Reading the final issue of Peter Tomasi’s Nightwing run this week (the last issue of the series, as well), the book had the same sort of sadness I am sure a lot of readers had reading it, particularly the whole “but we just started something good!” feeling of it all. What struck me most of Tomasi’s run was how intellectual the whole thing was – not so much in the stories themselves (which were fine) but in the apparent approach that Tomasi was taking with the book. He clearly analyzed the property and determined ways to appeal to what fans fond lacking in Nightwing, and he tried his best to write the book to fill that void, and for the most part, he achieved his goal quite nicely.
Tomasi’s biggest problem was probably editorial interference (ironic thinking of his long history as an editor at DC Comics), as the book ended prematurely because of a storyline in another comic book and probably the lowest point in the run happened during an editorially mandated story tying Nightwing to Batman R.I.P. (and you could argue that there was some pressure to make the storyline longer than it really needed to be, leading to one issue in particular that was pretty darn unnecessary).
Those were the problems, but there were far more solutions in the book than there were problems. FAR more.
Tomasi practically had a checklist of things to make Nightwing stand out from Batman.
He gave him his own digs in New York City, and Tomasi really tried to explore the uniqueness of New York City in a way that few writers do, outside of Daredevil writers and Hell’s Kitchen. It was great seeing a writer explore New York the same way fictional cities like Opal and Gotham are explored all the time.
He gave him an intriguing day job as the curator of a museum. Curator is a great secret identity job, as you typically have 9-5 hours, leaving the night open for crimefighting, while at the same time, there’s a decent amount of flexibility, as well.
He gave him a HOBBY, for crying out loud! A HOBBY!! How awesome is that? What superheroes ever get HOBBIES? Not only did he get a hobby, he even tied the hobby (skydiving) into Dick’s personality really nicely.
He highlighted Dick’s relationship with other superheroes. Batman is a loner who happened to surround himself with heroes. Dick totally embraces the idea of being a superhero and the superhero community in particular. That’s perhaps the biggest difference between Dick and Bruce – Dick is a likable guy who gets along with others.
He played up the “big brother/little brother” relationship between Dick and Tim Drake. It’s a unique dynamic that you don’t see that often in comics (to wit, Wally and Bart Allen rarely had the time to explore such a dynamic, just thinking off of the top of my head).
He made a Dylan reference. In one of his first issues (perhaps his first, actually), he made a Dylan reference. That’s awesome. And when I get a scan, I will show you the Band reference he made (Dan Phillips wanted me to mention it at the time, but I did not have a scan of the scene!), which is almost as cool as doing a Dylan reference.
So that’s how he differentiated Nightwing with Batman.
Next, he made a point of making Nightwing much much more competent than he had been in years. A lot of writers tended to use the “show Dick failing a lot to show how much character he has” approach, but Tomasi went the other way, and had Dick shown as highly competent, including taking on Two-Face head on and defeating him. Sadly, the Two-Face storyline probably stretched a bit too long, and it included a really unnecessary issue with a lot of blood and some iffy drama involving a damsel in distress, but in the end, Dick comes off as quite competent and extremely tough (there is a fake death of a female character involved in the story).
Sadly, just as all of this was coalescing…it was over, and the last issue of Nightwing this week plays to that, “Oh man, now we’re back to Gotham all of a sudden.” But it also plays up the relationship between Dick and Alfred, as well as Dick and Tim. Plus, Tomasi continues something he slowly hinted at in #150, and that is perhaps a spark of something renewed between Dick and Barbara Gordon.
Nightwing #153 is a bittersweet farewell, but it’s also a kind-hearted and really, a bit of a sweet comic, and a great farewell to a good, too-short run.
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