Tom Taylor and Stephen Byrne’s new swashbuckling adventure continues in part two of “The Crew Of The Crossed Keys.” Last time, Heartless and Tony Zucco team up to kill the Quartermaster during a robbery. However, in the process they discover that their clandestine target is missing. Now, Nightwing‘s pirate adventure transforms into a romance novel when negotiating with the new captain, Beatrice Bennett! Let’s take a look.
The Hold Never Lets Go
The salty sea affair easily becomes a romance when Nightwing confronts Bea for the first time since Nightwing #75. Back then, Nightwing went by Ric Grayson and lived a calm life with bartender Bea Bennett in Blüdhaven. As his alternate personality, our hero distanced himself from everything and everyone associated with Batman. Additionally, this disassociation with the past let him overlook other people’s secrets. Dick and Bea broke up soon after, believing his truth was too much for her. Now that his unwillingness to confront his truth is finally full circle, he has become ready to hear the answers he avoided before.
In a slight retcon, Tom Taylor alleges that all of Bea’s community work and access was the result of her position in the Crew Of The Crossed Keys. Although a minor change, we learn that Bea is the illegitimate daughter of the Quartermaster and only recently became “Captain Blüd.” This means their ambivalent threats rely on the abilities of an old man, a woman, and a few thugs. Bea even chastises her guys for thinking they could fight a “superhero” at all! Ultimately, Quartermaster’s insistence of the consequences of crossing the Hold are entirely ridiculous in retrospect. Her so-called “fearsome gang” lose every fight and almost sink in the water.
Romancing The Hold
I’d like to take a moment to appreciate how simple, yet pleasing, Stephen Byrne’s artwork is. His character gestures are simple templates, but the consistency somehow works. Even though everything looks good, the lack of logos, labels, and distinct designs makes the world feel like a cartoon. Bea’s pirate outfit is practical but has sex appeal. In spite of that, it has a Halloween costume-like exposed midriff, and other non-aggressive cosmetic features. The big stand out design here is Nightwing’s pirate blouse and sensual breeches. Unsubtly, the story openly admits the outfit is simply aesthetic for fan service, but leads to a few enjoyable jokes.
At the same time, Barbara is taking all of this with a sense of humor and is oddly into the fan fiction-like aspect of the adventure. Watching the entire thing through Nightwing’s mask, Babs becomes a passive observer in the adventure. Even joking about how racking up exes with double lives is making him more like Batman than he’d want to admit. Regardless, both women are mature about this in more ways than one. Especially when Nightwing thinks Bea wants him to dress like a pirate, but finds out they aren’t on the same page. Surprisingly, she commands him to stick with the ridiculous look, but I suspect because her and Barbara might be the “same kind of weird.” Sadly, Nightwing choses to honor the secrecy of the Hold and remove his cameras, much to Barbara’s discomfort.
Pay What You Owe
Although they were able to move the Hold before Heartless and Zucco arrived, Bea puts her father’s untimely death on Nightwing. As the illegitimate leader, Bea asks Nightwing to eliminate her half-brother “Dirk” with a stronger claim. Furthermore, her fear is that her “totally effective pirate crew” would become negative under the true heir. Considering Nightwing spares Zucco’s life from the Hold, she effortlessly goads him into helping her in exchange for access to his vault.
The overall conflict surrounds sudden and unexpected suspicions that her crew may commit mutiny in favor of Dirk. After a strange situation happens on the boat, Nightwing experiences a uncharacteristic bout of fear paralysis. Though readers may easily reason that the traitor is responsible for the surreal moment. Whatever the case, Nightwing and Bea can no longer trust anyone around them. However, I don’t think Grayson should trust his ex either.
- You want to see Nightwing’s “Pirate Booty.” (can’t believe this cover is real XD).
- Invested in the Hold storyline.
- You think Barbara Gordon likes fan service.
Overall, I’d like to say I enjoyed this pirate adventure, despite a lingering feeling of disappointment. In some ways, the pirate part of things feels low budget like comparing the WWE to a local circuit. There’s no good reason a swashbuckling adventure in the DC universe feels this small. Luckily, the intimacy of the story gives it a comfortable tone like the romance novels it lampoons. I just don’t think the Crew Of The Crossed Keys are living up to the hype whatsoever in looks or story. Hopefully, Dirk will give the next part of the story the edge it needs to bring it home.
Unrelated thoughts: Seeing “Ric” in bed with Beatrice unintentionally brings to mind Tommy Egan (Power Book IV: Force) or Inspector Lee (Warrior) in bed with their respective African-American bartender love interests. It really is a weird but hilarious coincidence that white characters living under assumed names keep living out the same specific stereotype.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review