Pipeline, Issue #263


[Nightwing #70]NIGHTWING #70 is Chuck Dixon's farewell to the title. After 70 issues (and a few specials), he wraps up his run as the series first regular writer not with a bang, but with a solid one-off story. Dixon juggled so many balls in the air at any given time in the course of the series that attempting to wrap them all up before leaving would have required another year's worth of issues, and probably would have felt forced and artificial.

Instead, NIGHTWING #70 is a nice self-contained tale with a beginning, middle, and end. It hooks into a couple of prior NIGHTWING stories without losing any new readers.

There's only one thing you have to overlook to enjoy this story, and that's the hideous design of the costume for the villainess of the tale. If a leather fetish is your thing, it might be fine, but the costume here uses nearly every sexual fetish cliché in the book, from the needless thong to the zipper mask to the corset. It's ridiculous looking, and I have a hard time taking any character seriously in that get-up.

Putting that aside, Dixon has crafted another tale that fits in well with all his commandments in comic book writing. He keeps the story moving, never stopping to indulge in excessive explanations. He has his three major action beats. And the story takes a couple of nice twists that bring things to an ending that you wouldn't think would be coming.

It's only disappointing if read in a greater context. Yes, it would have been nice for Dixon's last story to take place in Bludhaven, or if it used the Bludhaven P.D. better, or if one of the many greater villains Dixon set up in the past 6 years had shown up. Life doesn't always happen so neatly, though. The only mention you get to Dixon's departure in the story itself is the road sign indicating "Dixon's Last Stop."

William Rosado's art lacks the technical skill and aerobatic maneuvering of Scott McDaniel's and the attractive character work of Greg Land's art. Some of the character work is a little stiff, but it gets the story told without distracting you with any horrible anatomical issues or layout inexperience.

The one wish I do have for the series, though, is that DC would get back on the ball about releasing trade paperbacks for the series. They're about thirty issues behind right now, and that includes all of Greg Land's run. You'd think they'd want that in print, if nothing else.

One more thought on anatomical issues in artwork. Check out this week's BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #30. How does Azrael do that thing with his left ankle? It looks like it snapped off. The first image is the cover image by Brian Bolland, while the second is from series artist Roger Robinson who snaps the other ankle. I suppose it's possible that Azrael's powers include the ability to twist his ankle in ways that would make any tennis player envious. Or maybe artists have been using broken fully-articulated action figures for photo reference once too often.

[Spider-Man: Sweet Charity]Ron Zimmerman has a tough road to climb. His big debut with PUNISHER #8 was an unmitigated disaster. People who don't read the series know how bad it was by the smell wafting off the stands that month from the general area of the titles that begin with the letter 'P.'

I'm a generous guy, though. I'll give someone a second shot. Heck, I'll even forget the Jay Leno and Kraven back-up gigs in the other Marvel titles for the sake of the second shot. Those backups did nothing to grab my interest, really.

That leads me to this past week's SPIDER-MAN: SWEET CHARITY. It's a one shot, drawn by Darick Robertson. Robertson's could get me to buy just about anything, including a DEATHLOK mini-series this fall. With Robertson providing covering fire, Zimmerman got his one chance on this one shot special. (It's a 64-page book for $5. Surprisingly, it's not a square bound prestige format thing. I have to give Marvel credit for chopping a buck of two off the price and just stapling the thing together.)

The good news is that Zimmerman shows signs of life here. It's not a bad book. Is it the kind of thing to make you worthy of writing half the newly announced books from Marvel? Hardly. I enjoyed the book, though. Again, you have to take it out of the greater context and enjoy it on its own merits.

The first thing you have to do is buy into the premise that in a charity auction, someone would buy a weekend for Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson to spend a weekend together camping. Yes, it's a big leap, but it's a light-hearted tale and such an off-the-wall premise that I'll give Zimmerman bonus points for pitching it to begin with. After that, you have a story that flows fairly evenly, with a deft sense of humor and good strong character interaction/

The comedy in the opening sequence is done well, with a nice back and forth between JJJ and, well, everyone else on the Daily Bugle staff. There are some funny uses of thought balloons, too, which need a good raison d'etre these days, with so many writers abandoning them completely. In a way, the retro feel of thought balloons only helps the story, which only works if you accept the Marvel Universe as being a comic book universe, and not our own.

The rest of the issue is a light-hearted read, with some nice give-and-take between Spider-Man and JJJ, as well as a running gag with Jay Leno. The little bit of scatological humor isn't really offensive, and fits in well with the tone of the rest of the story. The book is overloaded with pop culture and celebrity references, including a few well-placed caricatures, most notably in the final scene of the book and at the charity auction itself. It also leads to my one big complain on the book.

I know Zimmerman has some sort of relationship with the Howard Stern Show. It's not my thing for morning radio, however. Heck, I find it downright loathsome. And Zimmerman seems to want to acknowledge every single member of the show in the course of an opening bit at the Daily Bugle. JJJ is having a staff meeting to discuss the celebrity auction he's organizing. Betty Brant is reeling off a list of guests who've agreed to participate. And every third name, it seems, is a Stern participant, with one even getting a separate joke all his own. I know it sounds like a small thing, but it popped me right out of the story, so it was an early strike against a writer who already had struck out with the bases loaded once this year.

Robertson's art is enjoyable, as ever. I actually prefer his super-hero art to his 'common man' stuff, although FURY was a big exception to that. His line seems more comfortable in drawing costumed people, though. It has something to do with how round he makes everything look, I guess. That lends itself more towards musculature than people in suits and ties.

He even inks a few pages of the book himself. I suspect it's the final set of pages he did, as his own inks tend to look a little muddier on his work than Rodney Ramos. Believe it or not, that's a compliment. I like the slightly dirtier feel to his art, like he had in certain parts of FURY (with Jimmy Palmiotti inks). It adds more texture and keeps his art from looking too cartoony. He just needs some more experience to learn how to use the inking to add dimension and he'll be all set.

Check out the sixth to the last story page. It has a nice half page splash of Spidey and JJJ walking out of the forest. The foreground is populated with some leaves and bushes. The background has mountains rising up, and the middle ground has the characters and some trees. Everything is inked with the same weight, though. The mountains need a lighter touch to help them recede more, for starters. Maybe the coloring studio (Avalon, in this case) could have helped out by fading the black lines of the mountains out a little bit. Just an idea...

One last thing: I don't like Robertson's rendition of The Thing at all. His face -- and jaw line in particular -- look horribly misshapen. I think Avalon Studios' coloring may also be partly to blame, as the character is colored more brown than orange.

This Friday: Graphic novels, trade paperbacks, and hardcovers are under the spotlight.

You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board.

More than 400 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns or so are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML.

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