Thursday, February 24, 2005

BATMAN #637

Greater minds than mine will have to explain how Judd Winick can write a credible Nightwing in Batman and yet... create such an unappealing, foreign (and I mean "who-is-that-dude stranger", not "exotic") version over in Outsiders. Why is he channeling Joe Kelly here -- go read JLA: Obsidian Age if you doubt that these are Kelly's Bruce and Dick -- and going for a sort of Worst of Devin Grayson and Jay Faerber in Titans approach over in Outsiders?

I have spent the last several months griping, groaning, and lamenting Winick's authorial choices in Outsiders, Green Arrow, and pretty much everything from the last few issues of Green Lantern on. His distortion of narrative and plot to achieve witty repartee, his glaring inability to create viable villains and foils, and his gravest sin: the subjugation of the superhero action serial genre to better service his social activist needs -- a fundamentally selfish act dressed in the raiment of selflessness. Winick pats himself on the back as readers leave Green Arrow and Outsiders in droves.

There has been nothing in the past few years of gay bashing, child endangerment, prostitution, and HIV storylines to merit anyone plunking down the $2.25 for a Winick-written Batman for any reason other than perverse pleasure and a masochistic streak.... Except for the fact that, so far, Winick's Batman run has been eminently readable.

Oh, it's still early and Winick's going to be here for a while and I give him six months before we're exploring the depths of some hot-button issue -- will Stephanie Brown's baby be illegally adopted? Is Dana Drake being abused by orderlies in her institution? Will Alfred be felled by some disease with underfunded research? Will Pamela Anderson guest star in an arc about the dangers of saline-based breast enhancements? -- but for the time being, this is fun. And I haven't been able to say that about anything Winick has written since Green Lantern #153.

By either circumstance or design, on this title Winick is being given support for his biggest weaknesses. He is speaking through Dick Grayson, ever chatty and his most suitable narrator since Kyle Rayner, and that keeps him from needing to work too hard to get his banter in. Batman has enough villains that Winick doesn't need to either create any new ones or dust off and adapt older ones. And, in the wake of the execrable War Games, Winick simply has too much to do to get Gotham set up again that even he can't find the time and space to indulge his personal propaganda urges.

The result is entertaining -- Black Mask is a businessman's crime lord, unflappable and professional, as both he and Batman establish themselves in this new world order. By using Nightwing, Winick can leave both Batman and Black Mask opaque and that leaves readers wondering and wanting more.

I just wish I had faith in this continuing. But fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice....

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