Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Nightwing turns to Non-Vigilante Superheroism

Earlier this week USA Today broke some pretty big spoilers regarding the climax of DC's Forever Evil #7 as it pertains to the fate of Dick Grayson alias Nightwing.

Written by the illustrious Geoff Johns and drawn by the always-wonderful David Finch, Forever Evil began back in October and the question of Grayson's survival has been a benchmark of the series since the very first issue.

With the Justice League out of action, the job to save the world initially fell on Nightwing who was quickly made a prisoner by the evil Justice League because, well, he approached beings that possess God-like powers with a grapple gun.

Now, every comic book crossover needs the dangling carrot of the death of a hero you care about hanging in the balance.  That's always been my problem with the on-going monthly series model in general, how can anyone believe Batman or Superman or even Aquaman is going to die when the solicitations for their next storyline three months from now are already online? Who cares who anyone has to punch this week, they're just going to reset in time for the next villain. It's a vacuum that only changes once in a blue moon and you'll know it cause it takes place outside of the monthly series and four of five bucks.

But then again, that's partly why events like these are so exciting - they are encumbered with the wonderful scent of the unknown that mainstream comics so rarely allow.  One recent example of this approach, used very effectively by Jason Aaron I might add, was the five issue mini-series Schism back in 2012 which centered around the crumbling relationship between long-time partners in the battle for basic mutant rights: Cyclops and Wolverine. Back then, the notion of Wolverine dying was impossible to believe since he starred in nearly Marvel comic book (how things have changed) but the death of Scott Summers on the other hand felt like a real possibility. While he didn't die the dangling carrot of his death gave the series the extra energy it needed to really amp-up the fight between Wolverine and Cyclops which ultimately led Scott down the road to villain-hood which ran through the next big events in the Marvel Universe: Avengers vs X-Men.

In regards to Forever Evil, Nightwing was an easy pick for this role because (1) - he's popular and one of very few legacy characters not to have their history heavily-disrupted by the New 52 (2) - it would piss fans off if he died just like it almost did in 2011 which is a great way to get sales and (3) he was one of very few choices since the Justice League has been largely out of commission throughout the series due to some interstellar portal trap unleashed by the evil Justice League dopplegangers of Earth-Three...but lets not get into that here.

Nightwing was last seen with his heart stopped in a classic comic book staple simply called "the murder machine" in Forever Evil #6. It was your standard James Bond-type scenario where either his heart stops or the bomb goes off - it's this kind of death trap Austin Powers lampooned to shreds in the nineties and will likely do so again soon - but really, how many times has media shown us that a stopped heartbeat means nothing but stay tuned?

Well if this all sounded like the kind of thing that James Bond would escape from just in time maybe its because that's Nightwing's ultimate fate. I'm not referring to just his survival, but to him becoming DC's very own James Bond.

The following is courtesy of USA Today:

Dick Grayson is trading his superhero suit for secret-agent cool. Batman's former sidekick embarks on a new life as an undercover superspy in the comic book Grayson, an action-adventure series premiering July 2 from DC Comics. It's written by Tim Seeley (Revival) and Tom King, a former CIA counter-terrorism operations officer.

So there you have it. Nightwing is going to become the first superhero to go legit. The increasing public awareness of Marvel's Agents of Shield will now have a DC counter-part that encompasses an actual DC Legacy character and I really like how the writers describe the direction the book will take:
King, who started working for the CIA after 9/11, intends to bring to Grayson the emotional feel for what it's like to work undercover, have bullets shot at you and cope with the the inherent pressure of being an intelligence agent. "It's bliss to serve a higher cause and save people," he says, but "the hard part of it is it's tough to go home and lie to your family and pretend to be a different person. In terms of tone, Seeley describes Grayson as a world-hoppin  action comic, and King wants every issue to feel like a TV episode of Mad Men or Breaking Bad in that it causes a conversation. "It's DC's The Americans," King says. "This is something where, at the end of it, you have to go and talk about it."

In my opinion, the biggest swerve out of all this is that, at least initially, everyone Dick knows is going to believe that he is dead. According to Seely, Batman wants Dick to transition to a different heroic life for the greater good...he tells him that he needs his former partner to stay dead, not only to the world at large but to the entire superhero community. This creates some great story possibilities for a character who has always been able to rely on the Bat-family and a slew of super-powered friends having his back. Now, in addition to not having powers, he won't have any back-up more powerful than himself.

Adds King: "He's doing something that's going to cause pain to his friends and family, but he believes in the cause. That tension between having to do something good but having the cost of it being pain to his family, it drives him a little crazy." Sounds like the eternally optimistic boy wonder of the DC universe is going to be in for some serious growing up in the wake of these changes.

Survival probabilities be damned, it looks like I have a new monthly series to collect.

Review: Pixies "Indie Cindy"

Yesterday, the Pixies released their first album in 23 years and it is in my opinion a solid record that adds to the bands legacy. This was no easy task when you consider the band is held on pretty high pedestals being one of the biggest forerunners of the alternative scene of the late 80’s to early 90’s. The band also had to overcome another big deal, specifically, the lack of bassist Kim Deal. Add that to the notoriously jaded nature of the modern hipster and you have a recipe for an album that is going to face some serious critical cannonballs.

When the band reunited four years ago Deal was a part of the lineup but shortly thereafter she opted out of recording sessions in favor of a reunion tour with the Breeders. Must have felt like history repeating itself to the bands other original members: Black Francis, David Lovering and Joey Santiago. The addition of Kim Shattuck, later replaced by Paz Lenchantin for the world tour, completed the quadrant for this new version. The album combines all the songs from the band's 2013-14 extended play releases —  which were recorded and produced in 2012 by Gil Norton, who produced previous Pixies albums Doolittle, Bossanova and Trompe le Monde.

Indie Cindy starts off with the energetic “What Goes Boom,” which is a very fun and pixies-sounding tune that I wish was centered around a different word than “boom” but it works.  This is followed with slick space ballad “Green and Blues” and the eponymous “Indie Cindy.” This track is probably the star of the album, though I should say it is no single, because it is really more a plea for an open mind from their fans that is inundated in the spacey and gorgeous then dissonant and splintered patterns that so much of the bands most beloved tracks are built upon.

Some of the mid-album tracks are nothing to stick in the library of congress - “Bagboy,” “Another Toe in the Ocean” and “Silver Snail” all feel a little blasé but do stand up to repeated listening - and there is nothing here that does not suit the album.  From my perspective, “Magdalena” and “Andro Queen” both compliment the aforementioned motif of an old flame (or aging rock band) trying to rekindle something slightly magical and intangible without ruining what the memory. The album also contains a real fire track in the heavily-chorused “Snakes” which would fit right in on a compilation of the bands most blissful tunes. Another one of my favorites is “Blue Eyed Hexe” which espouses some spectacular riffs and gives the sense that, despite the pressures, the Pixies really are enjoying being the Pixies again.  

In close, Indie Cindy is all about asking the listener to try to love the Pixies both for what they are in the greater context of what they once were and never will be again – the weird, off beat alternative outfit that moved the genre forward. They can’t be a new band, even though purists will note that without Kim Deal they aren’t truly the old one, but they can still be the Pixies with new music and that’s still a pretty good deal.  If you give them a chance.