Film superstar Magilla Gorilla has been framed for murder and it’s up to Dick Grayson to clear his name. Yes, really!
Even though I’ve read more than a few of these DC/Hanna-Barbera crossovers in the last few years, I’m somehow always skeptical of them. It’s not that superheroes in tights have to always be serious, but how in the world can they share a page with the goofy cartoon characters of my childhood (heck, my dad’s childhood, too)? For the most part, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by DC’s knack for boiling these characters down to their core and occasionally reinventing them for the modern era, even if they sometimes seem to try too hard to be “relevant.”
But if I’m being honest, the main reason I jumped at a chance to read this book is that Nightwing is kinda my jam. I love his sense of joy and his enthusiasm for heroics and with all the shenanigans occurring in his ongoing title these days, this might be our last chance to see Dick Grayson have fun for a little while, even if it’s out of continuity.
I’m always curious to see how they meld the two disparate worlds in these crossovers and really enjoyed that this story essentially opens with Magilla being known to Dick Grayson from the jump. It allows the story to kick in without spending too much time on the two title characters getting to know one another. Portraying the superheroic circus boy as a fan of a celebrity zoo animal is such an oddly obvious idea in hindsight and I found myself chuckling at how well it was executed. Kudos to writer Heath Corson for connecting dots that I never imagined were there.
The story moves at a fast clip, with Nightwing fighting to prove Magilla’s innocence in a murder case. Tom Grummet’s art really brought to mind his work on Superboy, which hit another major nostalgia button for me and made the one-shot even more a breeze to read.
The mystery itself is pretty basic “someone set me up” fare, but the real fun comes from the dynamic between the two leads and their unexpected camaraderie. This really plays like a solid one-and-done Nightwing tale that happens to include a supporting cast of talking animals. There are also a few unexpected cameos from other DC and Hanna-Barbera characters that really made me smile — and isn’t that the whole point of these DC/Hanna-Barbera books?
If I had a gripe, it’d be the aforementioned tendency of these books to attempt being edgy. There’s a subplot about a character who’s hooked on drugs that doesn’t really pan out and kind of rang as superfluous in the long run.
On the whole, it’s a fun read that somehow combines goofy talking animals with superheroics and manages to wring some genuine pathos from it.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the Secret Squirrel backup story by J.M. DeMatteis is darkly funny, surprisingly violent, and full of dad jokes. S.S. in this incarnation is like a gun-toting, cuddly James Bond and I’m here for it. While the opening page of the backup did a fine job of bringing the reader up to speed before launching into the action, I’m excited to pick up the rest of this round of Hanna-Barbera/DC books to read the rest of that story!