Friday, June 6, 2014


Script: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Penciler: Khari Evans | Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti
Colorist: Christina Strain | Letterer: Artmonkeys' Dave Lanphear
Assistant Editor: Nathan Cosby | Editor: Mark Paniccia
Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada | Publisher: Dan Buckley

The first three issues have titles. The remaining three don't. The final issue is also missing credits! In a way, these production peculiarities symbolize the unevenness of the entire series. It starts out strong -- Palmiotti and Gray have given Colleen Wing and Misty Knight a new profession. Their company is still called Nightwing Restorations, but rather than being simple private detectives, they now work as bail bondswomen for the super-powered criminals of New York. It's a pretty neat idea; after all, assuming there aren't different laws for supervillains in the Marvel Universe, one would figure the lower level types who only do things like breaking and entering and robbing banks probably would be able to get out on bail after an arrest.

The story follows Colleen and Misty chasing down four criminals who have skipped out on their bonds and joined forces to carry out a robbery. Their target is Celia Ricadonna, a media and fashion mogul who, we are told, rivals Oprah in both popularity and net worth. But she's also a major player in the underworld, and has come into a posession of a computer virus which she plans to auction off to the highest bidder for billions of dollars.

And that's when the story goes irrecoverably off the rails.

The four misfit villains -- 8-Ball, Humbug, Freezer Burn, and Whirlwind -- unknowingly steal the virus along with all of Ricadonna's valuables. Misty and Colleen track the criminals down, but after two are killed and one seriously injured, they realize Ricadonna is out for revenge. Misty winds up with the virus in her possession, which leads to Ricadonna tracking her down pesonally, severing her bionic arm in a fight, and reclaiming her prize.

If I didn't know any better, I would assume a publishing delay or something threw the plot into whack between issues four and five. The vanishing titles and credits are one thing, but the entire series takes a weird turn at this point. Where it began as a sort of seventies exploitation tribute with mostly believable characters, even accounting for a few poorly considered "bits", it becomes a guest-star laden super-free-for-all with an unsatisfactory conclusion. Consider: Issue #4 brings us appearances by Tony Stark, Iron Fist, the Punisher, and the Mole Man, all aiding Misty and Colleen in their mission to crash Ricadonna's auction.

Iron Fist, I get. He's Misty's long-time love interest, and Colleen's even longer-time platonic friend. Tony's appearance makes a bit of sense too, as his company replaces Misty's bionic arm. But the appearance also illustrates one of my major problems with stories like this: Tony and Colleen act like they're old buddies who have known each other for years. I'm not certain if they'd ever even crossed paths up to this point, but I can almost guaratnee that if they did, they were never as close as this story makes them out to be. And besides, why is one of the richest men in the world, head of a huge multinational company, overseeing the attachment of Misty's new arm? It would be much more believable and in keeping with the Marvel I used to know if this were some other high-ranking Stark employee. That way readers would get the continuity bonus of a Stark appearance without actually seeing Tony Stark.

It gets even worse from there, though, as for some reason Misty and Colleen have the Punisher's current address, and rather than, I don't know, arresting him (because, remember, they work in an unofficial capacity for law-enforcement), they let him go about his business of torturing criminals in a slaughterhouse while palling around and borrowing weapons from him. And they aren't the only ones out of character here, either. The Punisher himself agrees to stay out of their business and let them handle it themselves. I know he's made deals in the past with the likes of Spider-Man and Daredevil, but it strikes me as highly unlikely that the Punisher would turn down an opportunity to inflict mass carnage at a gathering of several high profile criminal organizations. He would show up whether invited or not. His appearance here is a gratuitous, wildly out-of-character guest shot, and nothing more.

And Mole Man? Really?? Apparently Misty and Colleen are pals of his from way back and he owes them a favor. I'm sorry, but I just don't buy these characters interacting. It's like Spider-Man phoning up Mr. Sinister for some scientific assistance. It rings completely false and is, again, completely unnessecary to the story (for the record, all Mole Man does is help Misty and Colleen infiltrate the auction from underground, then disappear).

There's also an annoying new character introduced, the Daughters of the Dragon's new receptionist, a deminutive nerd named Otis Danger Johnson the Second, who, thanks to past association with AIM, is nigh-invulnerable and impervious to pain. Because... yeah.

But it's not all bad. Like I said, it starts off pretty strong, with an intriguing premise. The first four issues, Otis scenes aside, are a lot of fun. The scripting is some of the stronger I've seen from Palmiotti and Gray as well, though they've developed a new quirk here in the form of bolding the wrong words for emphasis in several dialogue balloons. Maybe this is an intentional tribute to Jack Kirby for some reason? Additionally, out of nowhere, the sixth issue opens with several pages of third person narrative captions. They are the only such captions, and indeed the only captions of any sort, in the entire series. It's a really weird scripting choice, and seems like something an editor should have pointed out.

The true saving grace, however, is the amazing artwork by Khari Evans. Why is this man not an industry superstar? He clearly has a love of the female form, and it shows on every page. But beyond that his storytelling is clear, his panels are detailed but not cluttered, his action scenes are well coreographed, and his characters all have unique designs and faces. He seems to be up on current clothing and trends, as well. The series is a fashion parade for Misty, Colleen, and Ricadonna, and there's never a look for anyone which I would call a dud. He also restores Misty's afro, which may be anachronistic, but it's really the best look for her. She's a no-nonsense black woman created in the seventies; drawing her with any other hair is a crime. I'll admit that the 'fro is way over-exaggerated here to the point of parody, but it never looks wrong.

In all, this is about what I've come to expect from a Palmiotti/Gray production. It's fun and entertaining, but seems more concerned with "bits" than with being a coherent story. It wants to be a hard-boiled crime thriller at the same time it tries to be a comedy. These guys have some good ideas, but they need to stop trying to be all things to all people. If they had played this series straight, as a relatively serious story with lots of action and violence, with only a few scene-appropriate jokes, I think it would've been great. As it is, it's really only worth reading for Evans's brilliant artwork.


  1. I enjoyed this mini-series, but I think it might've been more in idea than execution. And if you think this goes off the rails, check out that Heroes for Hire series that followed it. Grey and Palmiotti leave after around five or six issues, and it quickly becomes a disaster, although that book starts off worse since it's mired in Civil War continuity.

    1. I actually gave that HEROES FOR HIRE series a try, though I had not yet read this mini-series, mainly due to the inclusion of the Black Cat. I was not impressed; I think I lasted two issues and I actually forgot that I had even read it until you brought it up!

      It's on Marvel Unlimited, though -- maybe I'll check it out for fun at some point as a sequel to this post.