Nightwing’s Blockbuster confession

It’ll be anti-climatic, but you’ll have a sense of closure that’ll enable you to finally sleep soundly at night once again.  Well mainly me, because I’ve been procrastinating and writing these at midnight. Anyway, as Nightwing’s guilt slowly destroys him, he begins to take bigger risks, jump deeper into danger, and put himself in situations where radiation poisoning’ll boil his insides.  Especially the third one in Nightwing #116-117, written by Devin Grayson and drawn by Wellington Alves, Marcos Marz, & Brad Walker.

In Infinite Crisis #4, Blüdhaven blows up.  That’s the city Nightwing spent 116 issues attempting to protect and reform.

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Millions of people and a piece of Nightwing’s heart die in that radioactive blast.  With Nightwing trying to kill-himself-by-danger to ease that guilty conscience, a glowing wasteland of a city seems like the perfect place.  Look, I know I haven’t been as terribly kind to Nightwing these past few weeks.  But I do adore Nightwing.  It’s the idea of one acrobat valiantly struggling to save one city from eating itself alive from crime and corruption.  We know it’s impossible.  Hell, Batman and his entire team of gymnasts in capes can’t possibly rid all evil from Gotham City (though I believe Batman likes it that way).

Still, as Nightwing, with his batons and grappling hook, fights his unending battle against forces always stronger than him, he’s the closest we have to a “normal” guy parading as a superhero. Batman can’t qualify for that role.  People believe the Dark Knight could win against Superman. Comics have been written about his victory (or at least tie).  Superman — the superhero who could split the moon in two with a single karate chop.  The superhero who can circumnavigate the world in the time it takes Batman to throw his first punch.  But Nightwing?  No one thinks he would win.  We all agree Superman would squish the former Robin into a pellet small enough to feed to an actual Robin.  It’s because he’s seen as a normal guy (at least to me), despite that Nightwing has the same skill, talent, speed, training, and intelligence as Batman.  Readers love normals, which is probably one reason Hawkeye is selling so well.  My 1 AM Nightwing theory aside, I don’t think I’m talking entirely out my butt.

But back to Blüdhaven and a few pages I selected.

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Delirious hospital bed confession time coming up.  A nuclear blast and building wall combo attack can be more effective than any truth serum.  And Nightwing’s final line before he passes out?  Beautifully written — Nightwing’s gushing about hope, especially his lack thereof that cost Blockbuster his life.

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Discussion over.  Batman only deals in tough love.  The Dark Knight’s advice summed up?  I’ll get over your moral failing, but not if you use it as an excuse to drown in self-loathing.  Grow up, learn from the experience, move on, punch bad guys.  Something like that.  So Nightwing takes his advice, as any son would when your father dressed as a giant bat screams in your face.  The first step for recovery? He should start with repairing some mistakes that can be fixed.

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They break up next issue, but at least the Boy Wonder takes the first step in becoming the Man Wonder.

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Nightwing vs. Firefly, Pt. 2

As we left off on Monday, Nightwing’s beloved home circus burned to the ground thanks to that jerk Firefly.  Dude’s sort of a mercenary, getting paid to ignite whatever his employer wants.  Still, that doesn’t mean that Firefly doesn’t deserve to be punched into a unconscious heap by our young vigilante.

As we finish our story today, we pick up in the middle of the Batman event War Games.  Once again, the city’s at war and aflame.  Gotham City gets blown up a lot when there’re ten Batman comics to write every month.

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Luckily, with ten Batman comics every month that leaves lots of manpower to protect their fair city. All non-powered, but a bunch of them anyway.  As each member of the Bat posse (Batman, Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Onyx, Catwoman, Oracle, Orpheus, etc.) receives a section to beat criminals in, Nightwing finds his inhabited by someone who he still bears a serious grudge.

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Oh yeah, despite this occurring a good year or two after Nightwing allowed Tarantula to kill Blockbuster, he’s still riddled with guilt, as most superheroes who commit immoral actions tend to be. Except Punisher.  After an evening of gutting and murdering criminals, he soundly goes to sleep counting tiny machine guns jumping over corpses.

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We must remember that last time they met, Dick Grayson wore his circus outfit and not that black and blue beauty he currently wears.  So Firefly, while he knows of Nightwing and has been kicked by him plenty of times, doesn’t know he incinerated Nightwing’s home.  Well, that and one more reason to be fearful of the former Robin.  Bad guys are a superstitious and cowardly lot, after all.

