Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Nightshade Comic Box Commentary

I just can't take it any more.

Between Red Lanterns and an aloof Superman and Lois being kicked to the curb, I just can't do it anymore. And hearing that one of DC's best writers thinks Supergirl is a bull-headed loner, the opposite of bright and optimistic, has made me throw my hands up. I give up. I can't cover Supergirl anymore.

I need to cover a character I can stand behind, a character I love and deserves to be in the spotlight.

And so ... welcome to Nightshade Comic Box Commentary!

I hope to cover all things Eve Eden on this site, her Suicide Squad days, her Shadowpact adventures, and even her old Charlton days. And what better inaugural post than her origin. Secret Origins #28 came out in mid-1988. Nightshade's story was written by Robert Greenberger and drawn by a newcomer (at the time) Rob Liefeld. You can tell this is a young Liefeld ... there are feet all over this story!

So let's learn about my new blog focus!

"A Princess Story" has a lot of territory to cover as Nightshade's origin starts when she is a toddler. We have to get through her entire life to understand what her motivations are, what her true mission in.

At this point, Eve Eden (Nightshade) is already an agent for the Suicide Squad. The story opens with her restless in bed, nervous about the next day's mission. At long last, her life's purpose will be dealt with.

Unable to sleep and not wanting to do anything strenuous, tiring herself out for the mission, she gets up and walks the grounds of Belle Reve. There she runs into the campus priest Father Craemer, a confidante of hers as she is a practicing Catholic. As they stroll, Eve tells him her story.

Eve grew up in a quiet, almost idyllic, household. Her father was a budding politician. Her mother and brother Larry loved each other and lived a standard quiet suburban life.

Quiet until the day Eve's mother reveals her back story. Eve's mother was the Princess of a mystical fantasy world. Everything was wonderful there until a group of shadow demons called Incubus invaded. Fearing for her life, the King sent Eve's mother to Earth. Now she has received word the Incubus have been defeated. It is time to go home and reclaim her royal heritage. The mother uses her powers to form a shadow-bridge back to her home.

Eve's mother told her kids stories about this world as a sort of fairy tale each night. I thought that was a nice little touch to the story.

Of course, I do think it is weird that the mother is willing to simply drop her Earth life and take the kids back home. The dad is in the dark about this other life (pun intended). Was she going to tell him? Would he think that his family disappeared?

Unfortunately, the summoning turns out the be a trap. When the family arrives, incubus demons descend on the family. The mother uses her powers, changing into a shadow to fight the monsters. But she is out of practice. She suffers fatal injuries. Larry is kidnapped.

Only Eve escapes unscathed. Her mother's last words to her are to stay safe. And to come back one day to rescue Larry and free the land.

And so we begin something of a repetitive cycle in Eve's life.

Head back to shadow world - get scared and return to Earth - train more - fall in love - repeat.

We see Eve try returning as a school age girl (sporting a Superman t-shirt no less)!! But she isn't strong enough and is horrified by what she saw and so returns to Earth.

She trains, refining her powers, and returns to the Shadow World in her college years. But the Incubus are strong. They imprison her, stripping her of her powers to turn into a shadow. Luckily she can still form shadow bridges and again heads back to Earth.

At this time, she moves to Washington D.C. to be near her now-Senator father. She plays the part of a party-girl as a ruse to disguise her now new super-hero identity of Nightshade (sort of a reverse Bruce Wayne).

And she uses her time in D.C. to get even more training. She asks King Faraday to hire her as an agent.

This early hero career is pretty successful. In DC, she saves her own father, fights side by side with Faraday, and even stops a mid-level villain like the Black Spider. She is older, wiser, and stronger.

But remember the cycle.

Now established as Nightshade, Eve feels a tug from Larry once more. He needs her.

But she had failed twice before. This time she can't even bring herself to head back to the world. She is afraid. And now she hates herself.

I do like that last panel, Eve steeling herself to no avail.

She soon outgrows the training Faraday can give her. It is time to be promoted.

With this handshake, Amanda Waller seals the deal. Nightshade will be a member of the Suicide Squad. But Eve has a stipulation. She will only join the Squad if, when the time is right, the Squad will join her en masse to fight the Incubus.

