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Nightwing #79

Posted: Friday, March 14, 2003
By: David Kozlowski



“No Son of Mine”

Writer: Devin Grayson
Artists: Rick Leonardi(p), Jesse Delperdang(i)

Publisher: DC Comics

Plot:
Good cops are going bad in Blüdhaven. Nightwing thinks that a popular, new sports drink might be connected to the increased police violence. But the investigation is straining his relationship with Oracle.

Comments:
In San Francisco, where I live, three rookie police officers allegedly beat-up two civilians in a drunken brawl over some take-out food. The father of one of these rookie cops, Alex Fagan Sr., just happens to be the SFPD Assistant Chief of Police. The subsequent investigation was shabbily handled and a grand jury was convened. The District Attorney indicted eight senior SFPD cops for obstruction of justice, including the Chief of Police Earl Sanders and the aforementioned Asst. Chief. Just this week the D.A. dropped charges against Sanders and Fagan Sr. – although the other six top cops remain indicted. Chief Sanders abruptly departed on an indefinite medical leave, which placed Fagan Sr. in charge -- meanwhile his son, Fagan Jr., remains suspended while awaiting trial for assault. Mayor Willie Brown is so livid that last night he said “horseshit” on the evening news – so you know things are pretty out of control around here. This is classic Greek tragedy! It is with this backdrop of reality that I have been so interested in and yet frustrated by the recent police corruption storyline going on in Nightwing.

Writer Devin Grayson spent months turning the Blüdhaven Police Department inside out. Though she’s purged most of the bad cops the BPD is still a mess. Reduced to a skeleton crew of inexperienced leaders and green rookies, all prone to poor judgment. Plus, there’s a new vigilante in town that may have murdered an ex-cop down in the sewers; an investigative reporter has arrived and is willing to get her hands dirty to expose our heroes; Dick’s new partner has come out gay and is met with some serious bashing by his fellow cops. Seems like a lot of stuff to exploit, right? But all of these subplots have been sidelined this month.

Instead, Grayson reaches into the “1001 Comic Book Clichés” Desktop Reference for her latest plot: obsessed-scientist-tests-super-strength-formula-on-unwitting-public. Wha? Apparently all of the active BPD cops are hooked on a new sports drink called “Mega-Flex”, which gives them an extra zing of vitality and a wee tendency to beat suspects. Little do they know that its been laced with a special steroid that instills temporary super-strength, but packs debilitating side-effects. What does any of this have to do with the major events of the past half dozen issues?

Fortunately, the wonderful art makes up for the absent logic of the story. Penciller Rick Leonardi has an obvious love for Japanese Manga. Every character expression displayed is extreme and all of the figures bound about dramatically. It is all highly kinetic stuff that flows beautifully from panel to panel. In short, it looks like a Westernized version of Manga. I am not a fan of that form, but Leonardi’s style transcends any comparison. His backgrounds are also highly developed with lots of subtle details. The inking and coloring are also top-notch, they complement Leonardi’s pencilling style quite well.

Final Word:
You can tell good cop stories without resorting to ghosts, zombies or other contrived plot devices (see DC’s Gotham Central” series for example). The SFPD scandal is a great case-in-point: rookie cop pummels citizen over plate of fajitas; rookie’s father and cronies suppress evidence; D.A. brings entire senior staff up on charges. You’ve got cops against cops, the mayor against the D.A. and the media making a circus out of the whole thing. Simple, yet it’s damned compelling – believe me, the whole city is riveted! Would such events work in the comic book form? Why not? Sure it’s full of cheap coincidences but there are countless character angles to work from. Nightwing could certainly work both sides of the street as daytime cop and nighttime vigilante to uncover the truth. I’d much rather read that.



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