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Like I said in part one, everything’s way more suspenseful with the background on fire.  Symbolism and all that jazz.  While Nightwing didn’t actually kill Blockbuster, a little Firefly pantswetting should shift momentum to our hero’s side.  More importantly, Nightwing has had fifteen years of training in Batman-style intimidation and fear.  Soon, Firefly’ll soil himself on both ends.

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Unfortunately, Nightwing’s plan to punch Firefly until his face turns into something resembling a jello mold takes a sharp turn when Gotham’s finest show up.

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The relationship between the Bat posse and the GCPD changes every other year or so depending on who’s in command, the horrible tragedy going on, and how much of a jerk Batman’s currently being. When Spoiler (one of the costumes) accidentally sets off a city-wide gang war destroying much of Gotham and taking scores of lives, the relationship between the superheroes and the police has chilled a tad.  Like cops shooting freely at anyone in a mask chilly.  Luckily, our hero is too fast and skilled to get hurt by measly police bullets.

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Okay, so not that fast and skilled.  Unfortunately, Grayson’s costume doesn’t contain the armor his adopted father’s contains.  More difficult to cartwheel into flying headstands when one has to pack several layers of Kevlar.  While our adventure today ends in a cliffhanger (though with Firefly thoroughly punched), it’ll lead up to Friday’s article: an admission of that pesky and total disregard for Batman’s ethics and code that Nightwing passionately broke.

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Nightwing vs. Firefly, Pt. 1

It’s difficult to believe Nightwing has achieved his level of popularity.  Not that he hasn’t proved himself as Batman’s partner, Teen Titans leader, etc.  But the dude’s good-looking, cocky, over-emotional, dated every DC superheroine, and doesn’t have any superpowers besides an Olympian-level gymnastics ability.  Most importantly, Nightwing lacks a fatal personality flaw that endears him to readers.  We need that fatal personality flaw — it helps comic book readers relate (who are usually not good-looking, cocky, and able to join Cirque du Soleil).  Yet we adore Nightwing (the first Robin, Dick Grayson), maybe because we grew up with him — or more importantly, we saw him grow up within the comic pages themselves — or maybe it’s just nice to see a member of the Bat posse emerge untraumatized and still able to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships.  Still, while I don’t know why, I do love Nightwing.

Today and Wednesday, we’ll take a look at a few occasions Nightwing and Firefly tangled over a span of six years, leading up to Nightwing’s Blockbuster confession to Batman on Friday.  Please enjoy:
Detective Comics #727, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by William Rosado
Nightwing #88, written by Devin Grayson and drawn by Shane Davis
Nightwing #98, written by Grayson and drawn by Sean Phillips
Nightwing #99, written by Grayson and drawn by Zach Howard

We’ll start back at the lead in to No Man’s Land, when Firefly makes a horrible mistake.

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Meet Firefly (real name Garfield Lynns), a fairly dumb pyromaniac.  He possesses no superpowers and no super genius, just a flying battlesuit that shoots fire.  And now he has no skin. Firefly’s been buzzing around since 1952, when he premiered as a special effects guy.  Eventually, his origin retconned him into the fiery psychopath you just saw here accidentally explode himself.

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Lynns didn’t always look like Gollum.  But a toxic waste/flamethrower combo can do wonders for turning the human body into a boiling goo pile.  Nightwing and Robin battle Firefly for a while before the situation gets infinitely worse for dear Firefly.  The best part of having a Firefly fight is the background always gets covered in flames.  It makes the scene far more dramatic.

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So now you know where Firefly gets the 90% body burns that’s stated in Batman: Arkham Origins. From his own incompetence.  Luckily, Robin saves his life, because that’s the obligation superheroes have to obey.

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Day saved, moving on.  But then we skip ahead a few years, and this is where Firefly burns a searing hole in Nightwing’s heart.  Something that will definitely give him an escrima stick to the face later.  In Grayson’s occasional visit to his hometown (the circus), he gets recruited for nostalgia’s sake.

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See our buddy in the corner?  I figure security must be light if a bug-shaped battlesuit can get past the metal detectors or gypsy psychics or whatever the circus uses.  And now everything goes bad. Grayson has horrible luck with life tragedies while on the trapeze.

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Also, Irving, he’s a superhero, no matter what tanktop and leggings combo he currently wears. Though we mustn’t forget the difference between Nightwing and his brooding mentor.  While Grayson proves himself faster and more agile than Batman, he’s also less armored, less protected, and with less tricks on the utility belt.  Especially now, because a batarang and grappling hook pouch make quadruple flips difficult to complete.

