Pick of the Week

12.10.2008 – Nightwing #151

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Size: pages
Price: 2.99

And so ends one of my favorite comic books.

What’s that, you say?  There are two more issues of Nightwing?  Well, yes, I suppose you’re right.  But whatever happens in the next two issues, this right here, Nightwing #151, this was a great series capper.  I can’t imagine Nightwing #153 is going to do it any better (or at all, if it’s involved in Battle for the Cowl type stuff).

Peter J. Tomasi has officially made a permanent home on my Favorite People in Comics list.  He performed a damned miracle in revitalizing a book and a character that for so long seemed destined to flounder under writers who appeared to have no collective clue.  Nightwing had no direction.  Dick Grayson had no personality, or at least no consistent personality.  The book was just no fun.

How much of that was editorial mandate from people who don’t seem to understand Dick Grayson’s importance in the DCU is another discussion for another day.

Just when I had just about given up on ever seeing a return to greatness for Nightwing, Peter J. Tomasi came along, and using that tried and true comic book cliché, he saved this book and this character by going back to basics.

And now it all ends as it began.

The story arc previous to this issue was one of those tangential Batman R.I.P. stories that ran through all of the Batbooks.  In Nightwing, Two-Face enlisted Nightwing’s help in saving the life of a woman he once loved, now a federal witness being targeted for assassination.  Two-Face being Two-Face, as well as Nightwing’s chief nemesis, not all was as it seemed and the story arc wrapped up with the witness dead and Nightwing bringing Two-Face to justice.

Nightwing #151 reveals that the witness’ death was faked and that she lives safely in federal witness protection.  After checking in on her (with some New York pizza), Nightwing then goes to visit Two-Face in Arkham Asylum and they have one of those great hero and villain tête-à-têtes through prison glass.  Lots of old issues are brought up, there is some tough talk, some black humor, and all the good and tense dialogue you would expect from two adversaries with such a long and twisted history.  

Moving on from there Dick meets up with his girlfriend Deb who was injured in the last arc when Two-Face attempted to drop acid on New York City from a fleet of hot air balloons.  Deb pretty much decides that New York is not for her and that she’s moving back to Southern California with no ill feelings towards her now ex-boyfriend.  It’s a nice ending to a relationship that was never really given enough pages to grow.

The very first arc from Tomasi’s run (superhero graves being robbed) is then wrapped up as Nightwing, John Stewart, and Superman move the bodies from a super hero cemetery in New York City to a secure superhero mausoleum buried deep below the Hall of Justice.  

Finally we get to the really, really good stuff.  One of the things that Tomasi introduced in his run was Dick Grayson’s new extreme skydiving hobby.  Jumping from extreme heights was a way for him to recapture the thrills from his days in the circus.  It was a nice bit of character stuff that showed that Tomasi understood that Dick Grayson is, at heart, a daredevil.  Here in Nightwing #151, Dick Grayson makes his biggest leap ever – from 25 miles up.  It’s a jump that will break every conceivable free fall altitude record, and no one will ever know about except for the two people on the ground trying to act like they aren’t nervous, Tim Drake and Alfred Pennyworth.  After Dick lands safely we have what might be my favorite sequence in Tomasi’s entire run, which means it’s the best sequence since at least Chuck Dixon left the book.  The final three pages is a completely silent scene (except for the sounds of the TV in the background) of Dick, Tim, and Alfred in Wayne Manor preparing snacks and making milkshakes and then sitting down to watch a movie together in big, plush chairs.  It was a masterful scene showing a family together doing what, in a superhero comic book, could be considered the most mundane of tasks, but Tomasi infuses it with little touches that speak volumes.  In the kitchen, while Alfred chops strawberries, Tim does a no-look toss of the ice cream scooper to Dick, and when the move to the next room he similarly tosses Dick the remote control.  And then it all ends as the three men sit down to watch a movie and Tomasi delivers his final gut punch as the camera pulls out to reveal that the chair in-between Dick and Tim is empty.  

With these five short scenes, Peter J. Tomasi shows again why he was the perfect guy for this book and this character.  

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the art which was very strong, and has been throughout Tomasi’s entire run.  And while the bulk of this run has been drawn by Rags Morales and Don Kramer, this issue is drawn by Doug Mahnke and Shawn Moll.  Mahnke does the first two scenes and Moll the final two, and although I kind of wish Mahnke had drawn the entire thing – it’s just because I love his art so much – Moll’s style is very complimentary.  Hell, this issue even features a cove by Buffy artist Georges Jeanty!

It pains me that, after years and years of Dick Grayson floundering since the departure of Chuck Dixon, DC Comics finally found a writer who really understood my #1A character in all of comics.  

And now it’s all coming to an end.  

I hope that DC can find their way to keep Peter J. Tomasi around the Batbooks because if Dick and Tim are going to get promoted I can think of no writer who has been better able to capture the true familial relationship that exists between the denizens of Wayne Manor.

Conor Kilpatrick
Now I want a milkshake
conor@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. Haven’t read this yet…will read it last now…

  2. Great review conor, shame what is happening to this title. I dont understand why Nightwing, Robin, and Birds of Prey are getting cancelled, retitled, or renumbered….or whatever the hell is happening to them.

    I read the most recent trade of Nightwing and it was very very good. Let’s hope Tomasi has some aspect in the Bat books in the future.

  3. I knew it! My shop, which is never sold out of anything, was sold out of Nightwing, Detective, and Superman/Batman. Knowing Conor had the pick, I saw it as inevitable that one of those three would be the pick.  I’ll pick this and the other two up from another store this saturday.