Waller agrees ... but do we ever believe her??

But we are still in our spin cycle.

She falls in love with Tom 'Nemesis' Tresser. She develops feeling for Rick Flagg.

This emotional romantic tilt-a-whirl is the only part of Eve's origin that I don't really like.

Then she gets assigned to work closely with Captain Atom. Atom was a new hero and needed some immediate street credibility. Suddenly many of Nightshade's prior victories - over villains like the Spider and even Punch and Jewlee - are attributed to Atom.

But the two become a decent team (a nice nod to her Charlton days) fighting crime.

Unfortunately ... you guessed it ... Eve begins to fall in love with Atom!

But all of this seems to be psychological internal subterfuge. Father Craemer realizes that Nightshade is falling for strong men known for combat as a way to push her into her true mission - saving her brother and freeing the Shadow world.

The time is now ... in fact that day. Eve has the training. She has the back-up. She is more comfortable with her powers. Now is the time to fulfill her mother's last wish.

And this isn't a bunch of second-raters. She is going in with the true Squad. If I am going to be fighting demons, I think I would want a bunch of anti-heroes like this group beside me.

That story is told in the Nightshade Odyssey in the main Suicide Squad comic, something I will be covering soon! I really love this Nightshade. But I am even more thrilled to read her in Shadowpact where she is a bit edgier.

I, four one, hope that the audience I got with my Supergirl stuff still comes around here.


Diabolu Frank said...

I was going to let this year pass without incident, but now I'm thinking I might try to scrape something together. I wouldn't be at all put out by Nightshade coverage at this blog, either.

I did make a point of seeing if I could detect a change in art style between the bodies and their feet. Sadly, I think I can. Kudos to podi-artist Bob Lewis!

Nice tell in that last sentence.

Jay said...


Anonymous said...

I'm flipping over to Big Bang Comics "Thunder Girl" myself...or I WOULD if "Big Bang Comics" were still being published.

Nice One Anj...


Count Drunkula said...

Long time reader, first time poster-

I just had to say I love your blog and I'm so glad you covered Nightshade's origin story in this review. Out of everyone in the Suicide Squad, she's probably my fifth or sixth favorite so you can imagine how desperate I've been to find a blog devoted to all her appearances in comics.

Great job--can't wait to see what comes next!

The Irredeemable Shag said...

Oh great. Supergirl, a really niche character that needs all the support she can get, loses her foothold here in favor of another bandwagon-jumping Nightshade blog.

With the Idol-Head of Nightshade, Flowers and Foggy Nights, and Nightshade Fan... we need another Nightshade blog like we need a hole in the head.

That's just wonderful. Unsubscribe.

The Irredeemable (and disappointed) Shag

Martin Gray said...

Wonderful, I can't get enough Nightshade. Supergirl had her chance and she blew it.

By the way, did you hear - Jeff Lemire is adding Nightshade to Justice League Unlimited ...

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments and for joining in on the fun!

Nightshade is your 5th or 6th favorite Squad member! Hysterical!

Hope you all had a good April Fools' Day!

Robert Greenberger said...

Thanks for the honest review. It was fun to write and she was one of my favorite characters as editor. Working with Rob was fun since he was still in his enthusiastic, eager to learn phase. Obviously, the origin was done to set up the ultimate return to her realm, something which I thought paid off well.

I pitched a New 52 take on her that is sitting, unread most likely, on an editor's desk.

Looking forward to more posts.

Martin Gray said...

Oh that's frustrating, Robert - did you suggest enough costume seams? I'd love to see more Nightshade from you.

And now you've visited this blog, can we see you over at the Who's Who in the DC Universe podcast blog?

Anj said...

Mr. Greenberger -

I'd love to read your treatment for a new Nightshade.

While she stars in this blog just this one day (as I switch back to Supergirl mode), I do like the character and the way she was portrayed in the Suicide Squad back then. And I definitely loved this origin issue - enough to do a full on review.

I may have to revisit her (and the war in the Shadow Realm) at some point soon.