Death of the Family is finally over, and we can finally see the fallout left over from Joker's rampage. A lot of people are complaining that Death of the Family has not made a lasting impact on the universe. Personally, I don't feel that every plot line has to be a game changer to justify its existence. On the other hand, almost all the authors of the various tie ins claimed that this crossover was going to affect the characters for years to come, and this is nowhere more evidenced than with Nightwing who, if appearances are not deceiving, lost his entire business through Joker's attack. We also know that Joker managed to get under the skin of Dick and all the other members of the Bat Family, so at bare minimum, I expect to see some emotional fallout in the upcoming issues of the bat protégées. Does this current title live up to expectations and show that Joker did leave a mark on Dick Grayson's soul, or is this just a throwaway issue following up a throwaway event?
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In this issue, Grayson tries to process his emotions while all his friends reassure him that things will be okay.
Kyle Higgins, the author of Nightwing, promised emotional fallout, and that is exactly what we get. I really respected Higgins slow burn approach to this issue, and by that I mean that this was about as slow paced an issue as you ever get in mainstream comics. The typical formula of superhero comics is battle or surprise at the beginning, narrative development in the middle, and battle/revelation/cliffhanger at the end. This issue gives the finger to all that, and its for the better.
I loved the first page of this issue which, rather than a big battle, opened up with a sort of montage of panels highlighting the effects of Joker's rampage and the pain he brought with him. The story then goes into totaling up the damage to Grayson personally hitting every category. We learn the damage to Dick physically and fiscally not to mention in terms of friends' lives. All the while, Dick stays stony and resolute trying to put on a brave face for the world, yet any fan of Nightwing should know that Grayson wearing a game face is an easy indication that something is wrong, yet the other members of the Bat Family seem to be missing the signs perhaps due to their own emotional stress. It's an odd pacing for a comic, but it succeeds in creating a solemn tone for the story.
There are quite a few revelations about what exactly happened in Death of the Family and the direction of Nightwing's future in this issue, so lets talk revelations. As usual, I'll put a spoiler warning on those events half way through the issue.
First up, Amusement Mile is destroyed, but Dick's troupe of carneys made it out alive. I have mixed feelings on Amusement Mile. I thought it was a really cool project for Dick, and I hate that they scrapped it. On the other hand, I've been sick of Nightwing hanging out in Gotham, a city with more than its fair share of heroes already, so perhaps this severing of ties will serve as Grayson's impetus to leave Gotham. On the other other hand, I am unequivocally happy that Dick's troupe lived to tumble another day. I thought the carneys in refrigerators bit, though certainly a menacing move on Joker's part, was a bit of a waste of characters, and though Haly's Circus currently seems to be out of commission, at least those characters are still in the universe and available for future possible use. Regarding Joker's motive for allowing the troupe to live, I think Grayson might be overthinking it. Joker has many varieties of Joker toxin. Maybe he just didn't have enough of the lethal variety laying around.
In another development, Nightwing is financially bankrupt. Now that Grayson is only extremely attractive and nice and not extremely rich, I suspect all his fangirls will immediately find greener pastures. In all seriousness, I'm pretty neutral on this point. I didn't even know Grayson had significant amounts of money until some recent research on the character. It's never really been an important part of who he is, and if he does need money for some reason, he can always get some cash from Daddy Bats.
(Spoiler) The “Does Joker know?” question which was so heavily asked during Death of the Family is still in play much to my surprise. I have to say, Higgins caught me completely off guard with that one. Dick speculates that maybe Joker let the troupe live just so Nightwing could feel the pain of the carney's turning their back on him, and as I said, I think that's an unnecessary logical jump, but at the end of the issue, we see an old Flying Grayson's costume that was dug out of the rubble of Amusement Mile which bears a joker grin which simultaneously mimics the red slash of Dick's Nightwing outfit. Holy crap! This was a very clever design on either Higgins or Ryp's part, and it really makes the mind wonder. If I had to make a guess, I would say that Joker probably saw the costume while at Amusement Mile and recognized the influence on Nightwing's design. Did he realize Grayson was Nightwing? Maybe.
(Spoiler) Finally, Channel 52 makes a return this issue, and I'm a fan thought I do think they should have gone with “News 52” myself. Anyway, this has another revelation about Grayson. Dick will be moving to Chicago! I'm surprised just because I figured this would have been solicited or leaked, and if it has, I missed it. However, I'm not really a fan of putting Dick in Chicago. I am a fan of getting him out of Gotham, but I would have chosen something more reflective of Dick's personality. For instance, Bruce and Gotham are very similar, cold, dark, and dangerous. Nightwing, in my mind, is clearly Las Vegas, but I suppose I should be grateful that he will at least be gaining some independence.
I was not crazy about everything in this issue. There were definitely some moments which broke the flow of what otherwise was an excellent issue.
The first off beat moment happened just on page 2. After a beautiful first page, we see Alfred tending Nightwing, and Dick's pose just does not look good. It looks like he is caught between crying, passing out, and engaging in an overly dramatic stage monologue. I get the vibe that the issue was trying to convey, and Nightwing's pose really ripped me away from it.
Also, I have to mention this though I feel kind of bad saying it, Raya's rack is way distracting. Grayson goes to pick up Raya's body and turn her over to the police in a scene which actually made me care about Raya's death, but the angle they chose to frame Dick's approach to Raya's body just happened to give the reader a nice view down Raya's low cut shirt. I can't speak for any of the other guys out there, but at least to me, this scene read emotionally as, “Oh, how sad. Her body is still lying their dead, and oh, boobies!”
Next up, Barbara comes off as a completely unsympathetic...(ahem) person. I...I guess this is just the DCNU version of the character. I keep wanting to think she is being written badly, but I guess she is just closed off, snippy, and bitter in this universe, and that's a shame.
(Spoiler) Finally, there is a battle in this issue, and there really did not need to be. I get that it set up for Grayson letting his emotions slip and losing control, but I wish Higgins had found some other way to get Grayson's mask to slip. I can't quite pinpoint what about this scene bugged me, but I think it was because it just felt like an excuse to have a fight in the comic. It's as if Higgins suddenly remembered that you can't get through a superhero comic book without making the hero wail on someone, and that is kind of a shame. The way Dick utterly failed to try to uncover the villains motivations or even turn them in to the police just underscored the way this plot point was inserted into the issue for reasons other than telling a good story. It was there for the emotional break for Grayson, the revelation about the Nightwing costume, and to have a fight, yet it felt forced to me.
Eddy Barrows, the penciler, did an amazing job with last month's issue. This month, Juan Jose Ryp (former cover artist for Boundless comic Lady Death) took over art duties, and he did a pretty good job. I really respected a lot of the visual designs in this issue as well such as the first page, the Flying Grayson costume smile, and the little tear in Dick's domino mask that gave the impression of a tear, but it was not quite of the quality of Barrow's last issue in my view.
Alfred should be in bed, but it seems in character that he is not.
Sonia Zuccuo won me over to being a fan for all of about one panel by paying for the funeral before she started talking and ruined things. I hate her.
As you would probably guess from the cover, there are some great Dick/Damian moments in this issue. (Spoiler) Damian: “And as for the Joker...you realize the man literally cut off his own face, yes? Are you really that concerned with his opinion?” Nice.
The slow burn sold me on this issue. I almost dropped it down another rank because of all the flaws I mentioned which broke the flow of the story for me, but really, none of these were huge deals, and this issue made me feel for Grayson in a way I have not through most of his DCNU comics. This is definitely worth purchasing if you are a Nightwing fan.