Overview: IN Natvinge # 91Nightwing and Flash continue to fight KGBeast and his assassins, barely aware that a mythological superagent is waiting for them in Costa Rica!
Synopsis: Continuing from last issue, Natvinge # 91 sees Nightwing and the Flash (formerly Titans’ Dick Grayson and Wally West, respectively) take up the fight against KGBeast and his men, with Flash handing out a special punishment in revenge for the Beast who shot Dick and took his memories away. The attack threatens the KGBeast Gotham Library, but the two heroes quickly escape and extinguish the threat. Back in Wally and Linda Park’s home, Oracle goes through the Beast’s phone and finds correspondence with La Agente Fúnebre, a mythologically secret agent killer who even Batman thought was a myth. The heroes trace the messages to a mobile tower in Costa Rica, after which they are immediately attacked by a group of trained killers. Of course, the killers are not sweating for Dick and Wally, who make cards with them. Flash is then knocked unconscious by an invisible force field, while Nightwing is contacted by La Agente Fúnebre himself. She quickly proves to be a formidable and deadly fighter with knives with poisoned tip. Fortunately, Dick’s suit had been upgraded by Mr. Terrific, so he lets her get close before knocking her out.
After the match, Dick and Wally find the center of Fúnebre’s operation. Together, they manipulate her contact information on the network of assassins to lay traps so the assassins can be caught by various heroes, including Superman, Starfire and Tempest. Back in Blüdhaven, Lady Shiva addresses Blockbuster, informing him of the various assaults on La Agente Fúnebre’s people and saying that Dick Grayson is clearly off-limits, saying that he should try to make Dick out of himself , if he still wants to kill him.
Analysis: In the synopsis I gave above, there is a perfectly action-packed and appropriate comic book number presented in Natvinge # 91. The basic facts about the events are chewing gum-cracking superhero action, and it’s very solid. It’s another great number from Tom Taylor featuring guest art by Geraldo Borges.
What I did not mention is the little middle ground that Taylor incorporates into the Dick and Wally relationship that I felt was a bit clumsy and even indulgent. I think a more confident hand, or at least an older pro like Devin Grayson, could have made these scenes work better for me. Because no matter how neat they were, they seemed distracting and almost out of character for two professionals of the Nightwing and Flash caliber. Specifically Flash.
Like Conner Hawke and Kyle Rayner, Wally West is my flash. He was Flash for twenty years, and ever since Barry Allen returned, he has been the Flash character I have been most invested in. Like the rest of America, I was not happy with the story. Heroes in crisis and has enjoyed the fallout from the multiverse stories that worked to restore his continuity as the classic character of the 2000s. It’s been a pleasure watching him back with his family, and I’m always a fan of the original Titans coming back together as adults. Having said all that, the way Taylor portrays Wally’s love for Dick is a bit striking Natvinge # 91. Wally’s love for his BFF really jumps out as something almost more, and it’s the first time I’ve ever really responded to it in a way that was separate from the story. First, this whole “best friends” thing is an inconsistent relationship that is not Taylor’s fault or his creation. I’ve seen Dick say Donna is his best friend, and so is Alfred, so the idea is that Robin and Kid Flash were the two sidekicks who did well and maintained a close friendship because of it. I like the idea, but the fact is that they do not really interact with each other often, for that to be the case. I’m not trying to go too hard into Taylor’s case, again it’s been set up at least as far back as Devin Grayson’s Titans running, and even further back there’s definitely a strong friendship through the New Teen Titans’ days with Wolfman and Perez.
