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Has DC sunk this low?

“This low” meaning “Is DC now publishing torture porn?” How sad would that be?

Over at Every Day Is Like Wednesday, I came across a description of Nightwing #149: “[I]t is incredibly, spectacularly awful.” Caleb goes far more into it, and I just thought, “I must buy this. I must read it.” And so I bought it. And I read it. Boy howdy, he’s right. He celebrates its awfulness, however, believing that nothing can come “anywhere near the terrible glory” that is Nightwing #149. I can’t be quite so blasé about it, however. This is a bad comic. More than that, it’s a depressing comic. In a DC Universe that has recently been all about cruelty, this stands out. If you didn’t buy it, I thought I’d break it down for you.

Page 1: Nightwing is narrating. He’s breaking through “the safehouse window” and he can “smell them” before he can see them. We see some major Batman villains: Joker, Scarecrow, Mr. Freeze, Killer Croc, Penguin, Poison Ivy, and Two-Face. Joker is holding a crowbar with blood on it, the tip of Penguin’s umbrella has blood on it, and Killer Croc has blood dripping from his teeth and claws. Unpleasant, but nothing terribly egregious. Thanks to Nightwing’s narration, we learn that he might be hallucinating some of this because of Scarecrow’s “fear serum.” Okay.

Pages 2-3: These are two big splash pages, with the credits on Page 3. On page 2, our perspective is from behind Dick as he stands above the villains. Each villain is menacing a woman, but we quickly realize it’s the same woman, so this must be a hallucination. Much of what follows is just that – not “real.” However, that doesn’t change the fact that the events are drawn on the page. Anyway, Mr. Freeze has, well, frozen his woman. Behind him stands the Joker with his crowbar, and the woman at his feet has blood streaming down her face. The Penguin clutches his victim against his chest with his pointed umbrella across her throat. Oddly, she has two large round blood splotches on her breasts, where her nipples would be. It’s bizarre. Croc has very clearly eaten his woman. Even though Dick is blocking most of our view of that, we see a stump of a leg. Charming. On page 3, Dick leaps down among them and starts beating on them. This all takes place in what looks like a lake of blood on the floor, by the way.

Page 4: We learn that the woman’s name is Carol. We have no idea who she is, yet (we’ll find out). Croc has Carol’s head in his mouth, and blood is pouring down her face. She chastizes Dick for failing to save her. Croc falls forward into the blood on the floor. Dick leaps backward and then lands on Croc’s head. He takes his two sticks (nunchucks?) and … rams them into Croc’s eyes. Blood spurts out with a swell sound effect: “Sklatch.” The Penguin appears to stab Dick in the back. It’s unclear whether he stabs him or just whacks him with the flat of the umbrella’s point.

Page 5: Our hero kicks Penguin in the face, knocking him against a wall and presumably giving him a concussion (that is, if Oswald were there, which he’s not). Then we see Scarecrow, holding Carol’s limp body as blood coats his shirt. Dick leaps at Scarecrow and tackles him.

Pages 6-8: Dick holds Scarecrow under the level of the blood on the floor, asking him why he looks so scared – “What’s the problem – my hands too tight?!?” He continues, “Fear got your tongue?!? Spit it out – I can’t hear you with all that blood in your mouth!” Behind him, Poison Ivy wraps vines around his neck and pulls him backward. She asks him if he can smell the “beautiful leaves and flowers.” Dick responds, “I like the smell of cut grass better after it’s been mowed.” Uh, what? Ivy makes her vines smash him against the ceiling, telling him to “apologize” to it. Uh, what? As he hangs there, Carol shows up again. This time she tells him what happened to her: “Ivy broke my windpipe … squeezed every last breath from me … and you let her …” Dick breaks free and shoots a rope at Ivy. This somehow electrocutes her. But then Mr. Freeze shows up! Behind him are several frozen people. At least there’s no blood!

Story continues below

Pages 9-10: Underneath the now-frozen blood, Carol lies, blaming Dick for her plight. Dick breaks free of Freeze’s ice and breaks his helmet. He takes Freeze’s gun, shoves it in his mouth, and fires. Not without saying, and I kid you not, “Ever drink a chocolate shake too fast … and get a brain freeze?” Icicles shoot out of Freeze’s eyes and nose. Behind Dick, the Joker says, “Ever talk too much and get a brain fart?” Um, what? I know this is mostly a hallucination of Dick’s, but the shadow that the Joker casts shows him holding the crowbar over his head, while he’s standing with it lowered. Good stuff.

Pages 11-12: So the Joker bashes Dick for a page, evoking Jason’s death both visually and by referencing it himself. Dick, however, grabs hold of the crowbar and punches the Joker out. That leaves Harvey, who compliments him on defeating his “hired help.”

Pages 13-14: Harvey tells Dick that he shot our hero with bullets laced with fear serum, and then he drags out the real Carol, still very much alive. I should point out that they’re still standing in what looks like blood, and it’s up to their waists. Yes, their waists. Meanwhile, lying on the ground, underneath the surface, are several punks that presumably Nightwing saw as the villains. Um, are they dead? If not, they’re going to drown pretty soon. I know they’re bad guys, but damn, Dick – that’s cold. Anyway, we find out that Harvey came to Dick and asked him to keep Carol safe. So now he’s proving that Dick can’t keep her safe. Yes, it makes sense. Dick tries to reason with him, but there’s only one logical solution that Harvey understands – the coin! He flips a coin.

Pages 15-16: Okay, I hope Dick is still imagining things, because the coin Harvey flips grows huge, knocking him through a wall as a bomb goes off. He falls and imagines that his parents are falling with him, while suddenly, Harvey and Carol are on the roof of the building. Okay, a wall collapsed and the building is still standing? And they were in the room where the bomb went off but now they’re on the roof? Hmmm … Carol tries to get through to Harvey, but he tells her, “I need you to die,” and pulls the trigger.