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Our protagonist emerges unharmed.  Physically, anyway.  He breaks down into a heap of tears on the next few pages.  In part two on Wednesday, Nightwing’s vengeance will comes to fruition — he’s going to beat the crap out of Firefly.


Nightwing kills Blockbuster

That’s not entirely accurate — I’m stretching the truth to shamelessly attract more interest.  We’ll be talking about the DC supervillain, as the store Blockbuster got taken down years ago by that superhero Capitalism.  But today’s article deals with the climax of a story building up for just about ninety issues.  Oh, and Blockbuster gets killed.

So back in the mid-1990s, Nightwing (the first Robin, Dick Grayson) decides to set up shop in Gotham City’s neighbor Blüdhaven.  Same crime-ridden city with far less Bat people running around. But like always when a superhero finally becomes content in their life and just in reach of that elusive happiness they so desperately deserve, that inevitably triggers the spiral towards tear-soaked despair. We’ll see parts of that (and a bunch of kicking) in Nightwing #89 and #92-93, written by Devin Grayson and drawn by Patrick Zircher & Manuel Garcia.

Hey, remember when Daredevil’s house blew up back in Frank Miller’s famous run?  That’s a far more common comic book theme than you imagine.

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Keep in mind, this deadly blast follows Blockbuster’s previous actions (Barbara Gordon breaking up with Grayson and his circus burning up).  Once you start kicking a superhero when he or she’s down, you can never stop.  That’s when they get up and break your face.  Here’s some more explosion aftermath to further build your hatred of Nightwing’s current arch-nemesis.

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You see the dirt and grime smeared on our hero?  I don’t think he bathes once until this arc finishes. Not even a paper towel in the mirror or anything.  The Bat family doesn’t react well to deaths they indirectly cause, but at least we get to see Nightwing defeat one of his most dangerous and powerful foes: the media.

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As a solution to the Blockbuster problem must now be found (as mob bosses tend to be vindictive and resilient), Grayson and his crimefighting partner Tarantula brainstorm some ideas.  Philosophical ideas.  Y’see, despite Grayson being more emotional and light-hearted than his mentor, every once in a while Nightwing flashes into a younger, cape-less version of Batman.  The scary, brooding, super-strict-code-of-morality-that’s-inflexible-with-no-exceptions version of Batman.

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Of course Nightwing won’t kill, no matter what the title of this article says.  So much as to prevent Tarantula from offing dudes who have killed enough people to fill a basketball stadium.  I’ve thought about this before, and I have a feeling that more readers agree with the Punisher’s methods of superheroes mowing down evil than those who frown on it.  As a society, we’re taught to accept an adaptable code of morality that most superheroes do not.  Mainly because they’re fictional.  And as Blockbuster serves his final dish in this crazy destruction parade, he’s not going to inspire us to think any differently.

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Meet Blockbuster — he has a gigantic head, a gorilla heart, and totally no conscience or soul.  If you ever need proof of why superheroes need secret identities, it’s to protect them from stuff like this happening:

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Dick Grayson, despite his prodigious agility and combat ability, is a normal guy with no fancy superpowers or magic or laser eyes.  It’d essentially be a U.S. Olympic gymnast attempting to save everyone he has ever come into contact with.  Not really possible or realistic, even for a universe with superpowers, magic, and laser eyes.  That code of ethics that Nightwing so desperately clings to comes into question.

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Nightwing doesn’t kill Blockbuster.  But he does something just as egregious.  Despite it being the best possible option.  Despite it ultimately saving hundreds of lives.  Superheroes always win the fight, but never their guilt — though Nightwing’ll sure as hell try.

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After this scene, Tarantula rapes Nightwing.  Not a joke.  She takes advantage of him in his traumatic state.  It’s one of the strangest and most frustrating scenes in DC comic history.  I personally hate it and I’m not going to show it to you, but you do deserve to know that it happens.  We’ll cover Nightwing’s reveal to Batman and his emotional healing from his own personal betrayal on Wednesday.  Next time, Grayson battles Firefly!


Nightwing, Batman’s son

For a former teenage superhero, Dick Grayson turned out relatively normal.  He retains his sense of humor, passion but not obsession, and can even manage a healthy romantic relationship (which Bruce certainly can’t).  I don’t think it’d be far off to say that Dick has managed to become the most successful and popular former sidekick in comics today.  But despite not being pantsless for over twenty years, a few loose ends needed to be tied up between the Boy Wonder and Dark Knight.  Like legal status.

