When Nightwing #149 came out not long ago, there seemed to be a whirlwind of outrage about just how violent and bloody it was, and how it went too far, etc. I read the issue. I re-read it, and I have just finished re-re-reading it. I am not someone who regularly reads Nightwing, so I can't speak to how this compares to the 148 issues that preceded it. I did read 148 to try and get some sense of context, and I think that helps. Thanks to Issue 149 of Nightwing, the expression 'torture porn' got a great deal of use. There are some comics that have come out that I have been disappointed in how unnecessarily violent they were, or how grisly, etc. These are ones where it just seemed gratuitous and didn't seem to serve any justifiable purpose. There was that Titans East Special where you are introduced to a group and then they are all killed, as well as Teen Titans v3 #62 where Wendy and Marvin, yeah, that Wendy and That Marvin, bring home a stray and it gets named Wonderdog, just like in the Super Friends show... and then it turns into a monster and kills Marvin and mauls Wendy... Teen Fun Comics!!
I mention those two comics because I think they sort of should be the subject of outrage, but they don't seem to have received the same scope of outrage that Nightwing did. Maybe it is all a perception issue on my part. Perhaps the scope is limited to the relatively small world of the blogs I follow, which is fine, but it has lead me to this post either way.
The Questions I had in my head as I gave this issue my third reading is this: "Is this too much? Does this comic step into the realm of so-called 'torture porn'? Is the violence in this issue so out of keeping with the tone of the book, the character, the story, etc. as to have only been done to shock or make some sort of a statement to the reader outside of the context of the story itself? Was it just a really bad issue?
Issue 148 has Nightwing(having been shot) rescuing a lady and getting her to safety before going back to the batcave on autopilot. Alfred is there to save him and remove bullets. A lot of this is about Alfred taking care of him, their relationship, his similarities to Bruce, who may be 'gone for good' this time, etc. It's a decent issue for character development, although it has a feel of having been done before, but I considered it a good issue. Dick leaves the cave and zooms off to be heroic again. It ends with him popping into a room filled with almost all of the Batman villains you think of when you think of Batman villains. The bullets Dick was shot with had Scarecrow's fear toxin on them, and apparently it is just starting to kick in.
Issue 149 has a big fight scene between Nightwing and the aforementioned Bat-baddies. They are waste deep in blood, and the woman he is trying to save is being sort of sequentially murdered by each of them. Nightwing REALIZES he is under the effect of the toxin. He even analyzes the significance of some of the things he's seeing. He even realizes that the people he is fighting are NOT the actual villains he is seeing them as. When he first takes on the Penguin, he consciously decides to just knock his teeth out instead of doing anything that might be worse. As he continues on in the fight, he understands his fears to mean that the threat is more immediate and drastic, and that he can't afford to pull punches. He trades some pretty stupid dialog with the villains he is imagining, but maybe that is a fear of his too. Whatever is going on, he knows that it isn't what it looks like, but that a life he needs to protect is on the line.
Apparently Harvey Dent, Two-face as you all know, likes this person named Carol. He does not want Carol to get hurt, but I guess that he has taken on a contract to kill her. His way of dealing with this is to have fully involved Nightwing for her protection from himself. Two-Face wants to kill the woman, but he also wants Nightwing to stop him. I think it is a pretty great idea, and it really seems like something a guy with his issues would do. Actually, I may think it's a brilliant idea. In all the bloodshed and all the seemingly grisly ways Nightwing is dispatching his half imagined, but very real foes, the intent is that Dick will save Carol from Harvey. Unfortunately, Harvey Kills Carol, and then I believe goes and kills the guy who contracted him to kill Carol.
Is this an issue filled with gratuitous, and often imaginary blood? Yes. Is this an issue where we see a woman getting killed/maimed over and over in an imaginary sense before finally being shot and killed by a man who cares about her enough to try and organize an effort to save her? Yes. Is there too great of a reliance in comics on the killing/maiming/putting in jeopardy/of women? Probably, but I am not sure that this issue is the one to exemplify that, or to make an example of about those things. I think if you read it, it makes sense and does a decent job of getting it's point across and showing us an interesting enough take on a hero and a villain.
It's my opinion that Nightwing 149 received a bit more alarm than it deserved.