Pages 17-19: As Dick fires a line toward the roof, we see a close-up of Carol’s face. Then we pull back and we see her bleeding from a gut shot. She’s remarkably lucid for just getting shot in the gut, as she asks if Harvey’s just going to stand there and watch her die. You’d think she’d be doubled over moaning in pain, but not Carol! On the next page, she’s lying on the ground in agony, bleeding out (that was a quick transition!) as Harvey leaves, saying he’s “going to walk out slowly” so he doesn’t “slip” on her blood. Classy! Dick reaches Carol, who is apparently back inside the building, and he imagines he sees Barbara lying there, shot through the spine. Then he sees that it’s Carol, blood all over the floor beneath her. Nice! He starts to administer CPR, which means he has to rip open her shirt so we can see her breasts as she dies, and then he slaps her for good measure. All for naught. Sayonara, Carol.

Pages 20-22: There’s a funeral, and then we cut to Harvey at “Bear Mountain State Park.” He’s standing by a limosine, and the man inside is watching coverage of the funeral. We learn that Carol was the district attorney in the “Blackhole investigation,” and this guy hired Harvey to kill her so that the Feds wouldn’t be able to prosecute. Harvey realizes that Dick failed to save her, so he blasts the guy in the limo. And that’s a wrap!

Sweet fancy Moses, this is yucky. I realize that pretty much all of it doesn’t actually take place, but that doesn’t make it any less yucky. And Carol does die “in reality,” so there’s that (and I think we can safely put this in the Women in Refrigerators section as our Dread Lord and Master defines it, as her death does serve a purpose in the context of the larger story, but immediately, it’s simply to get an emotional reaction out of Dick, which is that he’s a lousy hero). Beyond the utter awfulness of the vile violence, however, is the underlying message of DC these days: Heroes can’t do anything to help anyone. Until recently, this was a relatively minor subset of superhero comics. Now, it’s basically the way things are, mostly at DC, but it’s also creeping into Marvel as well. Dick fails in pretty much every way in this comic. He doesn’t overcome Scarecrow’s fear serum, he tries and almost succeeds in “killing” “Scarecrow” (and would have if Ivy hadn’t stopped him), he leaves unconscious thugs to drown, and he can’t stop Harvey from killing Carol. It’s not the end of the story, so I’m sure in Nightwing #150 he’ll do something to prove he’s a hero, but the fact is that in this issue, he’s an utter failure. Not only is he an utter failure, there’s nothing to even hint at any redemption. There’s absolutely no reason for this issue to exist except as “torture porn,” meaning that it allows the creators to indulge in horrific violence for violence’s sake, and they can’t even use the excuse that it’s all in Dick’s head, because the character he’s supposed to saved gets gut-shot and bleeds to death.

Story continues below

Peter Tomasi, who wrote this, and Don Kramer, who drew it, should be ashamed of themselves. Tomasi has written some decent stuff in the past, but this might negate everything he’s ever done. This is poorly-written (remember Dick’s comment about “cut grass”?), ugly, and pointless. As Caleb points out, it might have been a meditation on Harvey’s psychosis (he wants Dick to protect Carol, and then makes sure he can’t), but it’s swamped, quite literally, by the blood. You might think I’m being overly squeamish. Well, I read the novels of Michael Slade and love them, so I don’t think that’s it. It’s that this is a mainstream DC superhero comic, and therefore, as Greg Hatcher pointed out recently, it’s probably going to be a bit immature. DC has been trying very hard to make their comics “mature,” but what that means to them is killing people in gruesome ways. I don’t want to go all “Won’t someone think of the children?” here, but the fact that this isn’t labeled as a “mature readers” book and that any kid can buy it depresses me. DC should shit or get off the pot. Make their superheroes “mature” books or stop printing crap like this.

I know I’m pissing in the wind with that, so I’ll do the only thing I can: Beg you to avoid buying this book or any like it. Not only is this horrifying in all the wrong ways, it’s dull, dumb, and ugly. It’s everything we should think of when we think of offensively bad comic books. It’s symptomatic of what’s wrong with so much of DC’s output these days. It’s not even fun to eviscerate this thing. It’s just sad.

(I’d love to show you some scans of the pages, but that, I think, would be as bad as drawing it in the first place. I hope you can live with my descriptions of what happens. Seeing it might depress you even further.)


Honestly, it sounds more along the lines of “loopy as shit” than offensive. Also, you admit yourself that you’re taking the issue out of context, so…there’s that. I do agree with you that showing that heroes can’t do anything to save people is messed, though. Why the hell else am I reading superhero comics? To read about a bunch of losers? I get enough of those in real life!

You do realize this makes me want to flip through the issue don’t you? You’ve basically told me not to press the red button!

It was a better issue within the context of the issues preceding it, but I can see your point, having read it as a stand-alone issue. That said, I had more a problem with DC revealing Carol’s death in their solicitations since it took the suspense out of the issue and made it all the more depressing for me, a regular reader. It felt like a funeral march knowing Carol was going to die. The fact that Two-Face appeared to know he ‘wanted’ to kill Carol and tried to take steps to prevent that (hiring Nightwing to protect her) and the ensuing scuffle is enough to keep my interest as a regular reader, but I agree with your point about the gratuity of the issue’s contents.

Have a good day.
John Cage

I honestly don’t think this was a bad comic.

First of all, the issue doesn’t so much come off as Nightwing doing poorly (I mean, he does defeat a room full of thugs while under the influence of a powerful toxin), but of Twoface having a good day as a villain. It happens, and it’s clear that without the nerve toxin, Nightwing would have wiped the floor with him.

Secondly, I think you’d find the issue reads better if you actually read the two issues before it that are part of the story (among other things, you’d know who Carol was.)

I mean, yeah, maybe the hallucinations could have had less blood and more zaniness. But if beating up a bunch of thugs while hallucinating isn’t allowed, then there’s very little DC comics can actually do in their books.

