I had my reservations if Peter Tomasi could revive Nightwing when he came aboard this title. Well, Tomasi did nothing other than go out and prove all of my reservations completely unfounded. Tomasi quickly resurrected this title and transformed Nightwing into a well crafted and solid read each and every month. It is a real shame that DC has decided to pull the plug on Nightwing just when it finally became a good read once again. At any rate, let’s go ahead and do this review for Nightwing #151.
Writer: Peter Tomasi
Pencils: Doug Mahnke & Shawn Moll
Inks: Christian Alamy & Rodney Ramos
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin at a small house in Northbranch, Minnesota where Carol is sitting inside and reading a book. There is a knock at the door. Carol puts on a blonde wig and grabs a revolver. Carol looks through the door and sees a pizza delivery man.
Carol opens the door and the man pushes back his baseball cap and we see that it is Nightwing. Nightwing smiles at Carol. Carol states that Nightwing must be the world’s greatest detective. Nightwing says “Nah, but probably the second greatest.”
We see Nightwing and Carol eating pizza. We learn that the federal authorities faked Carol’s death and then placed her in the witness protection program. Carol says that it took her two days to recover from the tranquilizer that she was shot with in order to fake her death. Carol says that she is glad that Harvey Dent is back behind bars. Nightwing states that he is going to go pay Harvey a visit. Nightwing tells Carol to take care of herself. Nightwing then leaves.
We shift to Arkham Asylum with Nightwing standing outside of Harvey Dent’s cell. Nightwing says that Harvey is dying a little every day. That Harvey is a black hole who destroys any life that is around him. Nightwing says that Batman always felt that there was a little bit of Harvey Dent left inside of Two-Face that could be salvaged. Nightwing adds that he disagrees and thinks that there is nothing but evil inside of Two-Face. That there is only one face and it is completely scarred over.
Two-Face retorts that he sees a Boy Wonder who is always wondering. Wondering if he will be alone. Wondering what happens when he has to save everybody. Wondering what to do when he has no one left to save.
Two-Face says that the walls in Arkham are talking so loud that his ears hurt. Two-Face says that some of Nightwing’s screams from his recent stay in Arkham are probably still ringing off these walls. Two-Face adds that those screams are probably not as high-pitched as when Two-Face beat Nightwing with a baseball bat back when Nightwing was Robin.
Nightwing retorts that Two-Face must be so proud about almost beating to death a thirteen year-old boy. Two-Face jokes that maybe they should go take in a Gotham Knights game on Bat Night when they are giving away free bats. Of course, these days they no longer give out real bats and only hand out the small ones.
Two-Face states how he and Nightwing have a nice history going between them now. That it makes things interesting and gives it a little “pop.” Two-Face continues that he has seen Nightwing grow up from shorts to pants. Two-Face says that he feels proud that he was able to “toughen up” Nightwing along the way. That he taught Nightwing that the world is not a nice place. And that putting on a mask was not going to be a cakewalk. And that all it takes is one bad day to take away the rest of the good days.
Nightwing responds that he learned what his life was about long before Two-Face entered it. Nightwing then says “I noticed they took away your security blanket, Linus.” Nightwing adds that he guesses Two-Face will have to suck on his thumb while he is in Arkham.
Two-Face answers that the Arkham doctor wanted to show Two-Face who was boss. Basically taking a pee to mark his spot. Two-Face states that he can respect that. That this is the doctor’s house and the doctor’s rules. Two-Face adds “But houses burn down. And someday soon this one will too.”
Two-Face says that it is all a matter of time. Two-Face continues “Me, You, Bats always spinning around the grand revolving door of justice.” Nightwing interjects “Until one day we won’t.” Nightwing turns and walks away. Two-Face screams that until that day he will make plans. Two-Face screams that he has big plans for him and Nightwing down the line.
We cut to Dick meeting with Deb at the park. Dick tells Deb that he will pay for the best plastic surgeon to fix the burn mark on her arm. Deb thanks Dick. Deb then reveals that she had decided to leave town and move to San Jose. Deb says that it is everything. That she no longer feels safe in this city. That there was the pennies from heaven and acid rain attack a few days ago. And before that there was the gun battle between a group of flying men right outside her apartment. Deb says that she does not want fear to rule how she lives her life.
Deb says that Dick could move to San Jose with her. Dick says that he cannot. That he has a lot of responsibilities that he simply cannot walk away from. Deb says that she understands. Deb and Dick kiss. Deb tells Dick to take care of himself and she then turns and walks away.
We zip forward to that night at Valhalla Cemetery in Metropolis. An excavation team is finishing removing the last few caskets from the graveyard. The caskets are stacked inside of a huge cube structure. Superman, John Stewart and Nightwing are on the scene.
Nightwing is upset to think that all of this has happened because of Talia and Creighton. Superman interjects that it is unfortunately a sign of the times. That this was bound to happen sooner or later. Superman continues that their super bodies at their most basic level can be exploited. That DNA research is moving so fast. And that in the wrong hands that their honored dead can be used against them and the world in the most catastrophic ways.
