Today, Mark and Patrick are discussing Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle 1, originally released April 8th, 2015. This issue is part of Convergence. For our conversations about the rest of Convergence last week, click here.
Mark: It’s been about four years since DC’s controversial reboot into the New 52, and now that it’s come to a nominal end, I think it’s fair to say it was a success. Yes, I miss old, family-man Superman (and man was it great to see him again last week) but going back is also an illustration as to why the New 52 was necessary. Having that 30 years of history (counting from Crisis on Infinite Earths) was both a blessing and a curse. These characters were fully formed over decades of discovery. They were adults with families and complicated relationships. They carried the weights of their decisions with them. The problem is that eventually the weight of all that continuity became overwhelming, the stories you’re able to tell are limited by the past.
Is this really the last hurrah for our pre-Flashpoint heroes? Never say never, since forever is a very long time. But for every Superman we lost in the New 52, we gained a Dick Grayson. If we never see pre-Flashpoint Nightwing again I’d be fine with that. Honestly, the same goes for Barbara Gordon as Oracle. For Nightwing, it’s not that he’s unlikable (he’s not), it’s that he became so much cooler in the New 52. As for Babs, as I talked about at length in our discussion of Batgirl 40, it gave her the opportunity to get out from under the long shadow of The Killing Joke.
There’s something a little bit jarring about jumping back into the world of pre-Flashpoint Babs after she just exorcised her demons in the New 52. But I enjoy a lot of Gail Simone’s work in the DC universe — her work with Oracle was defining for the character — plus Dick Grayson is one of my favorite comic book characters ever, so Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle 1 was a highly anticipated title coming out of Convergence. And in the end, it’s the first chapter of a fitting send off for characters I realize I no longer care about.
There’s a whole air of despair that hangs over this issue Probably the most interesting aspect is Mr. Freeze’s realization of the futility of his actions. Nightwing busts up Freeze’s diamond heist attempt, and Freeze surrenders without a second thought.
For a year, everyone in Gotham has been doing the same things over and over, and it’s wearing them down. Even Barbara is affected by it. This issue finds Dick proposing to Babs, which she turns down in the moment. I don’t entirely understand her motivation here (the futility of existence?), but the romance between Nightwing and Oracle is not a compelling aspect of either character for me so I’m not going to expel much mental energy on it. Earlier, Simone really closes the book on Nightwing’s romantic past. His old fling Starfire even shows up (in real clothes and everything!) to give her blessing to the proposal.
Just as Barbara turns down Dick’s marriage proposal, the dome disappears and Flashpoint Hawkman and Hawkwoman show up to fight for their world. While Nightwing and Oracle are ready to kick their asses, the Thangarians make an offer: they will sacrifice their world, but in exchange they want to rule over Gotham and remake it in Thangar’s image. Predictably, it’s a no-go, but Hawkman and Hawkwoman give them an hour to prepare for battle.
It’s a pretty grim issue, but one thing that did make me laugh is Jan Duursema’s pencils of Nightwing. Flipping through, Nightwing has the same exact facial expression in nearly every panel.
Overall this is a strong issue for fans of pre-Flashpoint Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon. For me, I thought going in I was going to miss these characterizations, but I really don’t. What’d you think, Patrick? Did this bring back fond memories for you?
Patrick: Actually, the fond memories I found myself revisiting were those of Hawkman and Hawk… Hawkgirl, no? I’m like 85% sure its “girl” even for the Flashpoint version, but who can really say? Dick calls her “Hawkwoman” toward the end of the issue, so I can understand Mark’s confusion.
Alright, this might just seem like a little mistake, but I think its telling of a bigger idea — and one that Mark already pointed out is a theme running throughout this issue. Stuck in their old ruts and rhythms, the villains of Gotham have resigned themselves to going through the motions, which in turn has lead to the heroes going through those same motions. It’s pathetic when Freeze hands over his ill-gotten gains without a fight, but it might be just as pathetic that Dick has to ask for permission before smashing his way through the expensive museum skylight. It is all, as Mark points out, hampered by history — so much history that we can’t properly have the smash ‘n’ grab fun of foiling a Mr. Freeze heist.
But then these fucking Hawks show up. I think it’s a stroke of genius to have the Thanagarians show up during a date that’s totally tanking (and, more specifically, during a proposal that’s totally tanking). I’m sure there are true believers out there for whom revisiting this relationship was warm and comforting, but in light of the New 52 version of these characters, I found it cold and old and staid. And I think Simone did too. There’s no romance between them, there arguably isn’t even honesty. Dick keeps his rendezvous with Starfire secret and Babs only lets the readers know that she’s somehow been fighting the Hawks since the second they arrived in Gotham.
Which brings me back to Hawkman and Hawkgirl/woman. I like these characters, and they might represent a pairing of characters that needed a reboot even more than Dick and Babs did. While Dick and Babs were sort of soft relaunches (both of which have been softly relaunched again since 2011), the Hawks got the hard reset, and never really found their place again in the new DCU. When you think about it — we’ve already seen this fight play out, not in the pages of our favorite comics, but on the shelves of the comic book stores. And the Hawks lost. The abstraction of those characters wasn’t strong enough to last as long in the stores as Batgirl or Nightwing or Grayson. Convergence and publishing are both a battle royale, where only the strongest characters, concepts and ideas survive.
I hadn’t noticed Duursema’s habit of giving Dick the same expression in every panel, but that’s a pretty funny observation. I know “same face” is an accusation that a lot of artists get regarding faces of their female characters. I guess that can carry over to the men too. Although, now that you mention it, that once drawing that flashes away to Poison Ivy growing the city’s vegetables could easily be Babs cosplaying Ivy.
So maybe that’s another one of the dangers of using the same characters for so long — they all start to run together. Those panels are from the same page, so it’s kind of hard to miss the resemblance.
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I’m really loving the meta-commentary of the pre-Flashpoint universe as a hermetically sealed, and ultimately suffocating place for stories to play out. Freeze gives up because he already knows how this scene is going to play out — he’s been there hundreds of times. It’s tired and its old. What’s curious to me is the implication that the New 52 is in any way less tired and old. Like, the same shit is going to happen to Freeze in the New 52, right? The stories are just as predictable, but the characters are less familiar, and, in many cases, less likable.
Personally, I’ve enjoyed the heck out of reading the character summaries that have been included at the back of each issue, loosely describing their histories. It’s a “previously on” that hints at a world that is often more nuanced and interesting than the continuities as we know them now.
It’s also interesting how this first match-up is playing out against the Flashpoint Universe. I don’t really know how that world is viewed by the fan-base – literally no idea. Do they hate it? Think it’s fun? Or is it too tied to the New 52 launch to be its own discrete thing?
None of the stories we’ve read so far have said a lot about Flashpoint itself, and I just wonder if that’s because no one has any opinions about it.
I suspect we’ll get more Flashpoint next month, but for now, I think it’s clever enough that that universe is trying to destroy this one (even if they’re all actually different timelines of the same universe).