So, wait, no one’s said “They’re publishing it NOW? Have you not read Geoff Johns work on ___?” by now? Does ADD just not care anymore to pounce on that?

I’m echoing what the other posters are saying and recommending that you read the other two issues of this arc. It really helps in making sense of everything — and justifies some of the gratuity.

Tomasi’s run has been nothing but awesome. I love this book.

It isn’t stories like this that scare me about the future of comics. It’s reactions like yours that do. You don’t want the villains to truly be villainous. You want them to be safe. This isn’t “torture porn”. It’s just apparently a more mature story with real-life risks and truly bad people than you want to read. To each his own, but I prefer my villains to be truly dangerous people. Otherwise, where is the real risk to the hero? The battle of good vs. evil doesn’t work that well in a story when it’s really only good vs. silly.

Dick fails in pretty much every way in this comic.

In fairness to the current regime at DC, this is not anything new. Since Marv Wolfman redefined the character, being a failure is a core part of Dick Grayson’s identity.

I just realized something…this comic came out last week didn’t it? The same week both of Jeph Loeb’s latest marvel issues came out? Do you realize what this means? It may be the first time a Jeph Loeb comic was released, and it wasn’t the worst written comic book released that week! I don’t think that’s ever happened before. Actually, the fact that a book is worse than any Jeph Loeb book is notable. Up until now Ben Raab’s Master of Kung Fu was the only comic book in my memory that earned the distinction of being sub-Loebian in quality.

It definitely reads better in context of the other issues, but that’s just a defense of the overall storyline, not this single issue, so if this single issue was bad in and of itself (I’ll give it a re-read to see what I think about it – I don’t recall being put off upon first reading it, but I also don’t recall particularly liking it either), then that’s still a fair complaint.

I would argue, AKD, that this is far more immature than most comics I read. It’s pretending at maturity without really delving into mature themes, and that’s part of why I think it’s awful. The biggest problem I have with this, and other DC comics, is that they desperately want to be mature, but they also want to pretend that kids are reading these books. If this truly were a mature comic where Nightwing has to deal with real issues, I wouldn’t mind. But it’s not.

As for everyone else … well, I’ll be back to respond later. I just got a bit upset with AKD’s comment.

Yes, this comic exists mostly to “titillate” the public -the ones who love bloodshed, anyway. I suppose it also contains a story, but it IS a pretty pathetic one. Nightwing fails to save the victim, who is there just to die, and Two-Face gets away. Beating a roomful of crooks in the process is NO accomplishment, not for Dick. And the fear gas? How many times have Dick and the rest of the Bat-Family been exposed to it? You’d think that by now a) they’d be more resistant to it or b) they’d CALL FOR HELP IMMEDIATELY- Batman, the police, the League, ANYBODY. But noo! He stubbornly takes on it solo, makes some really lame comments, uses brutal force against people he can’t even see well, and can’t even talk Harvey out of it the way Batman has in the past. Indeed, this issue was about nothing but heroic failure. And yes, par for the course for the New DC. :(

I agree with Brian. I’ve loved Tomasi’s run on Nightwing so far, including the last two issues. I was shocked to see that Nightwing had become a good comic, and I’ve sung its praises all over the place. And I thought this one was unnecessarily BLOODY and GRIM and DEPRESSING and SERIOUS.

It was just . . . no good.

but they also want to pretend that kids are reading these books.

In fairness to DC, I don’t think they are even pretending to give a fuck about whether or not kids pick up one of their books ever again outside of the random Johnny DC or Cartoon Network book. I never even hear any of the editorial or creators even mention child readership in their interviews for at least a decade.

T’s right. Kids aren’t on the radar. I honestly think that this is what passes for adult in the current arrested-adolescent state of DC editorial .

I agree this was the weakest Tomasi comic I’ve read but I do not believe it was any where near was awful as the reviewer. I thought it was one of those “writing for the trade” issues.

I really thought this post was joke as I was reading it but the punchline never came. Maybe the campaign season is affecting the comics blogs. Maybe I just missed something because apart from Carols death I don’t see what all the rage is about.

Reading this column, I do wonder how Greg would react to Final Crisis: Rogue’s Revenge 2, which IMHO is much more gory/violent than this comic. (IMHO, it’s also a much better comic and the violence is more appropriate given the characters. But that’s a separate issue.)

Greg, I meant mature in the sense that violence and death are mature themes from which children are usually sheltered. I didn’t mean it in the sense that the story was sophisticated. It was probably a poor description on my part.

What killed me was that the basic plot… Nightwing tries to save Carol and fails, then we get the reveal that Harvey was using Dick to try to save her from Two-Face… aside from the women in refrigerators part, that’s a good bit of story, I think. But in the execution… I dunno why they felt they needed the ocean of blood or any of that other stuff.

Perhaps the comic was meant for kids?

I mean, kids ARE into gore. A kid will likely find all the bloody and hardcore nastiness “cool” and “wicked”. It’s a mistake to think most kids will be shocked by this stuff. It’s only middle-aged people who have kids themselves that are shocked thinking about their little angels getting their hands on such comics.


Appropriately enough, I just got done watching The Producers (the new one). There’s a line in there that’s appropriate in this context: “This [show] has got to close… on page 4.”

Sounds sick. What a depressing, unpleasant excuse for a story. And I really am beginning to see this complaint about violence against women. Yes, I suppose it’s one of those things that addresses men’s interest in protecting or saving a woman. But this is too much. Scenes just bathed in blood her blood? BLEH.

Adding this kind of violence and seriousness and darkness to a story with people dressed in silly costumes makes it all seem more ridiculous than it did when they weren’t so dark.

I wouldn’t call this “serious,” Ethan. Frankly, it sounds like something you’d see in a Troma flick.

I had thought that the DC Universe was supposed to lighten up after “Infinite Crisis”; did I misunderstand? And of course I thought of Spoiler when I saw “torture porn”.

