Thursday, April 14, 2005

Why I Think Devin Grayson's Nightwing Was a Bad Comic

Dan Boyle (who somehow has it in his mind that his name is actually Dan Coyle, to which I say, who knows your last name better, me or you?...oh...wait), in a response to a recent entry, brought up Devin Grayson's run on Nightwing (specifically, the Tarantula storyline that began in the early #80s and continued on, with a War Games interlude in the late #90s, until #100).

I have not discussed the book in awhile, mainly because Chuck Dixon has been on the book the last three months.

But because Dan reminded me of it, and she is returning to the book this week, let me tell you why I disliked her first run on Nightwing.

The first thing you must know is how I reacted to the news that Dixon was leaving all three of his books.

All I said to myself was, "Just tell me Grayson gets Nightwing, just tell me that Grayson gets Nightwing, just tell me Grayson gets Nightwing, if so, all will be well."

And she did.

And I was quite pleased.

You see, Grayson had been very public with her love of Dick Grayson the character, and she had done a Nightwing/ Huntress mini-series that I had liked (although I do not think it was particuarly consistent with the Nightwing series in characterization), so I was looking forward to the run a lot.

Then I thought it started strong (although I really, really disliked her killing off of Soames), and it stayed pretty interesting.

And then, about 10 issues in...kaput.

I think right after the Deathstroke fight (which wasn't the greatest in the world, but was pretty decent) ... kaput.

I was like a kid who had a shiny balloon.

And it was popped.

The book plummeted like crazy from "pretty good" to "what the hell is going on here?"

And the plummet was the result of two things, really, the character of the Tarantula and Grayson's decision to go with a Born Again-esque storyline for Nightwing.

Regarding the former, what is especially weird is that I LIKED the character of Tarantula when she was introduced as a villain.

Tarantula started off as an interesting enough character (VILLAIN)...and then returned, in full glory, as one of the more distinct examples of a writer showing favoritism to a creation of their own in recent comic history (We're talking Jenny Sparks level here! Only Grayson does not have the other things going on in the book that made us overlook Ellis' Sparks fascination).

And while these types of characters are inherently lame, it was PARTICULARLY lame to see a character who was NOT written this way (when she was a villain) when she was introduced to suddenly become written this way out of left field.

I forget what issue it was...but there was this one issue in the late 80s/early 90s of Nightwing that we saw Tarantula's home life and I was literally agape at was clear to me that Grayson was going to try to redeem this character...and I just couldn't believe flew in the face of everything SHE had written before that.

It's one thing to be inconsistent with other people's work, but she was being inconsistent with HER OWN WORK!

In addition, one issue, Tarantula is a murderer.

The next issue, she's a compatriot.

One issue, she's a rapist (and the whole "having Tarantula rape Dick Grayson" is still a weeeird plotline).

The next issue, they are sharing a hotel room, and Dick Grayson is willing to marry her.

It just didn't make sense.

In fact, it was this craziness that made #95 a PARTICULARLY bad issue.

Up until then, Grayson at least had the argument of "Tarantula's crazy! She doesn't know WHAT she's doing!"

But in #95, we get her inner monologue...and it's completely normal and self-conscious!! So I really have no idea what she was doing with Tarantula.

And when she finally discarded Tarantula in #100, it was far too little and far too late.

Regarding the latter, the Born Again-esque storyline, I think it is just further demonstration of how Grayson was all over the map on her Nightwing run!

Things seemed to happen just because Grayson wanted them to happen, whether they made sense or not (they generally didn't).

She shoehorned Dick Grayson into the "Born Again" type story, even though Nightwing and Daredevil are dramatically different characters.

To see Nightwing bemoan how he is "all alone," when there are few heroes with a LARGER support staff was just so silly.

And especially the sight of Nightwing on a fire escape, using newspapers as a blanket (after the villain Blockbuster destroyed his home, as Blockbuster discovered his identity, so was trying to destroy Dick's life)....just soooo did not fit the character of Nightwing. And Grayson did not even really attempt to show that it DID.

And, of course, there is Dick's relations with Tarantula. In one of the issues, Tarantula tries to kill Barbara Gordon. That's right, she tried to kill Dick's GIRLFRIEND. And Dick still ends up hanging out with her. She had already killed the chief of police, and now she tried to kill his girlfriend, and he was still willing to pal around with her.

Make any sense?

I don't think so.

In addition, Dick and Barbara broke up...just because.

Very silly, very unbelievable, very uncharacteristic...just not a good run, and I really did not like it at all.

Some really great art from Leonardi, Zircher and Lilly, though!

Iin closing, though, I wish to note something about Grayson criticism. When the topic of Devin Grayson comes up, I often hear talk about stuff outside her writing being used against her, and it irritates me. It seems unfair to me to use personal stuff to criticize someone's work, and I think it should be avoided.

In fact, even if you do not think it is unfair, I think it also should be avoided because bringing that stuff up just makes it sound like Grayson is being unfairly picked upon.

And I don't like that, as I really disliked her Nightwing, and I don't want people to be able to change the subject with a "Look! People are treating her unfairly! Let's look over there, and not at any of the actual, reasonable complaints about her writing!"

I have seen plenty of reasonable arguments by people why Grayson's Nightwing has been weak, but when someone tosses out an UNreasonable argument (as in, "I heard that she blah blah blah"), then that suddenly draws in all of the attention.

And that irritates me.

Let's knock Grayson because we dislike her writing, not for anything else. It does not strike me as particularly fair, and it also just lets people dodge the writing criticisms easier...and that is not good for anyone with an interest in comic criticism.


Blogger Woody! said...

Great job on the critique. One of the casualties of the Born Again-esque storyline was me. One of the things that I liked about Dixon's run was he always gave Dick a sense of fun. It was a crucial element that kept him from becoming his mentor. But Grayson completely removed that aspect, making him Batman without a cape. I picked up the recent Year One storyline and, despite the angst involved, I still felt like Robin->Nightwing had a smirk on for most of the time. Now that Grayson's back on the title, I'm back off.

4/14/2005 05:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

UH... that's Coyle. Dan COYLE.

Like I said, it makes more sense if you realize Grayson was trying to shoehorn Nightwing into Bosco's shoes, missing the crucial point that they are two very, very different characters.

I read the new issue. Was kinda confusing.

4/15/2005 02:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Aquila Nocturnus said...

Great critique, and very very true. Like you, I looked forward to Grayson taking over nightwing, but I have been very dissapointed. As you mention, They story is weak, and incredibly inconsistant. This is not the Dick Grayson that we all know and love. I was so excited with Chuck Dixon wrote the 'year one' and so horribly dismayed when Grayson took it back up.

I also agree with dan coyle - the new issue made no sense at all. I really hope they can save the series, Nightwing has always been my favorite.

4/27/2005 09:34:00 PM  
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