Saturday, April 9, 2016

Review / Commentary # 9 - Nightwing # 9: “The Gray Son”

  • Writer: Kyle Higgins
  • Penciller: Eddy Barrows & Andres Guinaldo
  • Inkers: Eber Ferreira, Ruy José, & Mark Irwin
  • Colorist: Rod Reis & Peter Pantazis
  • Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
  • Editor: Bobbie Chase & Brian Cunningham
  • Assistant Editor: Katie Kubert

Detailed Impression:
Nightwing # 9 features an intense battle on the cover between Nightwing and his great grandfather, the Talon named William Cobb. The figures are dynamic, especially Talon's, and the scene is dramatic even though Nightwing looks like he'd be equally engaged (if slightly less bloody) as a drummer in a metal band. One sort of wonky thing is that both characters' upper bodies appear too big to be supported on the relatively puny legs Barrows draws for them.
Inside the book, the creative team continues its work from the last issue progressing the battle and relating Cobb's origin through numerous flashback sequences. Cobb's origin, as well as that of the Grayson family line, is deeply tied in with one of the five leading families of old Gotham, Haly's Circus, and the Court of Owls.
Barrows handles the art chores for roughly two thirds of the issue. His pages are as good as ever and the panel layouts contribute nicely to give the action more of a sense of motion. Andres Guinaldo's pages are generally well-drawn. However, his more traditional layouts are visually less interesting. Additionally, and I don't know if this is because of the multiple inkers and colorists involved in completing the issue, some of Guinaldo's facial work looks pretty rough. In all likelihood, Guinaldo and company were just in a rush to get the pages done in order to back up Barrows who might have gotten behind. The art shift is more disappointing because of the extremely lush background work Barrows put in. Again, he was probably under a time crunch, but Guinaldo's pages just don't have a comparable level of detail although his action work is still pretty spectacular. His action work looks its best in his first few pages showing Cobb at the beginning of his career as a Talon.
Higgins uses the fight scenes to good effect in order to provide meta-commentary about the criticism directed toward Nightwing by, not only other characters in the DCU, but also other members of the larger comics fandom who might view the character as a poor man's imitation of Batman. Higgins responds to the criticism via the dialog between Nightwing and Talon while also pointing out that Cobb's view of the city is both myopic and dated. He also does a fine job resolving the battle in such a way as to highlight Nightwing's degree of skill and strategy.

Overall Impression:
Issue # 9 of Nightwing is not perfect. It is very good, but hindered by multiple art teams. The situation is exacerbated by inconsistent coloring; not that the colorists are incapable, but having a single colorist could have provided a unifying element to smooth out the differences between the two pencillers and three inkers.
I don't know if Cobb's origin story was Higgins' creation or that of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo who had first developed the character. I do recall Higgins stating, in his “Fatman on Batman” interview, that he came up with the origin of the Grayson family name which I found to be really cool.

I've complained ad nauseum about Snyder's Batman overshadowing many other stories occurring in the Bat-family of books. After Night of the Owls, Snyder relents for a short while. This allows Higgins and company to do address their own story arc over the course of the next few issues developing some plot points they established over all of their previous issues. We'll see how that works out for them in upcoming reviews.

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