I understand that this is part of a larger story arc, and I’m not too pissed off with the general plot, even though it doesn’t really advance in this issue too far. Tomasi actually does a decent job explaining who Carol is, and even though I don’t know what the “Blackhole investigation” is, I got that Dick had a history with her that was a bit more than professional. I’m not objecting to the overall story, and as I mentioned, despite the weird way Tomasi chooses to delve into it, looking at Harvey’s psychosis isn’t a bad thing. But this particular issue was really bad, and not only with the violence, but it was badly written, too. Maybe if I had been reading the two issues before this, I could forgive it, but this issue doesn’t make me want to check those out in any way.

I’m not really that bent out of shape that kids can easily pick this up. Parents should monitor what their kids read, anyway, and Rene’s right – kids do like things that are gory, and I know I didn’t turn into a raving psychopath when I saw gory things as a 12-year-old, so other kids probably won’t either. It’s just that this is immature despite the violence, and it seems like DC is trying to have its cake and eat it too. If they know that no children are reading it and don’t care to lure kids to read it, why not make it actually “mature”? Tomasi can write mature comics, because I’ve read some that he’s written. Walking the line like a lot of DC books do is silly.

Thok: Depending on the quality of Rogues’ Revenge, I might react favorably. I have no problem with gore and violence, just gore and violence that feels like it’s there for the sake of being gory and violent, like this is.

Seriously, it is this kind of stuff that got me out of superhero comics. You put it perfectly that DC does not understand what “mature” is.

After Blue Beetle got shot point blank in the head and after it seemed that the writers of today wanted to brutally murder all the heroes I grew up with, I knew it was time to go.

I have a weathered copy of the trade for Spider-Man: Round Robin (or Round Robin’s Revenge or some such). It is by no stretch of the imagination a great book. Pointless guest stars, super cyborgs, Moon Kinght, all that nonsense. But it’s fun, dammit. And it’s not so weighed down in it’s own sense of “this is super-serious super hero business” that it becomes a painful chore to read.

It’s not immature despite the violence, it’s immature *because of* the violence. And particularly because of the degree of it, which reaches levels of self-parody.

… and yet, people continue to read crap, out of some imagined loyalty to a character. Not even a football team (which I also wouldn’t be loyal to), but a comic book character. I hear the Flash is flying in the wind as an ongoing title, and I’ve been hearing that Nightwing hasn’t been on its feet for at least a year now. Still, people buy this.

I really wish comic hardcores would drop a book for once, save your money, and just check to see when you can come back on. Why suffer through a book that sucks, and has sucked for so long? 2 years of suckiness for that good month that eventually comes? I don’t know where you find the money to do that, but if you can afford it, then so be it.

It’s pretty damn presumptive to assume that everyone that bought this book bought it out of “imagined loyalty to a character.” As others have already commented, a lot of people didn’t think the issue was nearly as bad as Mr Burgas did. I admit I bought it because of the loose Batman R.I.P. tie-in, even though I’m not a huge fan of either tie-ins or R.I.P., but the story arc sounded interesting and the 2 issues before this had been entertaining. I didn’t think this was a great issue, but I didn’t think it was that bad, either. I had more of a problem with Ted Kord’s exploding head in silhouette or Solomon Grundy ripping off and eating Red Tornado’s arm than I did with the gore in this issue. I can definitely see why people wouldn’t like it, though. But just because people buy an issue you think is crap, doesn’t mean they’re buying it out of loyalty. Some people probably just like different things than you do.

This issue struck me as “treading water” more than any attempt to be “adult” (“torture porn” is definitely hyperbole). It was basically a long LSD-induced romp through Batman’s rogue gallery, with the plot-moving pieces executed in a few panels at the end. Not nearly as bad as Hush, which did the same thing but twelve times longer.

Sounds like crap.

Personally, I felt that the issue was going for more trippy and weird than gory and shocking, but I can see how a reader could come away with the latter. I do think that the entire sequence could have been cut in half, and it would have served the story better.

On the issue of Nightwing failing, I think that’s happening for a very specific purpose here. Two-Face is clearly upset and disillusioned by the heroes here. I’d bet that his disillusionment is needed to set up his involvement in the upcoming “Battle for the Cowl” story that Neil Gaiman is doing.

On the broader issue of heroes failing in their duty, that’s hardly something new. Isn’t that why the whole “women in refrigerators” thing started? If anything, I think it’s a trend on its way out. I mean, if you listen to Grant Morrison’s philosophy on comics, he really wants to move away from that and make superheroes capable of overcoming anything, and he’s said that that’s the direction he’s trying to go with the entire DCU post Final Crisis.

Bernard the Poet

October 7, 2008 at 3:05 am

Greg, I’m on board when you criticise this issue for being too violent – far too much blood – but I really can’t agree that it should also be condemned, because “Dick fails in pretty much every way in this comic”. Do you really only want to read stories where the hero is an unqualified success. Wouldn’t that be a little boring?

Personally, I’d like to see the villains achieve few more out-and-out victories. It would add suspense and reflect real life.

I’m also on board with the too violent issue. I think DC has a huge problem with this across the board and it’s getting increasingly frustrating as a reader.

But at least see where this is going. Tomasi is WELL aware of the “dick never wins” complaints that a big chunk of the hardcore fanbase has and thats’ why he portrayed him as almost too competant in his first couple of stories. This is most likely going somewhere.

In 2008, I really don’t see the point of judging an issue as something that stands alone. It’s the third part of the story. I don’t read the third chapter in a book without reading 1 and 2.

Yes, Bernard, those are the only two options for heroes: abject failure (complete with blood!) or unqualified success. No middle ground whatsoever.

I’m also not a “oh no, think of the children!” kinda person, but I’m sure there are many parents who aren’t aware that a comic book with Batman villains on the cover would be filled with blood and gore…

I had thought that the DC Universe was supposed to lighten up after “Infinite Crisis”; did I misunderstand?

