Saturday, December 18, 2004

#98. Nightwing, Identity Crisis, Wrestling, Survivor

There's only one icon in comics that rose from sidekick status to replace his mentor. He's Wally West, and he's the fastest man alive, The Flash. Likewise, there's only one icon in comics that will never be treated as such. His name is Dick Grayson, and he outgrew sidekick status and did what even Wally could never dream of. He became his own hero. He became Nightwing.

Nightwing the comic recently hit the 100 issue mark, and it's the first issue I've picked up in a very long time. I found out that the other Grayson in comics, Devin K., is after all a worthy successor to Chuck Dixon on the title. She's retained everything that made the title great (and even gets Scott McDaniel to do covers for her), and has kept one of the most remarkable things about the title going: focus and continuity. If you began with the very first issue, you will not be left wondering if you're reading a new version of the character, a new interpretation. Nightwing, since he remains outside the superstar bubble, is being allowed to have his story told, exactly as every character in comics should be allowed to, the proper care and pacing to reveal a real person behind the comic book gloss. Dick has issues. He's had them since before he was ever Nightwing, before he was ever the first Robin. That's something #100 makes clear, and the continuity that the ensuing Nightwing: Year One storyline will no doubt emphasize. But since he's no longer Robin, and has actually moved on, and because he's a character so well established yet allowed to remain free from static purgatory, he's also the only icon allowed to grow, and not just grow up.

The naysayers will probably tell you the Blockbuster saga that ran for nearly a hundred issues (ending with #93, with ramifications continuing from there) puts Nightwing into a wannabe mold of Marvel's Daredevil. It's not true, though. Blockbuster was no Kingpin. As far as I know, the only definition Kingpin ever received as a character was that he was, um, a kingpin, a baddy who Matt Murdock paid heavy prices to fight and eventually defeat and usurp (Daredevil currently reigns as Hell's Kitchen's new Kingpin). Blockbuster, meanwhile, ran through a gamut of personal arcs. The first occured before he ever came across Nightwing. He has his own origin, and a modified one come the Mark Waid-penned "Underworld Unleashed" crossover event from about a year before the launch of Dick's first-ever series. And on top of that, he had issues he needed to work out, from his mother to the gross aftereffects of the events that made him a giant. He might have become a genius, but even he couldn't outlive all the vices that went with becoming a criminal mastermind.

Nightwing could never hope to defeat Blockbuster himself. That much was clear, and that it took nearly a hundred issues to finally complete the deed is testement enough to the fortitude of the series. There's not much rest for Dick. He has an entire supporting cast that, outside of Gotham connections, never existed before #1. Was there ever a chance that any created from that point was going to become as famous as a Commissioner Gordon, a Lois Lane, a Joker? Maybe, but even if there were, the series was never going to rest long enough to let them stay put, static, for very long. In a way, Nightwing's own title came along at just the right time. Heck, Gordon retired, didn't he? When would that have ever happened before? Some of the villains that he's come across have found their way outside his title (Lady Vic, for example), but others, like Torque, never lasted very long. Had Torque been any other icon's nemesis, he'd still be kicking around today. Even Hush, Doomsday, and Bane can't go away. Didn't Hush turn out to be the Riddler?

And speaking of which, Identity Crisis's assassin turned out to be...Jean Loring! I picked up #7, the final issue of the groundbreaking crossover event, yesterday and was shocked to learn it wasn't Ray Palmer, the Atam, as it seemed last issue, but rather his ex-wife, who went mad and accidently killed Sue Dibney, the Elongated Man Ralph's wife, in an effort to Ray interested in her again. A lot of what fans have come to expect from these types of events was completely circumvented by Brad Melzter, writer to artist Rags Morales (whom I first discovered on the late, lamented Hourman series from a few years back), including the final issue, which was more of a crescendo than a crashing finale, subdued and introspective, leaving all traces of the villains from past issues, including Dr. Light, behind, as well as a conclusive close on the effects of a revelation concerning Batman, aside from the continuing dawning it had on the aforementioned Wally West. What the event amounted to was an awakening, on par with Mark Waid's Kingdom Come, set in continuity and affecting the entirety of the DC universe without anymore than a few instances of devastation, far less in scale than anyone would have ever imagined it would take to do so. Almost the size of an atom.

Did I buy into the hype? You bet I did. Because this one deserved it. For all the talk that the heart of the hero has always been Marvel's forte, I can only argue the contrary. It's with DC, and it always has been. Marvel might pride itself in making heroes easily identified with, but the stories that hit closest to home are found in the house Superman built...

