I’m starting to think I should drop Nightwing and pick up Red Hood & the Outlaws or Birds of Prey instead. I’m just so ambivalent about this title. There are just as many things I do enjoy as there are things that I don’t and in the end it’s fairly forgettable. I love Barrows’ pencils and the inks and colors by the rest of the team have been fine and all, but Nightwing himself looks way too bulky, his jaw, hell his whole head is too square. Seeing this monster of a man performing acrobatics looks really odd to me and it takes me out of an otherwise good-looking book. And as far as story goes…I like the idea of Dick taking over the circus and visiting different cities, but he doesn’t need to dress up as Nightwing in every single town. I know this is a world in which people are too dumb to recognize their friend/boss when he’s wearing a domino mask (like in the last issue), but surely someone has to notice a connection between Nightwing popping up every time the circus is in town.
The story is dragging and it doesn’t help that the pacing was slowed down even more last month’s weird voodoo demon story that added nothing to this arc except for a surprise twist on the final page that revealed Saiko’s identity, an identity that everyone saw coming anyway. And it definitely doesn’t help when I read Batman before I read Nightwing. I have got to stop doing that otherwise I end up comparing the two in terms of quality. So what I did to prevent that was I took a 24 hour break between reading the two titles…well, that turned out to be for nothing since Nightwing #6 goes out of its way to remind me how much better of a story Batman is when it slaps me in the face with an editor’s note to read Batman #4 and #5. I hate notes like that, they pull me right out of the story. It happened in Detective this month as well only it wanted me to check out an issue of I, Vampire. Am I supposed to read every title that Batman gets thrown into to boost sales? Will there be a note in Batman: The Dark Knight next week that says, for a better understanding of today’s story, I should read Hawk & Dove?
In case you’re not one of the dozens of people who read the soon-to-be-canceled Hawk & Dove, that’s a real cover.
Like I was saying, there’s a moment in which Alfred shows up at the circus and he and Dick chat about how Bruce is missing and what a shame that is, blah, blah. And then the editor’s note is thrown in at the bottom as if there is a single comic book reader out there who has been reading Nightwing this whole time but never gave Batman a glimpse.
I’m sure this was supposed to bring these two titles closer together and make all of the numerous, numerous Batman books feel like they are part of the same timeline, but the only thing it did was…well, there’s a line from the TV show King of the Hill in which Hank says that Christian rock isn’t making Jesus cooler, it’s making rock’n roll worse– by trying to intertwine all of these narratives by vastly different creative teams be they I, Vampire, Nightwing, Batman, or Hawk & Dove, you’re not making the world of DC better but you are making each individual title worse. By reminding me of Batman #5 I immediately recall the shot of Damian and Dick interrogating thugs for Batman’s whereabouts (a scene that feels important enough to have been mentioned more than this in THIS particular title) and by showing Alfred and Dick going about their lives as if Bruce’s absence is a minor inconvenience it robs Snyder’s Batman of its sense of urgency.
Speaking of urgency, that’s the thing that Nightwing has been missing. Its snail pace has been a problem, but its never felt like Nightwing has tried that hard to track Saiko down OR, even worse, he has looked totally incapable of tracking Saiko down at all. Without the villain seeming important at all to the hero and without a clear idea of what exactly the villain wants and what is at stake…I just don’t care. He wants Dick dead for some reason? That’s fine, but with characters like Bryan Haly and Raya operating alongside him, Saiko has had ample opportunity to kill Dick. Notice how I didn’t say “to kill Nightwing”? That’s because Saiko knows that Dick and Nightwing are one and the same, thus he has even more opportunities to kill Dick. Does he just want to kill him in front of everyone as a big spectacle? That could make sense, except in the very first issue Saiko tried to kill Dick in an alleyway and failed. And he’s just not a very threatening or smart villain. Each time he’s tried to kill Dick it’s involved step 1: try to stab him and step 2: if stabbing failed, blow up the building you’re both in.
Now let me say some good things about this book since I feel like I’ve started hating on it more than it deserves, just as I feared. Ahem.
1. Two artists had to work on this and that’s always tough when there needs to be a mid-issue transition. But I felt that it was pretty seamless. If anything, Borges made the panels far less cluttered and Dick looked a whole lot less bulky.
2. You get a lot of content. Quite a bit is crammed into this issue so I feel like you won’t blow through this thing in a couple of minutes. Circus drama, a possible frame-up of Nightwing (but a bit obvious and the cops should see through it), a tense moment with a motion sensor, some fighting, and a pretty heavy cliffhanger ending. There’s a lot to savor and plenty to think about. Especially after reading Batman #6 you’ll start to wonder if Raymond had something to do with the Owls, if the mysterious book is connected to the Owls, and maybe Dick was meant to be a Talon, but Raymond was captured instead? There are definitely some interesting ideas worth discussing.
3. This is the thing that I liked most about the book: the cover. But please, tell me if I’m reading into this too much.
See the circles? Is this Barrows and Rod Reis’ clever way of saying Nightwing could whoop the crap out of Captain America, Punisher, Spider-Man and Ghost Rider?