But think about how Wally has been written in this series so far. IN Natvinge # 88, Wally comments that Dick’s beautiful face is too attractive for anyone to shoot. A fair thing to say, I would probably say the same thing if I were him. In the last issue, he practically jumps on Dick when he sees that Dick has survived the apartment explosion. And with Natvinge # 91, we are told that Wally has been checking in on Dick once an hour for several weeks at a time, ever since Dick was released with his money. He even asks Dick if he is “stalkerish”. It’s … really intense, and I do not know if Taylor’s going for a crush thing here, or if he’s really trying to show how close those guys are. It’s extreme, is what it is, and I’m reminded once again of the fanciful accusation of Taylor’s writing style that puts character relationships and emotions at the forefront of the stories. Because Dick’s led a dangerous life … all his life, and Wally knows it. If Taylor had made a special point about Wally reacting to Dick losing his memories of being shot by the KGBeast, and connecting the sense of protection, it would have made more sense. Especially with Wally, who recently suffered from her friends’ loss of memories of Rebirth and everything that came afterwards. There is an honest review of reasonable concern that would lead to Wally’s openly devoted actions in this issue.
But I just can not see that it is the backbone of how Wally is written to be who he is Natvinge # 91. My question is, why is this friendship so important to get through to the readers as intensely as it is? Taylor has been dead on the money with everyone else. Alfred, Babs, Tim, Bruce and Superman. All of these were presented with precision and history. With Wally and how he is portrayed here, it honestly sounds like a long-term love affair, and I’m not sure that’s the case, as the whole reason Wally’s reason for being in the last five years was to get his family back. Additionally, I do not know how much Dick and Wally being together is a thing in fandom circles, but it’s the kind of writing that got Devin Grayson in hot water years back, as it leans too much into reproduction outside of continuity and closer to. for fan interpretation. Now this is a tightrope to walk because different sexual orientations are represented in soaring numbers in DC, with more realistic depictions of fan-favorite characters becoming canon. Just this week, as of this writing, we’ve learned it Conner Hawke is canonically asexual, where the author posted his reasons for the character tracing through his story over the years. With this year’s DC Pride Special on the horizon, queer representation is at a record high and will hopefully rise even higher as the years go by. So any appetite for a Dick and Wally ship has an open window right now. And that would certainly be interesting. My problem is that if that’s what can drive Wally’s portrayal of this story, it’s an uneven one. It’s too exciting, too noticeable.
And maybe I’m out of base when Wally tells Dick to settle down with Barbara, and essentially asks him to put a ring on it. Spoke like a married character with an unmarried, it tracked, but I bristled at the time of that conversation. Wally brings this up right after waking up after being knocked out from the force field. Of course, all the evil guys are unconscious, but they are in the middle of a deadly mission, and nothing tells them it was over. These are the kind of things that I think complicate Taylor’s work, character moments that occur in sometimes inappropriate moments. Dick talks to Jon after the action goes on in Lois’ apartment in Superman: Son of Kal-El # 9 made sense as it was a few hours later. But in the middle of a mission involving assassins? It does not make much sense, especially for two professionals like these guys.
But much of my dismay is hypothetical. What I really enjoyed looking at Natvinge # 91 was how competent Dick and Wally were against some pretty heavy hitters. It’s always fun to watch big deal villains like Bane or KGBeast go up against super powerful heroes and just be destroyed. I also liked watching Dick understand how deadly and powerful La Agente Fúnebre was while still knowing how to take her down. An argument could be made that for someone who even Batman did not believe existed, Nightwing found and defeated her too easily. I think that is a fair criticism, and perhaps she should have fled and been put on the run, leaving her operation vulnerable to the two titans manipulating. I’m never really a fan of secrets and organizations that existed for years under the heroes’ notice (The Court of Owls is a cool idea, but in 2011 the idea that Batman knew nothing about Gotham was not real. to new to me) so it was weird to see her build up so much and then knocked down by Dick with pretty much no problems at all.
When I review this issue, I enjoy being in the DC world. I love these characters and am happy to see them written (generally) in character, extremely confident and competent, doing what they are best at. It is the little things that always gnaw at me, the recurring tendencies in a writing style that I pick up within a long time that hold it back in my esteem. I hope this Blockbuster story goes somewhere in the next issue as he has been constantly punked out for months and months now. I would love to see a real development on his part, even if he just blew up Dick’s apartment complex.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue digitally at Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title throughout Things from another world.