In official documents, Dick is Bruce’s ward, which remains something like a guardianship.  Depending on the continuity and various writers, Dick’s only fifteen or so years younger than Bruce (though probably now around ten with the New 52).  And since Batman’s job involves pummeling bad guys into unconsciousness, a smart man would have a back up plan set up in case of untimely (and likely) death.  Unfortunately, in Batman: Gotham Knights #20-21, written by Devin Grayson and drawn by Roger Robinson,  there’s one problem with this plan.

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Dick’s roots go back to Romani Gypsies.  That and carny folk.  Circuses may excel at back flips and bearded women, but I imagine a clean past may not be one.  Records tend to be hard read when written mostly on cotton candy.

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Yes, that’s Batman generalizing a whole group of people.  Nightwing gets mad at him, but Dick keeps forgetting Batman’s superpower of being wildly inconsiderate of other people’s feelings.

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Let’s meet this so-called relative, who by the way, fits every stereotype down to his bushy mustache.

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I get that legal mysteries may be less fun than Batman roundhouse kicking henchmen, but character development makes future roundhouse kicking worth it.  Probably.  With a harmless old man following Dick around, it’s time for Bruce to have a little chat about this final adoption obstacle.

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Cliffhanger, right?  Knowing that his grandson puts on a costume and clubs supervillains at night would certainly hold a major financial advantage, or at least blackmail.  But truthfully, he really is just a harmless old man.

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Being a comic book world, something sinister lurks behind this grandfatherly curtain.  And fortunately, Bruce lacks the ability to trust anyone who isn’t Alfred, or Dick, or Tim Drake, or Barbara Gordon, or Commissioner Gordon, or Leslie Thompkins, or Lucius Fox, or Superman.  Maybe a few others. Okay, so he trusts more than I thought, but definitely not this dude.

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Yes, this is where things get bad.  I wonder why anyone in Gotham would ever leave their window blinds open.  The city has more snipers of roofs than pigeons.  Still, plot demands the blinds stay up.

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Did you read that last panel in the gravelly Batman voice?  Of course you did.  So who told Yoska about Dick?  Think bad facial hair and petty grudges.

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I know this is weird, though it’s not above Ra’s al Ghul to spend enormous amounts of money and time to set up a single emotional blow.  Also, Ra’s is a dick.

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Let’s get right into the solution of this mystery.  It all involves Ra’s’ daughter Talia, who recently abandoned her father after nudging from Batman.  With news of Bruce securing an heir, the whole heir business surely hit the supervillain’s sore spot.  Also remember, Ra’s is a dick.

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Know the biggest difference between Dick and Bruce?  I believe Devin Grayson sums it up best here:

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During the Hush arc and the fight between Batman and Superman, Bruce remarks, “I know how [Superman] thinks.  Even more than the Kryptonite, he’s got one big weakness.  Deep down, Clark’s essentially a good person … and deep down, I’m not.”  That begs to be argued, but I can probably say that Batman fights less out of concern for his fellow man and more for the justice and vengeance against crime and corruption.

But Nightwing?  Dick’s not a mini-Bruce.  He’s far more like Superman in regards to his crime fighting ideals.  Like Superman, Nightwing trusts too easily, loves too much, and holds back far more than he should.  And truthfully, maybe Batman could learn something from that.  Or not.  That’s not really up to me.  Brooding tends to be one of Batman’s more popular traits anyway.


Therapy with Batman & Nightwing

Another Nightwing post!  I promise the last one of the week (I can’t promise that).

Sorry in advance for the huge chunk of back story.  Y’see, back in the early 1980s, Dick Grayson grew tired of being Robin, now 17 years-old and no longer a little hatchling.  He announced his situation to Batman, who responded with his same emotional vacancy that he normally does, prompting Grayson to quit and don the Nightwing costume.  Bruce Wayne and Grayson eventually grew close again, but only after Nightwing firmly established himself as a successful solo superhero.

Unfortunately in 1993, Bane broke Batman’s back and forced the Dark Knight into retirement.  Azrael, the insane psychopathic religious zealot, was chosen by Wayne to be his successor.  Terrible idea. Azrael (real name Jean Paul Valley) created a mecha-Batman suit, abused Robin, and killed bad guys.  Wayne, feeling better after a magical chiropractor, fought Azrael for supremacy and gained back his Batcave and title.

Unfortunately again, Batman’s still feeling a bit woozy from all that former paralysis and needs to take some more time off, allowing Grayson to assume the role for a short while.  When Wayne returns and demands his costume back, Grayson’s emotional geyser erupts in anger and frustration.  Our story picks up with the final issue of the Prodigal arc in Robin #13, written by the genius Chuck Dixon and drawn by John Cleary and Phil Jimenez.

