Thursday, July 7, 2016

'Nightwing: The Lost Year' takes Dick Grayson on a 'Hero's Journey'

I checked out this trade paperback from the library for two reasons:
1) writer Marv Wolfman penned part of it and his NEW TEEN TITANS material and his Batman and/or Robin stories are tough to beat
and 2) this trade features one of my favorite characters, Dick Grayson. 

Upon reading NIGHTWING: THE LOST YEAR (and it’s a very quick read), what surprised me were three things:
1) the story I most enjoyed wasn’t written by Wolfman! “Hero’s Journey” from NIGHTWING ANNUAL No. 2 feels like how I assumed Wolfman would handle Grayson, but it’s not written by him at all; it’s by someone named Marc Andreyko.
2) “Hero’s Journey” fills in why Barbara “Babs” Gordon gives back the engagement ring to Grayson between the end of the “Final Crisis” and “One Year Later” storylines. (This is where the title of the trade comes from mostly, I assume.)
As a result, 3) there’s quite a bit dealing with Babs in that same story.

This story really hits on Grayson's tumultuous relationship with Babs quite well. That in itself is no surprise since Wolfman was a master of tackling relationships and friendships in the pages of TEEN TITANS and I wrongly assumed it would be his story that would excel on that front.

Reading both stories back to back in this trade, it’s apparent they were published together because they both deal with two of Grayson’s love relationships from years past: with the easily lovable Babs, of course, and Liu, the first woman with whom Grayson had sex — and the first to break his generous heart.

Both stories depict how these two very different relationships have impacted the way Grayson would handle women later. (Not surprisingly, both “Hero’s Journey” and “321 Days” deal heavily with flashbacks from Grayson’s days as Robin.)

Needless to say, Grayson’s chemistry with Babs is palatable; it always has been.

Andreyko (whose name never makes it to the cover of the trade; only Wolfman’s appears!) helps the Robin-Batgirl jump off the page with sparkling quotes, delightful conversations and dead-on characterizations of Grayson/Robin/Nightwing and Babs/Batgirl. (“That better be your utility belt pushing against my leg,” Batgirl tells Robin during an early adventure of theirs when they are stuck in a very small bank vault, which is being driven off by Crazy Quilt.)
Can you blame Robin for getting turned on being in close quarters with super-hot Batgirl?!?

Andreyko has a great handle of the ying and yang of the complicated Grayson-Babs romance as well as Robin’s growing dissatisfaction with being Batman’s partner as he becomes an older, more independent teen.

Neither of these are easy to capture.

But Andreyko puts real emotion into each scene — present or past, dramatic or humorous. It all works because each character responds they way he or she would have when those stories were being published originally.

Like Babs, Liu is an attractive redhead.

(Although, let’s face it; there’s no fictional redhead as or hot or as endearing as Barbara “Babs” Gordon! See my three-part series called "Hottest of the Hotties from DC and Marvel"; Babs is in part 1.)

Unlike with Babs, there’s little chemistry between Liu and Grayson, so it’s difficult to see why Grayson would have a problem talking himself out of trusting her. It’s easy to tell she’s not to be trusted and not the kind of girl for our hero.

Wolfman never makes it adequately clear why the crimelord Metal Eddie targets Nightwing or why Liu is partnering with Metal Eddie again after so many years.

And while Nightwing/Grayson hammers away with questioning the new Vigilante as to why he’s targeting Metal Eddie, Wolfman never is clear about that either. That’s especially frustrating since the writer kept that subplot going once Vigilante makes his first appearance.

Surprisingly — or maybe not so much now, if you’re still reading this — I enjoyed Andreyko’s story much more than Wolfman’s. “321 Days” reveals once again that Grayson is attracted to the wrong kind of women and lets himself trust others too easily.

On the other hand, “Hero’s Journey” will break fans’ hearts again, knowing that circumstances seem to forever keep Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon from having the happy ending together that they so richly deserve.

Grades: “Hero’s Journey” — A; “321 Days” — C+

This has nothing to do with the NIGHTWING: THE LOST YEAR trade paperback, but I had to share it because it's such a great moment between Robin and Batgirl!

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