I think this misconception came about from people misreading the metacommentary in Infinite Crisis. People saw all the pre-Crisis characters critiquing the darkness of the post-Crisis characters in the early issues and thought “Wow, DC is regretting its recent excessive darkness, meaning lighter times are to come.” But what happened? Two of the pre-Crisis characters died, one beaten to a bloody pulp. The other two were revealed to be villains, and one of these two turned out to be a hypocrite because he became the most violent character of all. The other villain died with a whimper not a bang in a back alley.

Meanwhile the new ultraviolent modern heroes rose to the challenge and proved themselves to be the true heroes. To me the message was, “Yes, we’re a rape filled, bloody, murder-filled, cynical universe filled with infighting heroes that have constant moral failings and are often ineffective at saving lives, but we’re no less heroic than those overrated heroes of the past when it comes down to it.” I thought it was an endorsement of darkness, not a manifesto renouncing it. All the Pollyannas either proved to be hypocrites that turned into ultraviolent villains themselves and proved to be naive and ot of touch with what it takes to fight modern evil. And 3 out of 4 of the old-schoolers died. And if he book was really renouncing the violent direction DC comics have taken, why would it have Earth-2 Superman beaten to a bloody pulp so close to the end of the book?

wow… I don’t read DC… not on principle… I just don’t care for the characters or the DCU… but now you’ve definitely made me want to at least flip through this book. Sounds like some of the great pre-code horror stuff… just with some known characters. Rock on! :)

[…] Greg Burgas asks, “Is DC now publishing torture porn?” Elsewhere, Laura Hudson […]

Apart from everything else– not to be a hopeless pedant about it– but the “Hallucinating one’s entire rogues’ gallery” to fill an entire issue of a comic book is every bit as lame a way to pad a story as doing a clips episode with a “Remember that time…” framing sequence used to be for a TV show. It was lame way back when Roy Thomas did it in Spider-Man #100 and it hasn’t gotten any less so in the years since. This is the same kind of filler, only with added blood and stupidity.

“Apart from everything else– not to be a hopeless pedant about it– but the “Hallucinating one’s entire rogues’ gallery” to fill an entire issue of a comic book is every bit as lame a way to pad a story”

That’s one of my two problems with Peter Tomasi. His arcs tends to run an issue or two too long and there is always one issue where you realize “this is just filling up pages.” The other problem being his 22nd pages/cliffhangers are lacking.

I wonder, if 6 (issues) is the magic number for trades why don’t writers write 2 three issue arcs instead of a 4 issue arc that is one issue too long and a 2 issue arc that feels like filler?

Other than that I think Tomasi is one of the better writers at DC or Marvel.

Bernard the Poet

October 7, 2008 at 8:26 am

“Yes, Bernard, those are the only two options for heroes: abject failure (complete with blood!) or unqualified success. No middle ground whatsoever.”

Erm… I’m pretty sure that I didn’t write that.

The point I was tryiing to make is that it is perfectly legitimate for Peter Tomasi or any other writer to write a story where “Dick fails in pretty much every way”, that is not automatically a bad thing. The question should be whether Tomasi wrote a good story in which “Dick fails in pretty much every way” or a bad story in which “Dick fails in pretty much”.

“To each his own, but I prefer my villains to be truly dangerous people.”

No, you don’t. You prefer them to be fantastically dangerous fictional characters. Nothing true about those.

Sounds more crapola than truly offensive. Unless crap is offensive to you. Meh, it’s always about the signal to noise ratio with comics. Sometimes the ratio’s pretty high, sometimes not.

What really gets me is that Laura from Myriad Issues is now trying to condemn all superhero big-company comics with the same paintbrush, just because this issue of Nightwing sucked balls. oooooh kay. we get it. You like indie comics that have nothing to do with tights.

… she is?

What I got out of it is “I don’t really enjoy this stuff anymore,” which is hardly the same thing as condemnation.

She also said she enjoyed Marvel’s First Class books, so I kind of wonder how much of the post you actually read…

I actually still enjoy more than a few superhero books — they just tend to be OOC, like All Star Superman, Powers, Marvel’s First Class books, Astro City, several of the Marvel Adventures books, Lethem’s Omega the Unknown, and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, just to name a few off the top of my head.

I continue to love superheroes quite a lot, which is precisely why I end up so depressed and disappointed when I read the majority of ongoing in continuity books from Marvel and DC. There are exceptions, of course, but not that many. Superhero miniseries tend to be more limited in scope, retaining a single creative team and aiming for a specific narrative arc, so I find they tend to fare better with me than the ongoings.

Also, if you wanted to respond to me, Agent_Torpor, why you didn’t do so on my post?

“It was lame way back when Roy Thomas did it in Spider-Man #100…”

Wow, you’ve been around for a while.

That Tom and Jerry sculpture is funny, and raises some questions.

Cartoons like those already are extremely violent. Road Runner and stuff like that. But most people are only shocked by GRAPHIC violence, not by violence itself.

It may be that it has less to do with morality and more with simply physical revulsion.

Wow, you’ve been around for a while

Eh? What’s that, sonny?

…yeah, I know. Bought it off the stands, even. Back when dinosaurs walked the earth and we got our comics carved on stone tablets.

Actually, I’m just grateful Mr. Burgas refers to me as “the Other Greg” and not “the old Greg.”

Nightwing 149 is a tie-in issue that’s part of an ongoing storyline. If not for RIP, Peter Tomasi would continue to be writing what has been the most positive, wholesome Nightwing in YEARS. His run is literally the “Chicken soup for the Nightwing Soul.” What you’re asking for in a comic is essentially what Tomasi’s first Nightwing storyline does!!

But no, you had to pick up the trippy fightfest issue and base your whole opinion of Tomasi’s writing or DC’s comics on THIS ONE ISSUE.