Oh, the green text boxes are Robin stuff I’ve cut out.  He’s busy fighting supervillains.

To be fair to Wayne, he is legitimately stunted emotionally as trauma leftover from the death of his parents.  While the Grayson family’s deaths are no less tragic, he’s not consumed in a permanent cloud of guilt and vengeance like his mentor.  Plus, it’s been a decade of comics with really zero closure on the ending of their Batman-Robin partnership.

For being the world’s greatest detective, Batman certainly has a hard time detecting hurt feelings. Though despite Nightwing’s verbal sucker punch, Batman’s explanation stands true to his character.

Batman needs therapy.  Badly.  Instead, he takes out his problems by putting his fist through the faces of bad guys.  See it through Batman’s eyes.  Every minute Wayne sits on a couch rattling on to a scribbling doctor, another illegal gun is being sold, another helpless man is being beaten, and another supervillain is planning to torch the city.  Also, do you know how long it takes to zip-line to Gotham?

C’mon, Batman.  Tell Nightwing your true feelings.  What does he really mean to you?

And there you go.  Grayson, after a decade of feeling neglected, pushed away, and rejected by Wayne, finally hears exactly where he belongs in Batman’s life.  Closure granted.  Broken heart healed.

And Robin?  While the two have their bonding moment, surely he’s not in terrible peril and desperately needs their help, right?

On a final note, you may know that Darkseid killed Batman a few years ago.  Well, more like shot Batman’s soul into the depths of space and time, but close enough.  Grayson took over the Batman role for real, now completely deserving as the only true successor.  And fans loved it.  His few years as the Dark Knight alongside Batman’s son Damien as Robin were critically loved and applauded. Plus, he brought a kind of energy to the character that hasn’t been seen since, well, ever.

You see that?  A happy Batman.


Jailbreak: Nightwing

It’s the 100th post and to celebrate, we’re going to read my favorite comic book scenario: superheroes breaking out of prison.  I adore the idea of superheroes escaping out of somewhere inescapable while surrounded by enemies and inevitably always ending up in gigantic fistfight mob climax.  Delightful reading every time.

Since we’ve been sticking with a theme the past few days, let’s continue the Batman event No Man’s Land with a little Nightwing side story (real name Dick Grayson, the original Robin). Y’see, since Batman now has to patrol and protect his lawless anarchic city from the dozen or so crime gangs and supervillains causing trouble, sometimes he needs to outsource a few missions to his buddies.  Let’s take a look at Nightwing #35-37, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Scott McDaniel.

Someone doesn’t like backtalk.  I imagine Batman has the money to buy gas grenades and new bat-mobiles because he cuts cost in manpower, such as sending just one non-superpowered acrobat alone into battle against the most dangerous prison in Gotham.

Even Nightwing can’t disobey Batman.  The Dark Knight doesn’t take rejection well.  And actually, the prison plan that Nightwing and Oracle come up with is pretty solid.  Grayson’ll infiltrate the prison, take the place of the inmate who looks the most like him, and then ambush Lock Up’s crew one-by-one until the prison comes under Nightwing’s command.  He gets as far as the second step.

Nightwing’s biggest strength lies not with his brilliant mind (that’s Tim Drake), or his calculated ruthlessness (Jason Todd), but instead with his natural physical gifts.  It’s been stated on more than one occasion that Nightwing’s even faster than Batman.  Well, like by a fraction, but still faster. Surely he can outrun the rifle of a hollerin’ stereotype.

Oh, KGBeast!  The ridiculously outdated USSR relic premiered three years before the fall of the Soviet Union as a master assassin terrorizing Gotham.  He even has a cool gun or sword hand, depending on his fancy.  Yes, the guy’s intimidating and powerful, but KGBeast’s also been beaten by preteen Robin twice.  So, y’know.

Stuck between a Russian behemoth and the fast approaching cowboy twins, Grayson makes a call.

A bad call.

A very bad call.

The prison takeover plan a bust, Nightwing’ll have to improvise.  I mean, how bad can it possibly get?

I love comics because of situations like this one, where Nightwing’s now trapped in an impenetrable basement pit with twenty enraged baddies.  You and I get to wonder how he’ll get out of this mess, even more so after the villains realize that Batman ain’t coming to rescue them. They get stuck with the former Boy Wonder.  What a terribly rude way for Batman to treat all those people he’s given concussions.

Batman’s rogue gallery has some weirdos.  Luckily the Dark Knight trains his sidekicks in critical thinking and environment analysis when they’re not doing backflips over crocodile men.

