IN STORES THIS WEEK FROM DC
NIGHTWING #71 carries through strongly on Chuck Dixon's fast-paced action/adventure series. If you didn't read the credit box at the beginning of the issue, you might not realize right away that it was, in fact, Devin Grayson who was responsible for the script. Adding Rick Leonardi as artist of the series is a smart choice by the editors. His style meshes well with this kind of series. As much as I loved his BIRDS OF PREY issues, he's probably a more natural fit on this more crime-oriented book.
Devin Grayson's story is right out of Dixon's playbook. It starts with a fast-paced opening, as Nightwing finds himself in a hotel room with a ticking bomb and a bunch of cops knocking at the door. From there it escalates. The corrupt Bludhaven Police Department comes into question, a mysterious "bystander" steps into play, and an all out chase scene through the streets of the dark metropolis keep the issue from getting boring. Along the way, Grayson volunteers as a mentor to a self defense class and meets up with the feisty and direct Catalina Flores, whose bound to prove Grayson's foil.
About the only thing that seems a little out of place in the issue is Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon's professed love for each other. It's not that Dixon never included it. Far from it. It's just that Devin Grayson's interpretation of the characters allows them to be much more vocal about it. Dixon's was more on the sly. I don't mean to say one is better than the other. It's too early in the game to take a side on that.
Author Grayson also continues Dixon's terse narrative flow. While a book like BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS relies more on the heavy introspection, NIGHTWING doesn't require that. Thankfully, Grayson isn't trying to shoe-horn that style into the book. The characters think, talk, and act quickly, yet logically.
Rick Leonardi's style doesn't easily lend itself to traditional cheesecake art, which is probably why he moved from BIRDS OF PREY to NIGHTWING. It is, however, very good at portraying action and Leonardi's keen sense of storytelling is very much overlooked. He's also got a one-of-a-kind style that compares most closely to Walter Simonson, if I had to pick anyone. I hope he settles in for a nice long run on this book. He's well suited to it, and he hasn't put together an extended run on anything since, well, SPIDER-MAN 2099, as I can remember.
If you were a die-hard Dixon fan thinking of dropping NIGHTWING with Dixon's departure, please don't. Give Devin Grayson a shot. Her debut issue is right in line with Dixon's work.
(One final meta-note: It's very annoying to try to write a book about a single character whose last name is the same as the author. I tried to keep the two separated as best I could in writing this review. My apologies if I didn't always succeed.)
The surprise hit of the week for me is Y -- THE LAST MAN #1. I don't know why, but I just wasn't expecting much from the book. I haven't read all that much of Brian K. Vaughan's writing in the past, the artwork isn't flashy, and the concept is like something out of a bad B movie. However, the execution in the first issue is a blast and I'm now firmly on board for the book.
For those of you who are coming in late, this new Vertigo series is about an earth whose population is cut in half one day when every man and organism with a Y chromosome in it is killed. All of them, except one. That man, Yorick, is an unemployed street magician who lives alone and is training a 'pet' monkey while his girlfriend is in Australia on an extended study project. This is his story.
Vaughan structures the first issue like a Robert Altman or Paul Thomas Anderson film. It's got a sprawling cast, at least six individual plots, and one major event which links them all together but that isn't seen until the end. Vaughan does a great job in flipping back and forth between all the separate plots. He ends them in such a way that makes you continue reading on in the hopes that the next page picks up where that story you're so desperately looking forward to left off. You don't get bored, so it doesn't bug you when two or three other characters are handled first, such as the Congresswoman, the E.M.T., the spy, or the scientist.
Much of the first issue is set-up. You can see where Vaughan picked a fairly representative sampling for what you'd be most curious about from a book like this. In a world without men, how does the species survive? Well, there's a subplot in here with a pregnant woman that might have the answer. Who fills the power vacuum? There's another plot set on Capital Hill. What caused the apocalyptic event that started the chain of events? That's what the spy in the Middle East of handling. How does the common man/woman react to the situation? Who's taking care of them? These are all questions that Vaughan looks ready to explore.
That also puts Vaughan in a very tricky position. The first issue easily captures your interest and makes you want to read more. The trick now is to pull it off in a convincing way. While it would be easy to play the whole concept up as a joke, this is a dramatic Vertigo series. The events have to be taken seriously, and that's tricky ground on which to tread.
The artist for the project is Pia Guerra, with inks by Jose Marzan. He draws every day people well. Their clothing and backgrounds and environments feel real enough. He has some problems with certain characters looking alike, but it's easily recognized and doesn't ruin the appreciation for the story.
Coloring and lettering are non-obtrusive.
Y-- THE LAST MAN is a promising new Vertigo series, with plenty of fascinating material to work with, and an author just bold enough to tackle it all. Give this one a shot next time you're in the comics shop. As an added bonus, you get a full 32 pages of story for your $2.95.
I gave up trying to figure out AUTOMATIC KAFKA #1 about halfway through it. There's very little sequential flow to it. Ashley Wood is a great cover artist whose interior sequential art has never done anything for me, besides confuse. Casey's story seems ready to follow in the footsteps of his Man Of Action partner Joe Kelly's STEAMPUNK. It might look pretty to some. It might have layers upon layers of philosophical meaning. It might be a brilliant dissection of some aspect of modern day life, or postmodern superheroism. However, you can't expect a reader to get any of that in a book so thoroughly incomprehensible. You're more than welcome to it, but don't say I sent ya.
ONE QUICK CORRECTION
The correct title of the series is FADE FROM BLUE. (I suppose its creators might prefer the more typographically correct "fade from blue," though.)
It's an on-going series from Second 2 Some Studios.
It's got a cheap cover price, but a full story between the covers.
The second issue just came out last week.
It's a good read. Give it a shot.
The preceding has been thoroughly fact-checked.
Friday: More Pipeline wonder. I'm guessing right now that a week from Friday will be the column devoted to the fascinating programming at the San Diego con. As I write this, it's just over two weeks to go before the convention.
Special thanks to Dewey's Comic City in Madison, NJ for the support on the column again this week.
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.
Right now, San Diego is the only convention I've committed to attending for the rest of the year. The Small Press Expo in September is a possibility, though, as is the Baltimore convention in October.