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Nightwing has been a solid book throughout the DCNU, but it has rarely wowed me. The last arc featuring Lady Shiva was okay, and though I enjoyed the revelation that Penguin was behind Lady Shiva’s machinations, the lack of a conclusion to the fight between Nightwing and Shiva made things feel a bit hollow. After what seems like an extremely long wait, Joker finally comes to visit Batman’s original son, Dick Grayson, and he’s just in time for Haly’s Circus to open on Amusement Mile. Is this the greatest show on Earth, or just a sideshow attraction?
In this issue, Joker murders one of Haly’s Circus’ star performers, Raya wakes up in a hanger, Batgirl commiserates with Nightwing, and Dick has to decide how to respond to the threat of Joker in light of Joker’s possible knowledge of Nightwing’s secret identity.
Joker the Monotonous
This reflects more on the spamming of tie ins to Death of the Family rather than the actual quality of work in this issue, but Joker is beginning to become extremely tiresome. I mean, I literally yawned while writing that last sentence because that is how predictable the Clown Prince of Crime has become in this series. Don’t get me wrong, there are flashes of brilliance across most of the tie ins, but there are no bright flashes in this issue.
Let’s review the case. How does Joker begin his master plan? By killing someone with Joker’s laughing gas! How does he lure Dick into a trap? By planting a clue so subtle and convoluted that it is unlikely to ever be discovered. What happens to Nightwing when the trap is actually sprung? (Spoiler) He has to fight Raya…who is poisoned by Joker’s laughing gas! Wow! Amazingly creative writing!
(Spoiler) To make matters worse, we are apparently supposed to feel like Dick Grayson actually experienced some great personal loss because Raya dies, but you know what? I don’t care because I am way past the point of investing emotional attachment to love interests for heroes when the love interests have no real character development and only show up in a handful of issues before being killed off by a villain of the week while the creative team stares expectantly at me waiting for some sort of emotional response! You know what actually makes a death meaningful? Killing off a character that readers actually know and like rather than offing some floozy that showed up in a handful of previous issues just to provide a halfhearted betrayal!
Anyway, not the best portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime nor the best use of supporting characters.
Does Joker Know?
I’m not making a bet on whether or not Joker actually knows the identity of the Bat Clan, but I have suspected that he probably does not know because it makes no sense to me for him to have this information and not prove his knowledge. However, these tie ins have become extremely convoluted if Joker does not have knowledge of the Bat Family’s secret identities. Just looking at this issue, Joker specifically targets Haly’s Circus, Dick’s business, and Raya, Dick’s ex-lover. You could say that Haly’s circus was the focus of attacks just because it is the circus, and Joker likes sticking to his theme. Similarly, the Raya decision might seem like it proves Joker’s knowledge, but actually, Joker has encountered Dick many, many times over the years, and it is not unreasonable to think that Joker might have deduced Dick’s acrobatic roots. Therefore, it is not completely unreasonable to think that Joker might have wanted to put Nightwing up against someone with similar skills. Individually, each one of these instances is plausible, but put them together with all the other coincidences, and it becomes too much to swallow.
Perhaps Joker does know.
In Batman and Robin #15, Joker spends the entire issue manipulating Damian using the theme of birds to play off the name Robin. I thought it was clever that Joker scheduled his meeting with Nightwing in an airplane hangar with the silhouette of a plane wing arcing over the entire scene. It’s a nice little nod to Dick’s superhero name. Oh, and it was at night too.
I would like to see that Bat Clan get back to doing some real detective work rather than simply having a piece of technology figure out their cases for them.
I still dislike the entire Sonia Zucco plotline. If anything, it seems more out of place now that she has gone from cold to hot in her affections for Dick.
I’m really tired of seeing Nightwing struggle through every fight. He should be able to take out an untrained civilian with no effort. Being trained to tumble is not the same as being trained to fight.
This is not an awful story, but it is not a good one either. It’s an adequate story that goes through the motions. If you are eager to buy all the Nightwing issues or Death of the Family tie ins, go ahead and purchase this one, but if you only want to shell out money for solid stories, you might want to flip through this one before purchasing.
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