Writer: Devin Grayson
Artists: Mike Lilly (p), Jesse Delperdang (i)
The book opens with Nightwing unable to stop and explain things to his former partner Amy, who has just figured out that Dick Grayson is Nightwing, because Deathstroke is preparing for another attack on Amy. As Nightwing attempts to hold Deathstroke's attention long enough for Amy to escape, we see Amy isn't exactly helping Dick's efforts, as she races up to the roof to help him fight Deathstroke. However, when Dick makes it very clear that she has to run for her life, we see Amy finally gets the message, and Nightwing is able to tie up Deathstroke for long enough that Amy is able to get away, but he pays the price for his efforts as Deathstroke nails him with a shot to the face that knocks him out cold. We then look in on Blockbuster, as we learn his mother died on route to the hospital, and he's convinced that she would've survived if her ambulance hadn't been caught in a traffic jam. What's more the video tape that shows what caused the accident, seems to contain a fairly major surprise for our grieving villain. Back with Nightwing we see he's managed to uncover who paid Deathstroke to come kill Amy. Armed with this new information, he arrives in time to rescue Amy from the assassin, and he offers to pay Deathstroke the same amount he had been offered to kill Amy to leave her alone, and oddly enough Slade accepts.
I understand why the preview material, and the cover itself would really play up the idea that this issue's big event was the battle between Nightwing & Deathstroke, and to a certain extent they aren't exactly lying, as the two do trade blows. However, speaking as a fan who had been really looking forward the this second round, as the first round was a rather hurried affair, I must confess I was disappointed by the rather mundane quality of the fight. I mean this is a battle between two of the most skilled hand-to-hand combatants in the entire DCU, and the best Devin Grayson could do is have Nightwing miss a punch, attempt a headlock, and fall off a roof so that the his momentum of his swing would send him crashing into Deathstroke. Then we have Deathstroke's contribution which consisted of a kick to Dick’s injured arm, a body slam into a wooden door, and a punch that knocks Dick out cold. In fact in the entire issue only a single page comes close to delivering the battle I had hoped to see, and this page alone features three of the six attacks that I made mention of. Now perhaps Devin Grayson simply doesn't feel comfortable delivering page upon page of two characters going at it, but I'm positive that I'm not the only reader who went into this issue expecting far more than was given, and this does seem to be a regular occurrence on this book when it comes to the action.
I also have to take issue with the way this issue resolved the conflict between these two, as we see Nightwing produces the fee that Deathstroke was given to kill Amy, and then adds an extra dollar and fifty cents, sweeten the pot. So looking at this exchange from Deathstroke's point of view, if he accepts the fee that Nightwing is offering to not kill Amy, he's going to walk away an extra dollar and fifty cents richer than he would've if he had carried out the hit. Now I guess another way he could look at it is that he was paid over thirty thousand dollars for doing nothing, but one would think future clients would think twice about hiring his services once the word gets out that he was contracted to perform a hit and simply walked away, presumably after he had already been given the money for the hit. Plus given the police arrive before Deathstroke could even gather up the money Nightwing had offered him the question becomes why exactly is Deathstroke walking away from this hit? Perhaps he's embarrassed by the fact that he accepted such a low fee for his services, or the simple fact that Nightwing knows how much he was paid also means he already who hired him to perform the hit, and as such Deathstroke would realize that walking away with his hands clean is the best way to extract himself from this situation. Then again one also has to ask why Nightwing isn't more disturbed that he let a hired killer simply walk away.
On one hand you can't really blame the art for failing to deliver on the promise of a battle, when the writing seemingly gives the artist so little room to actually deliver the actual interaction between the two combatants. Still, there's far too many pages in this issue that are used to build a sense of anticipation, and far too little that are actually used to deliver on the material that the art has been leading into with its panels that move these characters where they need to be to carry out their various actions. For example we spend the opening four pages getting Nightwing up on the roof to do battle with Deathstroke, and the battle itself lasts a whole five pages, with one of these pages being used to detail how each character made it to the ground floor of the building. Now I guess the writing could be to blame for the seeming lack of interest in the material that would reward the reader, but in my mind the artist is largely responsible for ensuring the action sequences are as exciting as they could possibly be, and in my mind Mike Lilly failed to hold up his end. The action lacks a real sense of impact, and the tension is dissipated over several panels. A classic example of this lack of urgency is the page where the three characters are racing to the ground floor, as the art shows us what everyone is doing, so there's no surprise when Nightwing makes his arrival.
I have to confess a large part of my disappointment stems from the fact that I entered this issue hoping to see the big fight that the cover to this issue promised, and as such the quick little tussles that we get inside were hardly enough to leave me walking away happy. Now in my review of the first chapter I stated that I believed this was the first time Nightwing appeared in this book, and I got about a half dozen e-mails that made mention of an earlier appearance where he arrived in Bludhaven hunting Man-Bat. Now I had forgotten about this appearance largely because in that earlier encounter the two barely got into it against each other either, so I'm faced this disappointment before, and chances are in about a year's time I'll have forgotten all about this appearance. On the other hand I can still vividly remember the handful of appearances that Deathstroke made in the Titans, so the problem would seem to be that the comic writers of today simply don't understand how to used the character of Deathstroke effectively. An equally valid notion is that I've simply outgrown the character. I rather hope it's the former, but two mediocre appearances in a row would seem to suggest the latter.
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