Is this issue or the ongoing story perfect? No, but then it is a tie-in to Morrison’s darker and trippier Batman RIP, which has managed to disrupt several other books as well this year. In other words, these stories were plotted and written on short notice. Perfection is not a realistic expectation here. Although, what they have managed to get done is not as bad as you make it sound either.

However, If you must talk about a book that demonstrates best how DC has sunk low, I suggest you read Sean McKeever’s Teen Titans (shocking considering that he wrote Mary Jane loves Spiderman) and Adam Beechen’s Batgirl miniseries. Neither are tied in with a major comic book event and have had many months to be plotted out and written but unfortunately were made to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Nightwing 149, though violent, is nowhere near as demeaning or demented as those two series have been to their respective characters and readers. As you have acknowledged, 149 is just one part of an ongoing story that if you actually took the time to read, you might have gotten the context much better. As is, your review is quite biased, uninformed and unfair to Peter Tomasi and Don Kramer who have done nothing but the most positive work any Nightwing creative team has done in a very long time. Or will do if DC decides that positive Nightwing doesn’t sell and wants to return the character to “emo-loser-batman-lite”.

Oh, but hey…go ahead, tell people to ignore the character and whatever good writing Tomasi might have done or will do once this stupid RIP event is over.

Personally, I think Teen Titans is an insult to the lowest common denominator.

“But no, you had to pick up the trippy fightfest issue and base your whole opinion of Tomasi’s writing or DC’s comics on THIS ONE ISSUE.”

If I buy a chicken salad sandwich, and it turns out that 5% of the sandwich is dog shit, not chicken salad, I’m going to complain about the dog shit and not praise the other 95% of the sandwich.

Agreed on the general opinion that if you think this one issue is representative of the entire run or even this story arc in and of itself, you’re very much missing the point. This is Tomasi beating down on the hero before the big triumphant comeback (in an anniversary issue, no less), which is basic comic storytelling 101. Also, Dick has been almost PREPOSTEROUSLY successful over the past year in this book – staring down Talia, basically single-handedly repairing the U.S. relationship with China, etc. – and this was his first “loss” in quite a while. If you read this book and thought it was an indicator of the overall tone of the title… well, it’s not. It was supposed to be a jarring, hallucinatory change of pace against what’s normally a very conventional super-hero book, and that’s what it was.

Not that there aren’t some bad elements – as pointed out, the background work got very lazy towards the end, as it looks as though Harvey and Carol are on the roof when they’re obviously not supposed to be (the panel before the Dick / Carol juxtaposition kinda shows what all the other shots *should* have looked like; that they didn’t is a fault of Kramer).

I do think it’s weird that, after all of this, the blurb for the next issue hypes Two-Face getting his revenge on *Nightwing* (EG, shouldn’t that be the other way around?), and while it did seem like a “look, here’s a bunch of Bat-Villains!” type of sales grab that wasn’t really important in the grand scheme of things (pick up from “Two-Face shoots Carol” and you miss nothing), I don’t think this is an indication that DC’s going the way of the Saw movies.

I mean, geez, if that’s the case, Invincible should be banned from bookstores, because the average issue of that is about twenty times bloodier than this was, and usually in far more superfluous ways.

I wasn’t too shocked by any of it because I knew it was part of the hallucination of Scarecrow’s fear toxin. Of course it was going to be nightmarish and gruesome. (Didn’t something similar happen during Dixon’s run, now that I think about it?) I was rather shocked that Nightwing did not save the woman, but I think it worked in the story. Also interesting to see Two Face rather fighting himself and who hired him in the last pages.

Maybe if you just picked up this issue, it seems totally off. Yet that’s your fault for jumping into the middle of a story.

>(Didn’t something similar happen during Dixon’s run, now that I think about it?)<

Had this in my post and deleted it, but, yeah, very early on. I want to say it was the issue right before Batman showed up.

(There’s a great bit with a still-wigged-out Dick being woken up by Clancy and having to come up with an alibi. Funny work by McDaniel)

[…] a series of bloody, violent encounters with familiar Batman villains, and has been roundly criticized for it.  Supergirl #34 has been praised largely for returning Supergirl to some semblance of […]

You actually HAVE to read all of Big Leap to understand this fic. This review is not fair and makes you look very unintelligent. Peter Tomasi has been nothing but brilliant with Nightwing. Want to complain about how Nightwing’s being written? Go read the Batman issues of Batman RIP

Er comic not fic.

[…] # 149: I want to see what all the hubbub is over.  Which I kind of see as a shame to be honest, as I like Peter Tomasi’s […]

I gotta go find this comic!


October 9, 2008 at 7:17 pm

Actually, I’m just grateful Mr. Burgas refers to me as “the Other Greg” and not “the old Greg.”

But who wouldn’t want to be Old Gregg?


I’m sorry, but the idiot who wrote this doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about. You want torture porn, then check out Teen Titans. You want darkness, go to Final Crisis.

Peter Tomasi has written the best Nightwing arc in a long time. He writes Nightwing to his full potential, and this guy is blabbing about violence in comics. There is so much worse out there that it’s not even funny. Grow up and enjoy the arc.


October 9, 2008 at 8:20 pm

I’m sorry, but the idiot who wrote this doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about.

Grow up and enjoy the arc.

Way to address the points he made…

You actually HAVE to read all of Big Leap to understand this fic. This review is not fair and makes you look very unintelligent. Peter Tomasi has been nothing but brilliant with Nightwing. Want to complain about how Nightwing’s being written? Go read the Batman issues of Batman RIP

If you only want to be judged by the complete story, then release it as a graphic novel.

If you release it as serialized fiction, it’s completely fair to judge each part on its own – that’s the downside of serialized fiction.

“If I buy a chicken salad sandwich, and it turns out that 5% of the sandwich is dog shit, not chicken salad, I’m going to complain about the dog shit and not praise the other 95% of the sandwich.”

