Nightwing and Shiva battle again for the first time! Only in comics would that line make the remotest of sense. But, aside from a brief pop up in Nightwing 0, this is Shiva’s first appearance in the New 52, and her first major fight with our hero.
This issue has a lot I like. Dick shows his detective skills as he tries to figure out why Shiva is in town and who her next target, and employer, are. There’s a lot of good action, as Dick shows he is a very skilled fighter, even as he thinks to himself his skills aren’t what he wants them to be. There are developments on the story with Sonia Branch, Dick’s potential nemesis and/or love interest. I’m amused by Dick being a masterful detective and still not being able to figure women out. We also get to see him working on his major civilian project, Amusement Mile.
The fight with Shiva is well done, with Dick in awe of her skills. She both threatens and compliments him in that strange adversarial/respect relationship she’s shown before, but usually with Black Canary. Dick manages some of his usual quips (Shiva: Greatly have your skills and speed improved since last we met. Nightwing: And you haven’t even seen me dance.). Why Shiva is suddenly talking like Yoda there I’m not sure. While not winning the fight, Dick manages to save Sonia’s life, as Shiva tries to kill her. Shiva deduces Dick is “playing hurt” and takes advantage of his broken ribs from a few issues ago to end the fight, but lets him live. She also calls him “Little Bird,” which she used to call Tim Drake, who she helped train pre-reboot.
One of the best scenes was the Penguin being revealed as her employer, and his reasoning. Penguin is too often dismissed as comic relief, but there’s a reason Amanda Waller once recruited him for her Suicide Squad (again, pre-reboot). He hired Shiva to kill the government investigator from the SEC to give him time to prepare for an audit. As to why he let Nightwing know she was in town, as he put it: “I knew he couldn’t save Bicolosi (the auditor), but capturing Shiva would have saved me a rather exorbitant fee. And if she killed him, it also would have been a win.” Clever man, Penguin. The issue ends with one of the few actual mentions of the crossover this issue is allegedly part of, as Joker shows up at Blackgate Prison to go after Raya Vestri, Dick’s lover (and betrayer) from the beginning of the book. At least they didn’t bill it as part of the crossover on the cover.
So, there were a lot of good things in this book. Now, on to the bad. First off, willpower or no, there’s NO WAY Dick is moving/fighting at the level he is with broken ribs. I don’t care how good he is, how much determination he has, it’s just not going to happen.
Now, a lot of what I’m going to say next is specific to the reboot and things I don’t like about it. If you’re a fan of the New 52, stop here. For those still around, onward. One of the things that galls me about the New 52 is their claim that they maintain a cast of diverse characters. I’m not sure what definition of “diverse” they are using, but it doesn’t match the one I know from the dictionary. Two shining examples of that show up in this issue. One, Lucius Fox, who Dick uses to get more information on the dead government agent, looks like he’s about 25. DC seems bound and determined to get rid of most characters with any hint of grey hair, or de-age them, no matter how improbably.
Additionally, Lady Shiva has always been shown as ethnic Chinese, or at least Asian. Every appearance of her I have, her entry in the Who’s Who in the DC Universe, and in the DC Encyclopedia have always shown her as Asian. Now, somehow, it’s more “diverse” for her to have green eyes, a Caucasian trait? It’s not a simple coloring error, they are clearly green several times. So, sure, they are diverse. They just have fewer gay characters, made Amanda Waller skinny, de-aged everyone, removed their two wheelchair bound characters… to quote the Princess Bride, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”
That to one side, I also really don’t like the reworking of Nightwing’s costume on about every level. His blue stripe was changed to red, which, as I’ve said before, makes NO sense for a character who relies on stealth. Also, before, it was a nice clean, simple costume, befitting an acrobat. Now it has random lines all over it, possibly meant to indicate armor, which is JUST what you want when relying on being agile and fast. They also gave him the Batman fins on his forearms, and it just looks wrong.
Nightwing is my favorite character, but many of the reasons why no longer apply in this rebooted world. I’m sticking with the book for now, but it’s not as much fun as it once was.
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