Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2: “Birds of Rage”
Written by Gail Simone
Illustrated by Jan Duursema
Inked by Dan Parsons
Colored by Wes Dzioba
Lettered by Carlos M. Manguel
Batman doesn’t kill.
The Waynes stay dead.
Dick and Babs belong together.
Especially that last one. Chuck Dixon got it. Devin Grayson got it for, like, eight pages and then wrote the worst run of Nightwing comics ever. And Gail Simone absolutely gets it.
Ok, I might be hyperbolizing a smidge, but for those of us who can’t get enough of the rock-solid relationship between Nightwing and Oracle, this two-parter has been welcome after four or so years of New 52 uncertainty.
When last we left our titular protagonists, Nightwing had gone off to battle the incredibly savage Hawkman and Hawkwoman while Barbara returned to her clock tower to enact her own plans. With Dick in the field handling the physical aspects of the battle, Barbara is joined by a mysterious hooded figure before heading out herself.
Most of this issue is the fight, and it succeeds on several levels. For one, even though the backgrounds are fairly spare and lacking in detail (it is a desert-type wasteland, after all), Jan Duursema breathes a lot of life into the battle. It’s paced remarkably well, and she conveys the disparate fighting styles of the combatants convincingly: the Thanagarians with their brute force and Nightwing staying one step ahead, using speed and his skills as a “tumbler.” After a bit of research I discovered that Duursema pretty much made a career out of drawing Star Wars comics, and she brings an aesthetic that is at home in either universe: fantastical elements in realistic environments, smooth action scenes, and most importantly personality in each of the characters.
The identity of the hooded figure was also a delightful surprise, even if it was a bit of a deus ex machina moment.
I did not expect to see Dinah show up, but given Gail Simone’s history with the characters it should have been obvious. Also nice to see her take over so Barbara could go out and join Dick on the battlefield, though after she emits her Canary Cry she’s pretty much stuck behind a computer for the duration of the issue. Still, it was a clever scene, and we get to see Barbara use her skills to take down the threat, rather than just providing assistance over a comm channel.
Gail Simone, a true legend in the industry, imbues the pages with internal monologues from both Dick and Babs, which is another thing that makes this issue breeze by. After spending years writing the two in Birds of Prey alone, Simone has a fantastic grasp on each of their personalities: Barbara wrestling with the guilt of turning Dick’s proposal down not because she wanted to, but because she felt it was the right thing to do, and Dick himself trying to keep a positive attitude and do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing. You never once doubt that they truly, genuinely love each other, but they’re still flawed, somewhat insecure humans, and Simone uses that to ratchet up the tension.
Given the nature of the Convergence, I can honestly say I didn’t know how this was going to pan out. There were moments in the battle where it seemed like the Hawks got the upper hand and wouldn’t hesitate to put a permanent end to their opponents, and as such the tension was pretty high for most of the issue. The ending itself was perhaps a little too rushed and pat, with everything wrapped up in two or three pages when it was enough material for more, but at the very least it’s an appropriate ending for this version of Nightwing and Oracle.
And when you get a final page like this… (And seriously, spoilers guys)
…no other send-off would suffice.
- You love the chemistry between Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon.
- You want to see a good fight.
- You’ve been following Convergence.
- Seriously, I really want that tuxedo on the cover.
Overall: It’s always good to see these two together, and with fantastic writing and great art, you can’t go wrong. A few hiccups late in the game knock it down a few pegs, but if this is the last time we see this characters like this it’s a fitting send-off.