Written by: Benjamin Percy
Art by: Otto Schmidt
Published by: DC Comics
Reviewed by: Simon “BlaxKleric” Moore
Rather replicating the disturbing scene from the Wachowski Brothers’ 1999 science fiction action film “The Matrix” where Neo has a bug-shaped robotic probe violently ‘drawn’ out through his navel by team-mate Trinity, Benjamin Percy’s opening scene for this “Nightwing” annual certainly pulls in the comic’s audience with a significantly tense hook. However, just as soon as Barbara Gordon has painfully extracted the phantasm controller wrapped around the titular character’s heart, the Oregon-born writer’s narrative performs a disconcerting deep-dive into the terrifying techno-babble world of the ‘darknet’ and the costumed crimefighter’s recent battle against “the shadowy, high-tech organisation known as the Dark Web.”
Indeed, for any of this publication’s readers unfamiliar with Dick Grayson’s exhausting battle against “the smart city overhaul of Bludhaven” in his ongoing regular book, or those perusing bibliophiles simply attempting to use the thirty-seven page periodical as a ‘jumping on’ point, the subsequent dialogue between the former flying circus acrobat, Batgirl and Vicki Vale concerning memory malware, bleeding-edge tech, neuro-images, electro-physiological data, firewalls and encryption could well become unpalatably overwhelming, and arguably lose any audience interest which the comic’s frantically-paced beginning created; “I’m going to send off a focused electromagnetic pulse that’ll stun it into submission. Then I’ll use what is essentially a hyper magnetic vacuum to suck it out of your body.”
For those within this magazine’s audience who have an understanding of the story-line’s past events though, or are simply willing to ‘go with the flow’, “Deadline” undeniably delivers plenty of pulse-pounding predicaments for the original Robin to overcome, whilst simultaneously exploring the possibility of Bruce Wayne’s legal ward developing an intriguingly intimate relationship with Gotham Four News’ leading reporter. This mix of Otto Schmidt’s dynamically drawn dilemmas and lip-stick smudging flirtations undeniably provides plenty of entertaining moments to make this comic’s $4.99 cover price somewhat stomachable, with Nightwing’s roof-top rodeo with one of the Dark Web’s automaton agents or confrontation with Vire, “the psychic embodiment of malware who can unearth your darkest secrets”, being just two.
However, there is debatably little excuse for editor Katie Kubert permitting this length tome to finish on the inconclusive cliffhanger Percy pens concerning a shocked Grayson discovering that his seemingly outmanoeuvred opponent actually holds Vicki Vale captive, and thus facing the heart-wrenching choice of actually aiding the Wyrm in an unspecified task or knowing Batman’s one-time romantic interest “will be… deleted.” On paper such a ruse may well have seemed like a perfectly plausible tactic to lure casual comic book collectors back to the Teen Titan’s title so as to sate their curiosity concerning ‘what happens next?” But for many, this ploy may well backfire and simply cause anger, frustration and resentment at being expected to purchase additional editions just to discern what “the greatest motorcycle race in the cosmos” is all about..?
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