Review: Nightwing: Brothers in Blood trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

I've said before that Devin Grayson's Nightwing was not my favorite. If Grayson had a somewhat unique take on Nightwing, however, then Bruce Jones', collected in Nightwing: Brothers in Blood, was just plain unworkable. Jones' take involves at one point Jason Todd being mutated into a tentacled monster, which is ill-advised but perhaps forgivable. Our first introduction to Dick Grayson in Jones' trade, however, finds Dick in bed with a woman who's last name he doesn't even know, and over the course of the trade this once-proud Bludhaven police officer becomes a male model and makes a joke where he parodies Native Americans. Devin Grayson wrote a Nightwing who was whiny but believable; Bruce Jones writes a flippant, somewhat sleazy Nightwing you might not even want to know.

It's not a stretch for Jones to portray Nightwing in something of a post-Crisis existential depression (see our review of Nightwing: Mobbed Up), nor is it out-of-character to see Nightwing as a ladies man (witness Nightwing/Huntress), but, to the latter, at least Nightwing knew Huntress fairly well, and to the former, at least we knew where Nightwing was coming from in Mobbed Up. Brothers in Blood finds a self-loathing Nightwing bumming around in a disappointingly non-descript New York City, with no explanation to speak of. This is certainly One Year Later used badly, after Superman: Up, Up, and Away and Batman: Face the Face did it so well; here, the lack of explanation doesn't make us want to follow Nightwing further, but rather to not follow him at all.

I did like the idea of Nightwing as a fugitive from the police (though done to death, perhaps, in Batman: War Crimes (see our review), but Jones' method of getting there--an ultra-violent Jason Todd, played off two somewhat generic gangsters--left much to be desired. This trade is described on the back as "hard-boiled crime," but in comparison to Mobbed Up or Gotham Central, the villains here seem to be played more for laughs than for noir. Jones does make the wise choice of casting Nightwing's love interest, Cheyenne, as red-haired, subtly suggesting Nightwing's broken romance with Barbara Gordon. With this, however, Jones fights an uphill battle; after Devin Grayson's Romeo and Juliet portrayal of Nightwing and Oracle, it'd be hard for any writer to write him with someone else.

[Contains full covers (including the fairly striking cover to #124).]

Given how Bruce Jones' run on Nightwing was almost unanimously panned over the Internet, it was hard to believe I was going to read it and find I actually enjoyed it, and the outcome was that I did not. Add this to the litany of voices that says you can probably just skip it, and pick up with the collection of Marv Wolfman's new Nightwing run, Love and War, coming soon. Two hits so far with One Year Later, Superman: Up, Up, and Away and Batman: Face the Face, and now here's a miss; we'll see what Outsider: The Good Fight has in store. Thanks for reading along!
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3 comments:

  1. It seems a shame that Nightwing seems so hard to write. Not that that's a slam against Jones or anyonne else but Nightwing seems a lot like Marvel's Hulk. Unless it's just the right writer, it doesn't come off as well.I like Grayson's work for the most part, and if you ever get to meet her you'll know that it's rare to meet such a nice and smart woman. Kinda cute too.I certainly enjoyed the heck out of Chuck Dixon's early work on the book. It was fun and fresh. I think maybe the problem is in trying to make Dick too "mature" or dark. Anyhow, we'll always have those early ones right?

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  2. I just read this trade and it seems to me that editorial meddling is one of major reasons it is so bad.
    Initially Nightwing was supposed to die in Infinite Crisis so Jason Todd was Nightwing "One Year Later" but when they didn't kill him, at the last minute, they had to bring Dick Grayson back and I'd imagine that gave the writer a large headache.

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  3. Editorial fiat is a good excuse for the most part, but turning Jason Todd into a tentacled monster? Sorry, I just don't know who to blame but the writer for that.

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