Favorite panel in the entire arc.  Nothing like the pure glee of a BDSM supervillain so minor, you can count all of his issue appearances on one hand.  With Nightwing’s first plan shattered into pieces, why not go for a double?

Grayson conquered a pit full of murderous supervillains.  Can he prevail over Mother Nature next?

We’re speeding towards Grayson’s great escape, because as you’ve probably figured out, Nightwing’s safety depends pretty heavily on the containment of the prisoners.  Thugs and supervillains totally have goldfish memory.  That or an inability to properly thank the good-looking, athletic, young man who bloodied and shipped them off to the police in the first place.

He totally showed those prisoners.  Can you taste the salty fresh air that awaits?  The seagulls squawking as they swoop down for their breakfast?  Not if a plot twist hat trick can help it.

Definitely the coolest superhero/supervillain suspended by chains in midair fight you’ve ever seen, right?  Time to clean up the rest of the trash, and then report back to Batman’s approving scowl.

Y’know, this arc actually leads up to the Ballistic Romance story, where Nightwing meets up with his rejected lover Huntress again while rekindling his relationship with Oracle at the same time as battling a rogue police hit squad.  It’s awesome.

I bet Batman makes Alfred sew all the uniforms back together.


Huntress loves Nightwing

Did you know there are like twelve Bat people running around Gotham at any one time?  I’m surprised criminals can even play poker without a Bat kid bursting in through the window.  But despite not having a Bat title, Huntress (real name Helena Bertinelli) became one of the most popular  members of the Gotham crimefighters.  A mob boss’ daughter, she shunned the lifestyle after witnessing her family’s murder and became a costume vigilante.  Happens to the best of us.  And you know Nightwing, right?  Dick Grayson, the original Robin?  Then let’s not delay.

Grayson and Bertinelli totally have some romantic chemistry.  We’ll peep into their private lives in the Nightwing & Huntress #1-4 miniseries, written by Zeb Wells and drawn by Greg Land and Bill Sienkiewicz.

Nightwing’s a sort of funny Batman only wearing a super tight Olympic gymnast outfit instead of the cowl and cape.  And when the mafia’s involved, Huntress tends to have a personal stake.

Oh, Batman, the grumpy Dark Knight, dislikes Huntress.  A lot.  Huntress enjoys crossbow arrows through limbs and her attitude’s lukewarm towards murder.  Do you enjoy reading characters justifying radically different methods of crime fighting?  I sure hope so, because you’re going to get paragraphs full of it in this miniseries.

Personally, I enjoy those little morality talks.  Humanizes the character and creates delightful cultural differences beyond the color of their spandex.

Did you know superhero-ing isn’t a game?  Now, I always found this odd.  Batman’s specifically known for extremely threatening mannerisms. I’m not saying that Nightwing’s a wussy, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility.  Though the next scene makes it hard to argue that:

If I had to make an educated guess, I’d bet Nightwing’s in his mid-20s while Huntress hovers closer to almost 30.  So good for both of them, I guess.  Y’see, superheroes always argue, which builds up super pheromones or something.  After they hook up in the moment of passion, the status quo of bitter resentment has to return.  Though I do side with Huntress in their insecurity arguments.  She just wants to belong to the Bat club, and hasn’t she proven herself by impaling dozens upon dozens of bad guys with crossbow arrows?

Sensing the romantic tension, Nightwing asks about a possible relationship.  Dude’s good with batarangs, terrible at social cues.

Finally, we get to the climax of our mafia crime story of which I have shown you none of.

And how does this conflict end?  The only way a superhero comic should ever end:

It’d be rude if I wrote an entire article and didn’t include at least punch.  I mean, as much as we love Mary Jane, we love Spider-Man socking baddies far more.  Anyway, despite Nightwing being socially ruined by living with Batman during his formative teenage years, he figures out that he should probably apologize to Huntress for his dismissive behavior while she poured her philosophical heart out.

A fake goatee is still a better disguise than a pair of glasses.

If you’re wondering about their future, the two never really dated.  Pen, company ink, etc.  But you know the difference between Nightwing and Batman?  Nightwing will at least end his comics on a warm and fuzzy note the way only a guy in a goatee and sunglasses can.


10 times Punisher smiled

Because it’s rare.  That dude’s a major sad sack.  Since the goal of my blog has always been for us to read comics together in one giant, warm hug of nervous legal ambiguity and definitely not to pad my writing portfolio with that clump of Spider-Man jokes employers are always looking for, today we’ll be taking a look at ten times Frank Castle flashed his pearly whites.  I’d like to dedicate this article to a guy who once commented on one of my previous Punisher articles, berating me for daring to call the Punisher smelly – so enjoy these pictures of Marvel’s favorite gun-toting rotting hobo.