  4. YES SOMEONE ELSE PICKED IT!!! I have loved this entire arc.   This issue was fantastic.  This kinda stuff just gets me really excited for the future of the Bat Books.

  5. Fantastic review.  I gave this book a chance when Tomasi came on board and I was really happy I did.  Now it’s sad to see this book go.  I love the moment with the empty chair, it’s the moment when the family is together, but dad is away on a trip and everyone leaves his chair empty for his return.

  6. Great pick.  This was the first book I read from my stack, and after reading it I knew it would be hard to beat.

    Tomasi is one of my favorite writers now.  I may jump back onto Outsiders because of him.

  7. Oh, wow, your description makes this issue sound amazing.   It’s always cool when the writers really get our favorite characters and take the time to capture that on the page.

    It seems from the description like this issue could stand alone, would you say that’s right?  I haven’t been reading this but it sounds like anybody who knows the characters could appreciate it.  I was kind of underwhelmed by my week, ‘Phonogram’ aside, so I wouldn’t mind picking up another issue. 

  8. First off= Wow.. And second= Put P. Tomasi on JSA after G. Johns leaves………..

  9. I don’t care what this article says.  This book was nothing to brag about.  Last issue was way more fun.

  10. I hadn’t read R.I.P. at all, I was waiting for the trade, but now between pick of the weeks and the special writers comming up like O’Neil and Gaiman, I’m wishing I had read it. Your review was great, not sure how you are able to tell me everything and still make me want to go back and get it but that’s what happend.

    Was the whole arc this good? Random issuses seem to keep popping up.  Should I pick up the back issuses or wait for the trade, or neither? 

  11. X-Men Ron last week, Batman Conor this week. Indie Josh next week and the circle will be complete;)

  12. Nightwing was good. That cover though is excellent.

    Think I been spoiled by the depth of Morrison’s Batman though. Such that the other Bat-family books have been far too lackluster in their mostly conventional stories for me. Not that they have been bad,per se. Just sorta…w/e.

  13. Nothing in the next two issues will compete with such a masterful ending in this one…was I the only one who got a little choked up when I saw the empty chair?

    And for anyone trying to figure out what movie they were watching: The Magnificent Seven.

  14. @Conor:

    I just wanted to say, thank you.  Thanks largely to you, I have discovered the awesome character that is Nightwing.  After hearing you talk about how important he is to the DCU in a podcast a while back, I began picking up the Tomasi issues, and thought the character was pretty cool.  Then, I went out and read No Man’s Land– and saw that Dick Grayson is, in fact, AWESOME.  Now, I can’t get enough Nightwing– I’ve even been watching the episodes of Batman: the Animated Series with Nightwing (toward the end of the run).

    Because of all this, I geeked out at the splash page of Dick holding the cowl in Batman #681.

    QUESTION for you, though: any "must read" Nightwing stories out there that I should pick up?  Was thinking about Nightwing: Year One, but have seen mixed reviews of it.  Also wondering about the Prodigal Son storyline, after Knightfall, where Dick became Batman for a while. 

  15. @Jim: Since you’re interested in Dick(oh God, that sounds awful.), I’d reccomend you Robin: Year One.

    It’s written by Chuck Dixon, who really had an understanding of the character… And it also shows Dick’s first encounter with Two-Face and his famous baseball bat. 🙂 

  16. People, we seriously need to discuss Alex Maleev’s "interpretation" of Namor.  Awesome and bold or just plain awful?  I don’t know, but I’m still laughing about it hours later.

  17. Oddly enough, his earlier work with Namor with the OTHER Illuminati looks just fine.

    More to the point, we need to discuss his interpretation of Osborn’s hair… and how every artist must now adopt it.

  18. Namor is clearly on some kind of "ocean crack" or something.  Somebody needs to have a talk with him about it.  Dude looks like ass.

  19. Horatio, the Namor-as-a-bum discussion is running wild on Dark Reign’s thread: http://www.ifanboy.com/comics/marvel_comics/secret_invasion_dark_reign

    And mon avis is… plain awful. The first Illuminati book where Maleev drew him? Awesome. The panel where he was laughing at Reed made me laugh so hard.

  20. @Alexferrer: thanks, that sounds like a good idea– I’ll check that out.

  21. @Jim – Alex is correct.  Try to get your hands on ROBIN: YEAR ONE.  That whole story ties into the Nightwing/Two-Face relationship now.  It’s where they established Two-Face has Dick’s primary nemesis.

  22. Conor, this is your best review yet.  You nailed why Nightwing #151 deserves to be the POW.  It is such an emotively evocative issue.  This really should be the last issue of the series.  The next two issues can only be a let-down to this high-note.

  23. @ultimatehoratio– I mentioned in my review how he looks oddly like Dave Attel for reasons I can’t quite comprehend.

  24. This book was really strong.  I haven’t finished all my stuff yet, but I can definitely see how this was awesome.  It is pretty disappointing that the series proper is coming to a close, but hopefully, DC is doing something positive with the character and hopefully Tomasi will be involved in that as well.

    It’s worth mentioning that Tomasi brought another book back to life, and that is Green Lantern Corps.  His entire run has been so, so strong.

  25. If the last Nightwing made me go from slogging through Tomasi’s books to tolerating them, this issue made me go from tolerating them to thoroughly enjoying his work.  I’m pretty glad this was Pick of the Week, it deserved it. 

  26. The last quarter of this book was how I was hoping RIP would end, but I don’t think that is Morrison’s style.  A little to sentimental, perhaps.  Thank you Tomasi for picking up the slack and thank you Conor for bringing this book to everyones attention.

  27. Awesom review.

  28. Great pick.  Agree 100%.

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