Superman then picks up the cube container full of caskets and the heroes fly off to the Hall of Justice. They take the container of caskets to the underground mausoleum that John Stewart designed. John says “I’ve designed this place to be the strongest and securest unit in the world, so Fort Knox has nothing on this place or the people above who guard these immortal heroes who sleep the sleep of the just.”
We cut to the Sonoran Desert where Tim and Alfred are in a jeep. Tim can barely see Dick who is in a pressurized gondola that has just entered the Earth’s stratosphere. Dick asks if Tim and Alfred are in position. They answer “Yes.”
Dick opens the door of the pressurize gondola and thinks how he is 25 miles up in the air. Dick thinks how he is going to fall farther and faster than any non-powered person in history. Dick thinks how this might be crazy of him to want to straddle space, but the view from here truly is amazing. Dick thinks “Okay, Mom and Dad, your “flying Grayson” is about to take the great leap. Or as they say in French, Le Grand Saut.”
Dick thinks how he wishes that his parents could see him know. Dick thinks that he knows his parents are watching him and that it feels like he has two angels on his shoulders. Dick then adds “And probably a bat, too.” Dick thinks how Bruce told him that some records are not meant to be broken. However, Dick thinks that more than anything he wishes Bruce was down there with Alfred and Tim to watch Dick break this record.
We see Dick breaking the sound barrier as he races toward the ground. Dick pulls his first parachute and then cuts it and exclaims “Hawkman, eat your heart out.” Dick then pulls his second parachute and the last moment. Dick then makes a dramatic landing near where Tim and Alfred are located.
Dick climbs into the jeep and the three then drive off. Tim is pumped and excitedly exclaims that Dick broke four world records with that jump. The freefall altitude record, the human balloon flight altitude record, the longest freefall record and the fastest freefall record.
Alfred states that it is a shame that there was no one present to officially record this amazing event. Dick replies that he did not do this for the record books. That Dick did this for himself.
We cut to Wayne Manor that evening. The three go about silently in the kitchen making strawberry milkshakes and popcorn. They then enter the den and turn on the gorgeous widescreen HDTV. Tim pops in a blu-ray disc (Oh c’mon, like they are going to be watching a DVD on that television? Bruce Wayne does not roll that way.) Tim throws the remote control to Dick.
Dick turns on the movie. The movie that they are watching is the Magnificent Seven. (A classic 1960 movie starring Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Eli Wallach and Yul Brynner. Damn. That is one hell of a cast. Very manly and with plenty of chest hair.)
Alfred, Dick and Tim in a row and each sitting in their own leather La-Z-boy chair. We see one La-Z-Boy chair empty. (That must be Bruce’s chair and it is located between Dick and Tim.) The three watch the movie. We then arrive at the final line of the movie which is “The old man was right. Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose.”
Dick turns the television off. Everything fades to black. End of issue.
The Good: Peter Tomasi continues to work wonders on this title. Nightwing #151 was another finely crafted issue. Tomasi is busy winding down this title as we are rapidly approaching Nightwing’s cancellation in February, 2009. Tomasi masterfully puts a bow on several of the ongoing plotlines while still paying service to the Last Rites event that is coursing its way through all the Bat-books. Tomasi also clearly has an eye on the Battle for the Cowl event as he places Nightwing in a position to make a run at taking over for Bruce Wayne.
Tomasi reveals that Carol is in fact still alive and has been placed into the witness protection program. This was a surprising twist and makes the last story arc a little less bleak as it turns out that Nightwing did indeed succeed in saving Carol. While I personally enjoy it when the hero loses, I know that many readers will be relieved and pleased that Nightwing successfully protected Carol and that she is still alive.
Tomasi wraps up the plotline involving Deb and Dick. It is understandable that with all Deb has been through that she would want to leave the city. Tomasi uses this scene to show that despite their obvious differences, that Dick and Bruce both share an inability to have a stable personal life or relationship with one woman. Like Bruce, Dick’s responsibilities as Nightwing prevent him from ever simply following his heart and living a normal life.
Tomasi also puts the finishing touches on the plotline involving Talia and Creighton by addressing the issue of Valhalla Cemetery possible being used as a source of material to create weapons to harm the world. This scene was the logical conclusion to the story arc involving Creighton and Talia. With the advances in DNA research, it makes sense that the bodies of dead super heroes would become a valuable source of genetic material in which to fashion bizarre and deadly bio-weapons.
Having to see the bodies of the fallen heroes sealed up in a basement mausoleum is clearly not what any of our heroes wanted to do. However, it had to be done and Tomasi did a fine job crafting some moving dialogue from John Stewart as the bodies of the fallen heroes were sealed into the mausoleum.
