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.
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.
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.
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.
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?