the death of his loved one in his face, why not go for the big two? It could definitely be read as Joker implying the Flying Grayson’s, BUT he could just be mentioning the trapeze for the hell of it. I mean, Joker just says stuff all the time right?

      Idk, I find it hard to believe that he would just randomly mention the trapeze to Dick, but I also find it hard to believe that he wouldn’t have dug up his parents bodies too. That would have been the most horrible thing to do in that situation. There’s NO WAY he could resist that!

      • FIRST OF ALL, totally called the digging up corpses in our NewComicDayWishList jokes on twitter. But second – Joker’s still talking out his ass about knowing their identities. He doesn’t know that Dick Grayson is Nightwing, he knows that the Circus is important to Nightwing. He even makes a point of explaining how he came to this conclusion (i.e., Nightwing appeared in every town the Circus did for the last year or so).

        • Come on, he went out of his way to reference corpses hanging from the trapeze to Dick Grayson! He’s GOT to know!

        • If Joker really knew then the scene would have gone like this:

          Joker: “But it’s not like I hung bones from the trapeze. That’d be crazy…which I am! Soooooo here are your dead parents hanging from the trapeze!”

          Nightwing: MURDERS THE JOKER.

          The End.

  3. A+ for using “tripping balls” in a comic review! I haven’t been following this series and have only read the Nighte Of The Owls tie-ins before this; I can’t disagree with anything you’ve said here. I will say, though, with having no investment in the series at the moment I found this issue to be pretty entertaining and also assumed that hallucination might be responsible for some of the more improbably elements during Dick’s breakdown

    • Thank you sir, I do enjoy adding in a good drug reference from time to time!

      And yeah, I could see how this could be entertaining. It was extremely fast paced and at least it put the focus back on the Circus, which is what we wanted from the last issue. But it was hard to be entertained by that because of all of the complaints I mentioned.

  4. While I don’t read Nightwing and have had enough crossover magic so I didn’t read this issue, I’m glad you brought up the biggest problem I have with this entire Joker event.

    I don’t believe he is doing all these things. I just can’t get past him being everywhere at once, organizing all this chaos (haha, organizing chaos), getting married, killing civilians at the dam, whatever the hell he did in Catwoman, etc. Eating bugs with Robin. Oh, and organizing all the criminals and flaming horses in Arkham. . .

    I just can’t get past it. I don’t buy it. It’s too much. I know comic believability is inherently a bit silly, but I just don’t believe the story enough to be super invested. The most effective scene for me was early on when he convinced Harley to strip down and let him cut off her face. But with him being everywhere and doing everything. . . I guess I’m ready for Batman 17 and to be over it.

    Anyway, back to Nightwing. This just seemed like the place to state what I thought the overlying problem with this whole event was. In a comic I didn’t read.

    • I know how you feel. If this was simply a story of Joker messing with Batman, then I’d totally believe all the shit he’s pulling. The cracks start showing with all of the other books. Honestly tho, when the Joker stuff works (like in Batgirl), I couldn’t care less how he got from wherever he was in Batman to whatever he’s doing in Batgirl. When the story is good, I can suspend my disbelief extremely far. It’s the other books like Catwoman and Suicide Squad that would make me lose credibility with the story.

      The thing is, when it comes to huge crossovers like this, I know that the main writer (in this case Snyder) probably has very little to do with many of the tie-ins as that is probably more dictated by the editors wanting to squeeze as much cash as they can out of it. Basically, I just ignore the bad tie-ins completely and pretend like they were never there. If one bad apple can ruin the whole bunch, then I just throw it away and chow down on the rest.

  5. You know what’s shocking? How quickly the Batfamily dispels Bruce’s tutelage of “no killing” one a line close to home is rubbed. Dick aimed for a death blow with his kunai-ish weapons almost immediately, but then I thought to myself…what was the last story where Dick Grayson himself has fought the Joker? When has Joker EVER cared about Robin, let alone Nightwing? Almost never, surveys would say.

    Now, I realize the rub with Higgins tearing down all of the relationships he’s built up with the Circus, but in a event blazoned as “Death of the Family” why shouldn’t this have happened? I was shocked to see everyone dead as the next guy, but the word Blüdhaven crept up into my head almost immediately afterwards. Dick’s gotta leave Gotham, and when he does he proves that Joker’s argument was right. No matter how unfortunate that may seem.

    I’m willing to let the bad guy win here, especially if internally poisoning Grayson’s soul. It’ll push him to become something else, and propels the book in an entirely new direction once we spin out of this event. That makes these deaths matter, that makes this crossover matter, and it will most likely change Dick in the foreseeable future. I like that.

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