Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Review / Commentary # 3 - Nightwing # 3: “Past and Present”

  • Writer: Kyle Higgins
  • Penciller: Eddy Barrows & Eduardo Pansica
  • Inkers: J.P. Mayer, Paulo Siqueira, & Eber Ferriera
  • Colorist: Rod Reis
  • Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
  • Editor: Bobbie Chase
  • Assistant Editor: Katie Kubert

Detailed Impression:
The cover to issue # 3 of Nightwing is as well-drawn as the previous two issues. Again, Reis colors directly over Barrows's pencils. However, this time it looks like Nightwing was Photoshopped into a circa-1940s picture of the members of Haly's circus posing outside the tent. Nightwing's sharply modern, stark black and red costume clashes with the washed out, sepia filtered look of the circus folk in a way that creates a dissonant, discomforting effect.
Higgins starts the issue with a flashback sequence that introduces Dick's childhood circle of friends. Old-man Haly also appears in the scene cluing Dick in that Raya might be interested in being more than just friends and telling Dick that Haly would always look out for him. As we saw in the last issue, Haly was right about the kids' relationship potential, so it would not be totally implausible that Dick might need a little more looking-after although we don't yet know why. The brief glimpse into Dick's past does a good job of adding drama to the next scene which takes us right back to the present at the old man's funeral.
Barrows visually conveys the emotionality of the scene nicely, particularly Haly's son's drunken breakdown after just accosting Dick over how the elder Haly handed ownership of the circus to Dick instead of keeping it in the family. Higgins uses Raya as a mouthpiece to give us his take on Dick's personality. Dick never looks back; he doesn't concentrate on the past. He's always moving forward, which tends to leave a lot of broken and forgotten relationships in the wake. The conversation feels a little unnecessary and some of the dialogue seems like things people who are actually interacting with each other would never use; kind of like the dialogue you hear on a soap opera. (Don't judge, we all have mothers and grandmothers.)
Higgins also gives us some plot exposition through Raya who tells Dick and the reader what the other two members of their old gang have been up to. One is dead and the other is in Chicago (Higgins's hometown which will become important later in the series) working as a very successful booking agent for contract killers. Dick confronts him that night as Nightwing. This, of course, leads to a fight between the two of them. During the fight, we finally get a single glimpse of Dick in the Robin suit as part of an induced hallucination. We also see Dick's parents for the first time in the series wearing their performance costumes which happen to be very reminiscent of the 1984 disco Nightwing suit designed by George Pérez.
The art shifts during this fight scene. According to an interview Higgins did on Kevin Smith's Fatman on Batman, Barrows had begun experiencing some health issues that severely limited his ability to work around this time, so a variety of art teams would work on the next few issues. Pansica's pencils are still very good, just not quite so much as Barrows's own. However, Pansica did not shy away from giving more definition to Nightwing's physique in the red sections of the costume; something about which Barrows was maybe a little too subtle. Pansica also trimmed down the torso just a smidge; just enough that I found it to be more in tune with how he should be built.
There is a very brief interlude featuring a much more natural conversation between Dick and Raya. The improved tone might be attributable to Dick doing most of the talking. Ladies man that he is, the scene ends up with her pulling him into her bedroom… Cue the baby-making music! Higgins ends the issue by showing that the younger Haly might not hate Dick as much as he let on at his father's funeral. He weeps to the person he is talking with about how bad he feels for his involvement in the plot against Dick who turns out to be none other than Saiko!

Overall Impression: This was a good issue, though not nearly as action-packed as the previous two had been. The dialogue gets a little too expository in places and the art shift is really noticeable, especially coming in the middle of the fight sequence the way it did. Zane looks shockingly older than Dick and Raya as an adult. Maybe that has something to do with living the rough life he had to in order to get to his position, but the difference seems unnaturally stark. The story is still intriguing and the art is more than passable. Pansica does a fine job taking over the pencils where he did continuing Barrows's excellent visual storytelling. However, the mid-scene art shift is still jarring. The reason for the change makes total sense, but it's unfortunate that we already had to start getting fill-in artists so early into the series' run.

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