Abruptly now, let's switch tracks back to professional wrestling. The current issue of The Wrestler/Inside Wrestling has an article on none other than Orlando Jordan, which either speaks to his rising profile or that of JBL, who incredibly walked out of Armageddon still Smackdown's heavyweight champion. Who's going to stop the Champion of all Champions? This past Thursday it looked like it might be Kurt Angle (looking awkward applying the ankle lock to someone tall for a change), until the Big Show reared his ugly bald head once again. Show has been on a roll since he returned a few months back, and now that he has seemingly put Angle and his cohorts behind him, he can perhaps offer JBL his greatest challenge yet.

To do it, Show can use the F5, which he has recently taken to using. But there's also Brock Lesnar to consider. recently had a news piece that suggested the Next Big Thing might be looking to make a comeback. What better way to do it than to outroot the poser who has been parading with his title for more than six months now? Has that been what the powers backstage have been planning all along? or do they want to to at last give Big Show his unadultered spotlight, a thing he has never had? Either way it's exciting just to think about it.

What's a little less climactic is Raw's decision to put off until another PPV who its world champion is. Instead of picking between Edge and Chris Benoit, Raw has added Randy Orton and Triple H, plus I believe Chris Jericho, into an elimination chamber match that will avoid the question as one of those vacancy developments. Maybe that was the plan all along, but this does give Hunter yet another chance to become champion, or Orton a chance to win his second in a fashion more suited for the Rock than for a champion presumably being pushed on his wrestling skills. Call me crazy, but Raw needs to develop a backbone. Doesn't Batista have a chance as well? And what are his qualifications? He's good shadow dressing? I recently picked up Taboo Tuesday and found out Christy and Carmella were not as good at that as perhaps the booking staff had planned.

I also got a chance to see how Shelton Benjamin captured the Intercontinental championship from Y2J. To my surprise, it was through a relatively uninspired match, odd for Jericho and hopefully not indicative of Shelton. I've seen him do better. Maybe I just need to pop the DVD in again and rewatch.

Daniel Puder won the Tough Enough competition. Woo! Take that, Miz! Puder is a guy with unlimited potential, most especially in the ring, but as a personality as well. I look forward to seeing him again.

What about those cruiserweights, though? I love Funaki and all. Great that he's finally received recognition for all the hard work he's put in all these years, but why are the rest of his ilk being treated so poorly? Paul London has been dropped like a sack of potatoes to Velocity while Billy Kidman has unceremoniously been paired with Akio and been allowed to stick around. I'd rather have London, thank you. And what about Chavo Guerrero? What happened to his big return, his feud with Kidman, and the push he enjoyed for much of the year? Gone, as quickly as Jamie Noble? I think I saw something about this having to do with how Paul Heyman is faring these days backstage. It's a dirty shame.

Heck, the new divas are getting more respect. I thought it was funny, though, that all Smackdown had to do to get them was give up Viscera. Darn, right? Ha!

How is Jeff Hardy doing in TNA? Well, he's still around, which is probably a good thing. Or he might end up like Raven, which would probably not be as much. Hopefully he does better than Jesus, who in addition to be fodder to put John Cena over another month as US champion also has a number of injuries he's going to have to contend with. Was he ever going anywhere anyway? At least Kenzo Suzuki has. He and Rene Dupree wrestled Eddie Guerrero and Booker T this past Thursday. Heidenreich, meanwhile, has continued his war against the Undertaker, setbacks and all. It's good to see the new blood sticking. Hopefully Carlito Caribbean Cool comes back soon in wrestling form, and Luther Reigns finally gets the one-on-one encounter with Big Show that's been teased for months. He did get one of several monstrous chokeslams dished out, though.

I was infinitely glad to see Chris win the latest Survivor, especially since he did it over Twila, the latest of a trademark line of unstable female contestants. She apparently never realized t wasn't her playing that got her to the final two, it was others playing her and canceling each other out that got her that far. Chris, on the other hand, persevered as long as Eliza, and like he said let the money start to talk in place of him. After the purported twelve season run of Survivor is over, it'll be interesting to see what kind of player had the best chance to win. The one who was willing to do anything, or the one who played a good game (Rich, Chris, Amber, Brian) but more or less won by accident, or otherwise not by personal striving (Vecepia, Sandra, Tina, Jenna, Ethan). Were female winners less likely than male ones to compromise themselves? Or did it just seem that way?

Anyhoo, that's about it for now. Enough rambling for today...

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