I got a better analogy. You go to a restaurant known for serving the best steaks in town. Unfortunately, it’s Good Friday, and the restaurant decided to change their menu for the one night due to the head chef/owner being a christian who will not eat meat and expects everyone else to follow. And they do, because they want to keep their job.

Still you just happened to be in the neighborhood and you’re starving and want protein, so one of the chefs offers you fish.

At this point…you can walk away and come back on Easter Sunday when the restaurant will serve steak again or you can sit and eat fish, which you don’t even like.

Whatever the case is…does the one night they don’t serve steak take away the fact that when they do make steak like normal, it has been awesome? I don’t think so. It’s just one night that happened because of some special event, in this case a religious holiday.

Nightwing 149 happened because of Batman RIP.

It’s a tie in storyline made on short notice and made to match the somber, trippy, violent mood of Batman RIP. And it’s NOT the only book to have done so. Batman and the Outsiders, Robin, Detective Comics were all effected in the same manner by Morrison’s impromptu plotting and writing of Batman RIP.

I have absolutely no problem with the notion of giving behind the scenes reasons why a story might be bad.

The comic remains bad, but sure, it is helpful to note WHY the comic was bad.

It is extremely funny to see all the ‘fans’ (aka babymen who wants their teenage fantasies to grow up with them and become all dark and dirty) finding excuses of why this issue ‘could’ be bad (including peperspray with his ridiculous steak/fish story). It’s bad and it’s bad, no excuses. ‘Eagle Eye’ is bad, and the fact that Shia was in better movies before, or that DJ Caruso is a good rirector doesn’t make it better. Nightwing sucks, period. Now you can still keep reading it, you can even like it, but you are not going to make it good by defending it.

I’m not surprised by this issue. This is what the DCU is these days. And that’s why I’ve dropped all those books. Specifically, right after that family picnic buzzsaw-fest in JSA. And comparing the torture porn in Nightwing to Teen Titans to Final Crisis is really just a reflection of which books you personally are being loyal to. From the outside, they really are all just as bleak. Joe’s ‘dark and dirty’ works great.

Part of the reason I’m so turned off is just that it’s so bad. But part is also the rest of the world. Ten years ago, blood and guts storylines weren’t an issue. But IF you read comics in part for escapism (and remember we don’t all have the same reason for reading them, so that eliminates a lot of universal reactions right there), and suddenly real life is dominated by blood and guts, then having your comics be “good versus silly” is actually pretty darn appealing.

Many people do react the opposite way. There was that IFC documentary about how the first rise of slasher flicks (Texas Chainsaw, etc) was a direct psychological response to Vietnam. And now we have Hostel etc. Some parts of the comics industry, including most divisions of DC, have decided to cater to that half. And it’s a big, lucrative half.

Although I still really hope that the far more extreme crap that Ennis and Ellis are grinding out over at Avatar is going too far and doesn’t find a market.

There’s an old adage that goes: “Write what you know.”

If you don’t know anything about this arc, this character (and it’s obvious) then don’t write about it.

Show some respect.

If you only want to be judged by the complete story, then release it as a graphic novel.

If you release it as serialized fiction, it’s completely fair to judge each part on its own – that’s the downside of serialized fiction.

So I shouldn’t review any issue unless I read everything around it? How far back does that go? Should I pick up every issue Tomasi has written? Should I pick up every issue of this title (all 148 of them)? How far back? As Brian has pointed out repeatedly, if DC wants me to judge this as a whole, release it as a whole. I’m not saying anything about the bigger story arc, I’m pointing out that this particular issue was awful. And not only was it awful as a single issue, it was indicative of what DC seems to be doing these days. I freely admit that I’m reading it out of context. But that doesn’t mean I can’t look at how awful this book is and how despicable this particular issue is. Maybe the previous issue was the best comic book ever published. Maybe the next issue will be. Even if you’ve read the previous two issues, I don’t know how you can argue that the “murders” that Dick commits in this issue are almost lovingly rendered. It’s just depressing that this is what DC is doing a lot of these days. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that people aren’t reading as many DC books as they used to.

Don’t worry, though – I have no plans on buying the rest of it, so I can show some “respect” by not enabling this kind of crap. Where’s the respect DC shows its readers?

First of all Joe, I’m a girl that got into Nightwing in the past year. So you calling me a babyman who wants my comics to grow up with me is severely incorrect. Sorry you hated my goofy story but it was simply a response to the poster above me who compared it to a bad chicken sandwich, in case you missed my quoting his food analogy.

Kristen, kudos for saving your money. But…

“And comparing the torture porn in Nightwing to Teen Titans to Final Crisis is really just a reflection of which books you personally are being loyal to. From the outside, they really are all just as bleak.”

No. incorrect. You cannot lump them all together as if they’re the same. They’re not. It’s unfair to Morrison, Rucka, McKeever and Tomasi and all their respective artist teams. You have several different brand of writing styles there. Tomasi’s for certain is not bleak and McKeever’s used to not be. On top of that, each book has a different audience.

The reason I mention Teen Titans is several reasons. One…it’s own title is enough to attract younger readers. Two, there was a cartoon by the same name that attracted another wave of young readers. and three, Sean McKeever is known for writing MaryJane Loves Spiderman which is considered to be a very fun youthful book.

But if anyone’s been following his work in DC, well…it’s of a very different and more violent flavor. I’m not arguing that DC is making more violent comics, No way. The fact of the matter is they got one of the funnest writers from Marvel to come over and write bleak, angry, angsty, violent stories for what could’ve been a youthful fun book but isn’t.

Just so you know that way folks can stop putting me into their little boxes so I can fit in with their stereotype… I read both dark and silly/fun comics, though I lean more towards fun comics. I’m a big fan of Blue Beetle, Tiny Titans, Teen Titans Year One. Hell, I even read cute shojo (girl’s) manga. But I also love reading Nightwing, Robin, Detective Comics, Trinity and Batman on occasion.