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Punisher: War Journal #24, volume two, written by Matt Fraction & Rick Remender and drawn by Howard Chaykin

Frank Castle is an a simple man of simple tastes.  Seriously, I don’t think the man can even get tumescent without an opera of explosions and gunfire around him.  Ladies, if you want to seduce this hunk of murder incarnate, you better bring a Private Saving Ryan DVD if you want to get any further than first base (which for the Punisher is a power drill and a crying mobster – you get to kiss him each time the drill hits bone).  The Punisher almost certainly keeps a 50 Shades of Grey torture room in all of his safe houses.  He’s the perfect man for a woman if she’s into something kinky and doesn’t mind a dude who won’t wash the blood out of his clothes and smells like a trash bag that came to life.

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Punisher #2, volume seven, written by Rick Remender and drawn by Jerome Opena

You’ll notice a bunch of superhero/supervillain gear here.  I don’t know how the Punisher will be able to walk around this locker while he’s sporting a full erection.  This comic is perfect if you’ve been wondering when the Punisher would stop using all those boring guns and start using something that’s actually deadly, like a bow and arrow (which he uses on the next page to kill bad guys and not just as foreplay as most of us expected).  Look, I’m not an expert on the man, but I do know – without a doubt – that one lonely night, Frank Castle must have at least once made sweet love to a rocket launcher.

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Punisher #5, volume two, written by Mike Baron and drawn by Klaus Janson

The Punisher looks like he just found out his deceased family faked their deaths to tour the country as a traveling circus troupe, and then – I assume – since the woman stops her shoulder massage in a proud moment of defiance, the Punisher socks her.  To be fair, Castle, who smells like a ham and mayo sandwich left out in the sun for a few weeks, received a frying pan to the noggin on the previous page, so a nose punch is only fair.  And the Punisher will totally hit girls, because of feminism, I guess.  I should probably learn what the word means.  Look, everyone in the picture above deserves what they get, because the Punisher – a man who tortures, murders, stalks, manipulates, steals, destroys property, doesn’t give second chances, has a cynical view of society, shoots real bullets at Daredevil, refuses to shower, etc. – is the good guy of our story.

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Punisher #54, volume two, written by Mike Baron and drawn by Hugh Haynes

Of course the Punisher loves dogs – he loves anything that can be used to kill people.  Though he doesn’t need a security system at all when he reveals his Punisher-mobile on the next page (it has two missile launchers in case he uses up all dozen missiles on the first one), as the only people who steal from installations that look like a military’s wet dream are Grand Theft Auto characters. You know what scares people off faster than a dog?  A Batcave but instead of computers and memories and butlers, it’s filled with bullets and bazookas and the shattered dreams of a lonely man who didn’t make a fake woman entirely out of combat knives.  But you know what the Punisher’s armory doesn’t have?  Soap.  He smells like a soup made with nothing but NFL jockstraps and warm bleu cheese. Also, on a related note, if you think I’m putting too much emphasis on the Punisher’s love of guns, I need to direct your attention to a mini-series called The Punisher: Armory, which, I promise this is 100% true, consists solely of close up pictures of weapons while the Punisher comments briefly on each one.  For thirty pages each issue.  They made ten of these.  That’s three hundred pages of weapons.  The dude loves killing stuff.

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Punisher #26, volume four, written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Tom Mandrake

I love the Punisher, but we can’t deny the man is someone who happily amuses himself with the thought of massacring 10% of the world’s fifth largest city.  No, seriously, look into his eyes again. You’re peering into the fictional soul of a man daydreaming about massacring two million people.  No, seriously again, why are we okay with the Punisher?  Like sure, he only goes after bad guys, but if a dude gave billions to charity yet just so happened to deal a little drugs to inner city school children – boom, Punisher kills him.  No arguments or questions.  I’m not saying I’m unnerved by the moral forgiveness we give the Punisher, but he clearly deserves each and every single one of the literally hundreds of bullet and stab wounds he’s gotten over his four decades in comics.

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Spider-Man vs. Punisher, written by Joseph Harris & Michael Lopez and drawn by Lopez

Guys, I’ve really been thinking about this.  Kids read these comics, and we know if they’re able to find porn, they can find Punisher comics.  Frank Castle is smiling because he’s about to flay open a criminal or mobster or civilian who pushed down an old lady back when he was in tenth grade. We all gleefully applaud the Punisher – a man who smells like a backpack stuffed with burning rubber and feral cats – whenever he murders anybody in the New York City metroplex (and sometimes Jersey). But the Punisher doesn’t need our sales, he needs our help.  What about a new miniseries titled The Punisher Sits Down and Thinks About What He’s Done?  I can’t write this article anymore.  I’m done.

