Characters Appearing: Night Thrasher, Rage
Night Thrasher #6
Issue(s): Night Thrasher #6
This is an topical issue story, similar to what Nicieza has been doing in Nomad. It features an escalation of racial violence, triggered by the assault of a black teen...
...and ultimately resulting in riots. Night Thrasher and Rage try to stop the fighting.
This is at least the third time that Nicieza has tried to tackle racial violence (after Avengers #341-342 - which featured Rage and the New Warriors - and Nomad #8). I've already discussed my opinion of the wet noodle "both sides" narrative that Nicieza used in those stories, and Nicieza doesn't bring more to the table this time.
We've got Night Thrasher basically disavowing his ethnicity.
This fits with a line that Nicieza included in the introductory essay for the first issue of this series:
Next up, a comment which should elicit lots of responses and is purposely intended to: DWAYNE TAYLOR is not a black man, but needs to learn how to be one. What does this mean? Why don't you write in and tell us, but as the writer of the character of NIGHT THRASHER since his inception, and the person responsible for determining the course of his four-color life, I stand by what I say and would like to hear what you think about it (a word of caution: the above statement was NOT meant to have any kind of racist or prejudicial overtones whatsoever, so don't even touch THAT one with a ten-foot pole - the only color the writer of this column understands lately is green anyway, so let that fish go back into the polluted waters you got it from).
That's a pretty muddled way to solicit opinions on a delicate topic, but there are good letters in issues #2 & #3 responding to this invitation. In issue #2, an editorial response to a letter fleshes out the idea a little more:
95% of Americans, period, don't have the kind of life Dwayne Taylor has lived... We're talking about a guy who quite possibly has never shopped for groceries, taken the subway, or done his laundry at a laundromat. In the FOUR CONTROLS LS, he began to perceive the differences between his experiences and that of the other 95% of Americans.
I think Nicieza is on a good track with all of this although i squirm at some of the wording choices (e.g. the implication you are "not a black man" if you didn't grow up in a ghetto). Unfortunately, this issue, which seems to be designed as an opportunity to illustrate what Nicieza was talking about, doesn't utilize that opportunity very well. In other words, following the analysis from the lettercols, this story might have started off with Night Thrasher being above race and saying "both sides are wrong" but upon deeper investigation recognizing that the system is inherently unfair to people that are "different than the persons in the seat of power". Or having Night Thrasher take a Bill Cosby-esque approach of blaming the kid for not pulling his pants up or whatever, and then coming to realize that his wealth and privilege have prevented him from understanding the historical context. That might have better developed the idea of Thrasher "learn[ing] how to be" black (again, not the way i would have phrased things but we get the idea).
Instead, Thrash continues through the issue with a "pox on both houses" routine. His idea of a resolution is to force the leaders of a black gang and a white gang to fight each other one-on-one, to demonstrate the futility of violence.
One of the white gang members shot a cop, but he's just quietly arrested off panel in the aftermath. No biggie.
And then the cycle of violence starts up all over again except this time it's a Jewish man attacked by a black gang.
This ending is thematically identical to the one in Nicieza's Avengers story. It's bleak, and it's bleak precisely because Nicieza's inability to take a stand means that there can be no resolution. We're just stuck forever with a repeating cycle of racial hatred. And i do mean "inability"; the issue here is that taking any stand, putting forth any kind of analysis on where racism comes from and, especially, letting Night Thrasher develop a theory on it that informed his character going forward, would be very controversial (RIP my comments section). So he's stuck basically offering nothing. Which is a shame because i think, based on what we see in the lettercols, he had some interesting ideas. However, considering he's hit this wall twice before, you'd think he'd have learned to leave well enough alone by now.
Beyond all of that, i'd also like to say that, especially since this features Rage, there's no reason why this couldn't have been a New Warriors story. It's sparse enough that there was room to feature other characters in subplot scenes, if necessary. I guess i'm just still amazed that the market at this time was able to sustain separate books for Night Thrasher and Nova along with the regular New Warriors series (and a Justice miniseries later this year).
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is a standalone story. The MCP place it after New Warriors #46 (the conclusion of the Child's Play crossover), but per Michael's comments regarding Silhouette's costume, it probably fits better before before Child's Play.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Fnord, I think that Nicieza had a point with his "both sides" rhetoric- the scene at the end was his take on the Yankel Rosenbaum incident (just as the scene at the beginning was his take on the Yusef Hawkins incident)- there was clearly reason in 1993 to be concerned about a cycle of violence.
Posted by: Michael | September 22, 2017 7:03 PM
Yeah, this story now seems very tone-deaf in the context of recent events. "I think there's blame on both sides" and all the other false equivalencies that have been trotted out immediately come to mind.
Posted by: Ben Herman | September 23, 2017 8:46 PM
Really wild how some of these entries have come around to having strong resonances with specific current events
Posted by: George Lochinski | September 25, 2017 1:50 PM
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