If there’s one thing I’m guilty of, it’s sticking with a series (whether on television, in comics, or elsewhere) LONG after I should have given up. For proof, you can always refer to the well-documented account of my personal experience with soul-rending final season of Showtime’s Dexter or the string of early episodes of Let Us Podcast that feature my brief time with TBS’s King of the Nerds.
SEE ALSO: any rants that may have occurred about DC’s Injustice, or Marvel’s AvX.
Now, there are some that I’ve stuck with, and the pay off was great. One that really comes to mind is CW’s Arrow. The first episodes were unfocused and somewhat ill-conceived as a whole. However, now that the series is most of the way through its second season, I can barely make the week wait between episodes. It’s still not the most well written, the best acted, or really the best ANYTHING on TV, but the story keeps me coming back for more, the cavalcade of DC characters that I love continues to grow on-screen, and I can’t continue to lie about my nerd-crush on Oliver Queen’s tech-savvy assistant, Felicity Smoak.
Recently, I was directed toward a fan-made DC Comics web series, Nightwing: Escalation. Billed by creators as “a non-profit web series by fans, for fans,” Escalation tells the story of what happens when Batman is forced by otherworldly forces (mainly Darkseid and his hordes from Apokolips) to leave a Gotham City that is in the grips of an epidemic of Edenspring (a mysterious drug synthesized by Pamela Isley), a slew of deadly and disturbing mutilations, and a department full of typically crooked Gotham cops. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot other than that. I know that seems like a lot the way it is, but those are just the broad strokes.
Written by Alex Valderana (who also directs) and Joe Caballero (who plays Nightwing), the first season of the web series consists of 3 main episodes and 3 in-between, almost minisodes, some of which are actually longer than some regular episodes but generally focus on one main scene or idea instead of multiple in one episode. It’s a bit hard to explain, I suppose, but it works out well. Trust me.
The series does start out pretty rough, mainly in terms of film quality. I spoke briefly with Valderana before viewing and he suggested maybe skipping the first episode, but I told him that, as a serial completist, I couldn’t even fathom that. While watching the first episode didn’t add much meat to the whole series, having watched it made seeing the growth of the writing, the filming, and the acting throughout the first season all the more valuable. It’s like the whole “Han shot first” thing. He’s a bad guy who becomes a good guy. Shooting Greedo is so vastly important to his journey that augmenting that shot robs the viewers of the full emotional journey. It’s the same thing here, exception instead of killing an alien in cold blood to save your own skin, it’s just film definition and shot composition.
One thing I wasn’t too crazy about was the lack of the titular character. The series is titled Nightwing: Escalation, but Nightwing/Dick Grayson is seldom seen before the last two episodes. I had expected a lot of him, especially in costume and in action. Many parts of the series play more like a GCPD series, maybe something based more on Gotham Central. There are more scenes of people talking about the Edenspring problem or all the happenings between Gotham’s multiple organized crime families. However, let me assure you that the season two preview promises A LOT of ass-kicking.
Also, while I’m on the subject of characters, let’s discuss the universe that the series painstakingly sets up over the course of the 6 episodes. From everything I’ve been able to gather, the series is pretty firmly rooted in pre-Flashpoint continuity, meaning Babs is still in her wheelchair, Tim Drake is present Robin, and Martian Manhunter still loves OREOs. This is actually where the series shines the most for me: the creators love DC’s cast of characters, and I love them for that. I actually (READ AS: foolishly) attempted to make notes of all the references to characters, writers, artists, ANYTHING pertinent to DC’s history, and I couldn’t keep out. They reference Darkseid, the Justice League, Diana, Hal, Arthur, J’onn J’onzz, Birds of Prey (most of whom as actual characters by the end of the season), Harleen Quinzel, and feature the Joker in a small voiceover part (for now). Characters talk about areas of town like Dini Towers and Finger River. One scene claims to take place on the corner of Sprang and another street that currently slips my mind. Batman even has the weird glowing eyes in his mask, for the love of Gog!
Yes, Gog. I mean, the show doesn’t reference him, but it seemed fitting.
All in all, the show does have its ups and downs, especially early on, but it’s entertaining nonetheless and the universe is already very extensive. Regardless, the show is worth at least one watch for a DC fan, if not for what stands on digital film already, then so you are on the right page when season two drops, which will hopefully be soon. AND if you are interested in checking out the series, you can find all the episodes embedded below! See? Don’t say I never do anything for you, ok?
WARNING: Some of the episodes contain language that is NSFW. This ain’t Adam West, ok?
Batman was created by Bob Kane AND Bill Finger. Yeah. I said it.