I never read Nightwing before because it WAS too bleak. But since positive writers like Fabian Nicieza and Peter Tomasi began writing the character this year, I found the book to be quite charming so I began reading it.

I would have more respect for the writer of this article if he had picked up MORE than one issue of ANY DC comic to make his point about where DC is going. (ya know, like a real journalist/researcher would…) But no…he’s simply relying on ONE issue of Nightwing, a book he’s clearly not interested in and telling people to not buy this series.

And it’s just laughable because for once the book has become a positive fun book like what he wants to see in comics and he’s using this one tie-in issue to judge DC’s trend toward the darker. It’s ironic.

Sorry, you had to see something so offensive Mr. Burgas, but it’s not definitive of the Nightwing title anymore. (then again, since when are Tie-in issues ever?) Peter Tomasi is not writing what you consider torture porn on a monthly basis. If he were, I would not be reading it. This one issue is just definitive of the Batbooks editorial and DC wanting to revamp their Batman character through special events such as RIP. Is that a good thing? You would say no, I would say, who knows…But…I think a certain box-office hit movie featuring the character this summer had a hand in that… I could be wrong! But it is what it is.

“I freely admit that I’m reading it out of context.”

Wish you had started out your review with that and reminding readers that yeah…this is a TIE-IN issue. I wouldn’t have read this article (cuz tie-in issues are usually not indicative of the entire series and so I could care less about the review of one) if not for the fact that someone I usually read linked you and has gotten a rather incomplete view of the book because of you.

“There’s absolutely no reason for this issue to exist except as “torture porn,” meaning that it allows the creators to indulge in horrific violence for violence’s sake, and they can’t even use the excuse that it’s all in Dick’s head, because the character he’s supposed to saved gets gut-shot and bleeds to death.”

Oh noes, superheros are not allowed to fail, even ONCE. But more to the point…each writer is now responsible for the writing of other writers before him/her!

so if other writers have written contstant blood and gore, and this writer wants to write one failure after a bloody/gory hallucination…he’s NOT allowed to! Regardless of the fact that he’s mostly written positive fun stories, or that this issue serves to show the hero fighting his hardest against his enemies for once in spite of his fear of failing or hurting others.

Oy, it’s not perfect, but I already explained why. Judging the series by this one issue is wrong, no matter which way you look at it. And Peter Tomasi has no need to apologize or feel shame for something that when taken into context, isn’t as awful as newcomers would imagine. If you must criticize DC for anything it should be for pushing long over-arching stories that people have to buy many issues of in order to get the whole story.

Oh wait. they won’t. They want to guarantee sales. Imagine that. They’re thinking like a business. Hm…

“Don’t worry, though – I have no plans on buying the rest of it, so I can show some “respect” by not enabling this kind of crap. Where’s the respect DC shows its readers?”

Thank god, cuz you really dont’ have a clue for someone trying to write an informative review for a comicbook website. You might as well have posted this on your personal blog, it’s about as unbiased as a fanboy’s blog can get.

As for how DC’s not showing respect to its readers…which readers? It’s not a parent that has to be equally loving with all its unique children.

Well, shit, PepperSpray, thanks for that. You admit that you haven’t read any of my stuff before, so you have no idea what I generally read. It’s all out there on the blog, and I buy plenty of DC books that I love. I have read many of the books that show this trend in DC books, starting with Identity Crisis. That was four years ago, and it hasn’t really changed since. It just depresses me.

I have never said that I just want fun comics. I want good comics. Again, check out what I like before you put me in your little boxes, like other commenters have done to you. This issue is not good. So I don’t like it. End of story.

Greg – Real question. Are you condemning this specific issue — and, as a tie-in, it really is in its own subcategory — or are you condemning the series? I was assuming the former but maybe not.

Mr. Burgas’s piece is written in a completely valid journalistic style: op/ed, in which one is not obligated to do anything but articulate one’s own viewpoint. He does so from a valid and consistent basis, choosing to write about a single recent issue of Nightwing as a text unto itself– the format in which it was published. He announces this in the damned title of the piece, so why should he have to “warn” people he’s not discussing Nightwing in a larger context? He already told you he wasn’t.

That you dislike his choice of format and viewpoint does not invalidate his writing in any way. There is a long and totally valid tradition of criticizing installments of a serial on their own individual merits, and I would suggest you familiarize yourself with it.

Kristen: I’m not condemning the series at all, as I haven’t read any issues prior to this one. That’s why I don’t have any problem if people say that Tomasi has been doing a good job with the title. Maybe if I had bought the previous issue, I would have had a different reaction. My reaction to this issue was more based on trends that I have noticed in DC for a few years.

Thanks for having my back, Lynxara! I just wish people wouldn’t get so angry about things. It’s just a comic book. If I had so much power to influence people to NOT buy titles, why don’t I have similar power to get people to buy ones I like? Why aren’t Rex Mundi and Godland top sellers?


October 12, 2008 at 7:19 pm

If you don’t know anything about this arc, this character (and it’s obvious) then don’t write about it.

So have you read every review and or comment Greg has written for this blog, and perhaps every other piece written on the blog to see it in the larger picture?

Because otherwise you’ve got no right to write about this as you aren’t writing what you know.

Show some respect.



(That’s to be read in the style of that weird arse kid on youtube).

Nightwing continues on a train wreck path…

Comics Should be Good looks at issue 149 of the former Teen Wonder’s title, and from the description of the “torture porn” taking place in this chapter of Dick Grayson’s solo book, it’s clear that this book is headed for disaster…

[…] is some heavy stuff going on, but it’s justified by the story and hardly gratuitous unlike what happened this month in Nightwing to earn the scorn of Hatcher’s teammate Greg […]

[…] in light of how disgusting and torture porny DC Comics has felt over the past 15 or so years, this interview creative chief Geoff Johns, in […]

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