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Punisher: Holiday Special #2, written by George Caragonne & Eric Fein and drawn by J. J. Birch

Never mind, I’m back.  Impalement on a Christmas tree sucks way more than a few lumps of coal. And just so you know, the Punisher isn’t wearing a Santa suit, that’s just how much blood has spilled on his uniform.  Every Christmas-themed issue, the Punisher wears a Santa costume.  I guess because it’s somewhat ironic when the jolliest man on the planet unloads his machine gun into the mafia’s sourest.  Also, don’t read any of the Punisher’s Christmas stories actually around Christmas time.  Spoiler alert: they’re all super depressing because y’know, Frank Castle is far less likely to hang around rascally school children than say, battered prostitutes.

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Punisher #5, volume three, written by John Ostrander and drawn by Tom Lyle, Chris Ivy, & Art Nichols

You just witnessed Daredevil crack a joke because the unconscious bad guy is Jigsaw, a dude who’s face is already scarred and gross.  But by now you’ve definitely realized why I chose this panel – trust me, I had plenty of panels to pick from.  Castle creepily smiles far more than just ten times over his forty year history of hitting pimps with baseball bats and so on.  It’s that ponytail.  For ten issues, the Punisher had a ponytail.  No one can be the scariest man alive when he also has to tie his hair back with a scrunchie.  Eventually, the ponytail disappears from one issue to the next and never gets brought up again, as all ponytails should be.  But unfortunately for Frank Castle, comics books live on forever – he has to sit forever in the Terrible Comic Books Haircuts Hall of Fame next to Superman’s mullet and Nightwing’s mullet and Quasar’s mullet and Longshot’s mullet and anytime a superhero has a mullet.

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Punisher: Born #4, written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Darick Robertson

Finally, there‘s the Punisher that lives deep within his own broken soul.  Every time Frank Castle tosses a Molotov cocktail through the window of a diner the mafia uses to launder money, we see this face.  Every time Frank Castle breaks up a drug dealer’s block party by holding a machete outside the window of a moving car, we see this face.  Every time Frank Castle refuses to shower, continuing his quest to one day exude a smell similar to a sewage facility coated in a thick layer of farts from a meal consumed only of undercooked beef and hard-boiled eggs, we see this face. Look deep within the eyes of your superhero, my friends.  See his pain.  Feel his rage.  Taste his hatred. Hear his anguish.  But never, ever smell him.

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Punisher #60, volume two, written by Mike Baron & Marcus McLaurin and drawn by Val Mayerik

I have no jokes to add.  I just want you all to know that for three issues in the early ’90s, the Punisher received an injection that turned him into a black man.  He then teamed up with Luke Cage to fight poverty and violence in the crack-stricken inner city.  I’d figured you’d like to know.

Another exciting article on Monday!  See you then!


Banners!

A year ago, I used a new banner for every new article instead of that eight page masterpiece from Ultimates 2 I’m currently using.  Here they all are!  Use them!  Steal them!  Brag that each one was your idea!  If you click the banner, it’ll open a new tab to the full size (900-ish pixels by 200-ish pixels). They’re much prettier at full size. aquamanbanner1 batmanbanner1 capbanner1 catwomanbanner1 catwomanbanner2 cyclopsbanner1 dakenbanner1 doombanner1 earthmanbanner1 FFSpiderManBanner1 FFSpiderManBanner2 gambitbanner1 gambitbanner2 ghostriderbanner greenarrowbanner1 greenarrowbanner2 greenlanternbanner1 hawkeyebanner1 hellcatbanner2 hellcatbanner3 hopebanner1 hulkbanner1 huntressbanner1 huntressbanner2 huntressbanner3 kryptobanner1 msmarvelbanner1 nightwingbanner1 nightwingbanner2 spidermanbanner1 SpiderManBanner2 spidermanbanner3 spidermanbanner4 spidermanbanner5 SpiderWomanBanner1 SpiderWomanBanner3 stormbanner1 supermanbanner1 supermanbanner2 supermanbanner3 thorbanner1 thorbanner2 thorbanner3 thorbanner4 wolverinebanner1 wonderwomanbanner1 wonderwomanbanner2 wonderwomanbanner3 wonderwomanbanner4 wonderwomanbanner5 Real articles resume on Friday!