The final loose end to tie up, and it was a large one, is the sudden intensity in the relationship between Two-Face and Nightwing. With the past story arc, Tomasi demonstrated what an excellent arch-nemesis Two-Face makes for Nightwing. And this scene at Arkham Asylum merely cements the fact that Two-Face is now Nightwing’s ultimate arch-nemesis.
Batman has the Joker and it was important that Nightwing have an arch-nemesis of equal intensity. And Tomasi certainly delivers that in the form of Two-Face. I like the idea of Two-Face being Nightwing’s arch nemesis since it mirrors the Batman-Joker relationship. Batman created Robin who became Nightwing and the Joker created Two-Face.
Two-Face makes a better arch-nemesis for Nightwing than Batman for the very reasons that Tomasi states in this issue. Nightwing views Two-Face as nothing but evil and that is basically the same type of disdainful view that the Batman has for the Joker. On the other hand, Batman, no matter what Two-Face does, still clings to his hope and prayer that a little bit of Harvey Dent is still alive inside of Two-Face. For that reason, Batman will always have a bit more sympathetic view of Two-Face than Nightwing ever will.
The freefall scene perfectly wraps up the theme of Dick’s adventurous side that Tomasi began back in Nightwing #140 when we saw Dick attempting a 20,000 foot jump. This extreme freefall scene in this issue is the natural progression of this theme. Tomasi makes a point of Dick thinking how Bruce would not approve of Dick’s death defying stunt.
Here Tomasi is highlighting one of the main core differences between Dick and Bruce. Dick is a circus performer. He is a showman. And that is reflected in his style in how he fights crime as Nightwing. Dick is going to engage in witty banter and he is going to show-off a bit and use some style when battling bad guys. Dick is a natural adrenaline junkie who has a desire to pull of incredible feats of acrobatics and agility.
Bruce, on the other hand, is a soldier. He is a detective. Bruce is all about “the” job. And that is putting a crushing end to crime in Gotham. Bruce is no-nonsense and uses an economy of words and an economy of fighting moves. His style is short, blunt and brutal. Bruce does not try to look pretty when fighting crime. And Bruce is not the Batman because of the adrenaline rush.
It is important as we enter the Battle for the Cowl story that the differences, as well as the similarities, between Dick and Bruce are made crystal clear. If Dick is to replace Bruce as the Batman then it is critical that Dick be the Batman in his own style. And it will make the story more interesting as Dick realizes that he simply is not Bruce and that only Bruce has the mental and physical make-up to properly be the Batman. This will also make Bruce’s return as the Batman that much more exciting.
Tomasi also does a nice job having Bruce’s “death” hang heavy on Dick’s mind as he wishes that Bruce was watching him attempt this amazing jump. I liked the line that Dick felt two angels on his shoulders as well as a bat.
Of course, the best scene in this issue was the final scene. This is the scene that took a good issue and made it great. What made this scene so powerful and impressive is that Tomasi does not employ any dialogue at all between Dick, Tim and Alfred. There are no narration boxes. Instead, Tomasi allows the artwork to carry the story.
Tomasi shows off quite a deft hand with this scene as he is confident enough in his writing abilities to know that sometimes less is more. In an era where many writers feel the need to talk the reader to death because of either their love for their own voice and “genius” or an insecurity in their ability to make a scene dramatic without giving the reader narration and explanation.
The lack of words made Bruce’s absence from the scene that much more deafening and powerful. The fact that the only dialogue in this final scene was the opening and closing lines to The Magnificent Seven was brilliant. Those lines help make this scene a fitting climax of the theme of loss that ran through this issue.
Bruce, Tim and Dick have all lost loved ones. And their lives as super heroes have consistently placed themselves at risk of death. And throughout the years, they have lost many comrades in arms in their battle against crime. In the Magnificent Seven, a group of gunmen fight to protect a small Mexican village that is being terrorized by bandits. Batman, Nightwing and Robin all band together to protect Gotham from the villains who seek to terrorize it.
In the end, the only ones who lose are the heroes who fight to protect the innocent. And in this case, Bruce has been “lost” in the war against crime in order to protect Gotham. This goes along with the line from Two-Face that it only takes one bad day to ruin all of the good ones. And this is the risk that super heroes run when they put on a mask and fight for the innocent and those who cannot fight for themselves.
This ending had such an impact on me. Tomasi continues to display an impressive ability to evoke genuine emotion from the reader. It is difficult to pull of dramatic and emotional scenes without veering into the realm of melodrama. And that is the pitfall of many comic books. However, Tomasi continues to demonstrate that he is able to walk that line and create stories that are able to pull at the reader’s heart in a subtle and gentle manner.
The Bad: I have no complaints with this issue.
Overall: Nightwing #151 was an impressively crafted read. Tomasi treats the reader to wonderful character work and dialogue. This issue properly winds up and concludes several of the plotlines from Tomasi’s run on this title. This issue is just another reason why I wish that DC was not canceling Nightwing and would allow Tomasi to work his wonders on Dick Grayson’s character.