WARNING! SOME REVIEWS CONTAIN SPOILERS (EVEN IF THEY ARE NOT MARKED). PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!
Dixon (w), Land (p), Geraci (i)
I don't know about the rest of you but this new art team gives me chills. I don't know who's idea it was to take a penciler who clearly excells in drawing babes (see "Birds of Prey" and "NML" #0 for more info) and allow him to address one of the eerier cities in the DCU. The look to NW now that McDaniel has moved onto "Batman" is vastly different--we, as readers, are getting an entirely different take on the stories. But I will say this again--the new art team gives me chills. I felt tense as I was reading the story. I felt like all of the light in the series had been drained, leaving only a murkey layer we are staring through. I think this largely has to do with the heavy inking and the drab color pallete being used. Whereas "Detective Comics" is being treated in a noir sense, NW is moving into the realm of the black & white seriels ala "Twilight Zone." This artwork gives me the creeps.
Check out Blockbuster. McDaniel drew him as this superhuman monster with bulging veins and a brain that was about to explode from his inhuman head. Land changes it around--now, his stare...the man has no eyes. His head is rumbled and alien. This THING that was Blockbuster is something horrible out of Greek myth. Equally scary, but in a different twisted sense, is Tad whose persona "Nite-Wing" has crossed the line Jean Paul Valley was merely toeing. Did you see the delight in his eyes as he tormented those goons? What's more--the image of those goons' legs (ruined, torn up legs)... To think someone could do that to a person... Dick definately has his work cut out from him.
Even the pages that were supposed to be "lighter" and more cheery turn out to be misleading. It's almost as if the entire book has become a facade--up until now we, the readers, were fooled thinking we had us a gangster series full of kinetic energy (due to Scott's pencils). Now, enter Greg Land and the new color scheme. I'm not fooled any longer. This new direction, while addressing the former subplots, is anything but kinetic. The characters are slow moving and deliberate. The shadows are longer. This level of darkness is not CURRENTLY being addressed in any of the other bat-books. Not even "Detective" which, while a DARK book, is treading another path. We're talking psychological studies here. Something akin to the Mr. Zsasz stories and the early stories from "Shadow of the Bat" before it became just another bat title. This is a combination of that fun loving Robin and "Picket Fences"--of weirdness and moving through a looking glass into another realm. Bludhaven has changed. Not for the better. Not for the worse. It has always been like this. But now, through Land's pencils, the glasses are off. We are seeing things as they always were. Maybe we were just distracted by all the action earlier. I don't know what to say.
Onto the story--I don't buy Dick's story (that he was in intensive care for 5 months) and I wonder why the guy in charge did. Why didn't he ask for proof? I know Dick would have had that end covered and maybe he supplied the neccessary info, but if I was presented with that very...strange...story doubt would have been #1 on my list of reactions. But moving on. This issue was clearly intended to be a "hop-on" issue, where new readers would have an opportunity to board the train before things got rolling again. It was far more successful than the "Azrael" issue but I believe that any new reader would have a hard time coming on board cold turkey. The sub-plots are too complex. Dixon should have borrowed a page from "Starman" #29 and done a 4 page written prologue. Maybe even gotten us older readers reattached after NML.
This review is getting long so I'll finish this up in three sentences. My friend Trickster doesn't like Dixon's writing. I think he and anyone else who doesn't read NW should give him a chance b/c, as I explain to him, this is different than anything else Dixon writes, even "Robin." To conclude, NW has become an ever twisted and more troubled sister to "Batman"--for the first time in recent memory, Batman's squire is the darker knight than his mentor.
The JYD's grade: A-
Dixon (w), Land and Zircher (p), McKenna (i)
GREG LAND'S ARTWORK BRINGS AN ELEMENT OF REALISM (WELL, MORE OR LESS) THAT IMPROVES THE QUALITY OF ANY COMIC BOOK.
Ignore the fact that every single one of Greg Land's female characters are members of Fox Force Five. What they have a certain dynamism not seen in comics today. The characters are REAL--the poses they strike, the emotions lighting up on their face, their demeanor. Damn, this comic does look good. As I said in my review of #41, "Nightwing" has a completely different look and feel to its artwork--gone is McDaniel's stylish zing and zang, now we have a style of artwork that works to bring specific looks to each situation it describes. For instance, the barroom scene (pgs. 1-4) are vastly different from, say, pg. 5 when Dick and Clancy walk down an alleyway, or even pg. 14 where Dick changes into his NW costume and chats with Oracle. This is a very good thing--the expressions change, the lighting and shadowing is different. I loved Scott's exploration of contrasts, it's just that Land's work, I feel, fits the direction of the storyline more. There are those who lament the fact that Scott is now working on "Batman"--I think both books benefited overall--Scott's work has made "Batman" dynamic again, Land has made "Nightwing" strut in style.
Now, onto the story. The coloring again works wonders with the mood the story is working on. Nite-Wing becomes a darker character, the violence gives out chills, the bad guys become even badder. I don't know if this kid can be straightened out--hell, I don't know if Dick should even TRY. Nite-Wing is at the same line Jean Paul Valley was at when he was running around as Az-Bats. This kid should be incarcerated, not reformed. What we're seeing when he runs a car into a lightpole (pgs. 7-8) is his true nature. If ever there was a true villain, it's this bruiser. Overall, I feel this issue hasn't really improved on the previous one. They both feel like transition issues--like the big deal is coming soon, but we haven't quite got there yet. Blockbuster's condition is worsening, of course, and Nite-Wing is still working for the Chief (albeit their relationship is falling apart), but an overall THEME to this issue still is missing. I feel like I'm watching one of those episodes of ER where the entire purpose is to merely advance the various sub-plots (Tad taking out Mr. Noone) and introduce others (like the Interpol player, and this new mook named Arnot working for Redhorn). No attention is paid to creating a resolvable storyline. I guess that's OK, but in looking out for first-time readers, it's a bit difficult to leap right in w/out a little background lessons. I also still think a 4 page primer to get newer readers caught up is needed--all those trade paperbacks are a bit pricey.
But you got to give it to Dixon to string us along. Shoot! Torque looks good when drawn by Land, don't he?
The Straight Dope: The feel is maintained, the story moves along--why complain?
The JYD's grade: "Nightwing" #42--B+
Dixon (w), Zircher (p)
Quality story as always with Zircher's work making up for the slack by Land. Things are happenin' here again and building up to an anticipated X-over with BoP.
The JYD's grade: B+