I read comics because I enjoy a good story. So seeing Dick Grayson punch a demon in Nightwing #5 or Batman punching Anubis in this week’s Batman: Odyssey #4 doesn’t impress me much. It’s as if there are two kinds of comics in the super hero genre: those that try to tell a story and those that are the equivalent of a child bashing his action figures together. Both can be enjoyable (and sometimes we can have the best of both worlds) but I enjoy the former much, much more.
I was disappointed by this issue since I so enjoyed #4 for its fun high flying adventure that really utilized its Miami setting and expanded upon the mystery running through this arc. But the “fun” of issue #5 went too far for my taste. Remember how Jimmy the clown was stressing over a note in the last issue? Of course not. Well, he was. And it turns out that Jimmy the clown is in a lot of trouble. Apparently he has a crazy ex-girlfriend (who is a voodoo priestess) and she wants him back in the worst way. She’s gone so far as to conjure up a rhyming demon to fetch him for her and luckily for all the good people involved, Nightwing was already in New Orleans at the time so he’s able to catch up to the demon pretty quickly. Sure would’ve sucked if the crazy ex has pulled this stunt while they were in Miami, though.
The art’s at least great. Sure, it’s a bulkier, grittier looking Dick Grayson, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen Barrows draw an ugly or confusing panel. I especially dug how he drew Nightwing boarding the train with his motorcycle. That moment was more thrilling to me than the demon fight, but that doesn’t mean that the demon fight wasn’t well drawn. It is what it is. What I missed most was the scenery, though, but that wasn’t Barrows’ fault. He delivers backgrounds that fit what the story provided him. But the fun part about making Dick the head of a circus isn’t only that he gets a whole cast of potentially unique and interesting supporting characters (not been utilized, either) like Jimmy, but that we get to tour different locales. Last issue made it clear that they were in Miami and it felt fresh and new. This issue only puts our characters in front of a forest or a cemetery when Louisiana could have offered us so much more! Why even do the cliché voodoo stuff, anyway? That’s the only thing that said “New Orleans” about the whole story. It could have just as well taken place outside of Gotham. Louisiana has always had a lot of character and in the past decade it’s been hit with more tragedy than any other state and that’s only strengthened its character—do we really need to go the voodoo route?
And the demon fight is a throwaway. You never feel that there’s any real danger. There’s a big glowing spot in the cemetery and the demon punches things hard so by some weird video game logic Dick tricks the demon into punching the glowing spot and BOOM he’s defeated…although if it was a video game he would’ve had to do that 2 more times, amiright? And after he beats the demon he just ties up the voodoo priestess and leaves her WITH JIMMY. She’s a voodoo priestess, Nightwing. I saw the start of the book. She said an incantation and it brought a demon into the world—cover her mouth. You don’t leave a scorned voodoo woman in a cemetery with her ex boyfriend, I don’t care if her hands AND her feet are tied. And what’s Jimmy supposed to do now? Walk into town, get a phone, call the cops, tell them the voodoo priestess is in the cemetery and hope they take him seriously? Anyway, I’m over analyzing. It’s a ridiculous episode meant to be a breather between chapters of the main arc and provide a bit of nonsensical fun. One of the things I did like about the book was that while Nightwing was fighting the demon he said what everyone was thinking and rambled on and on about how this is out of his wheelhouse.
But at the very least this could have been a means to enhance Jimmy’s character. His relationship with “Zohna” is never explained. We learn nothing about his character at all except that he dipped in some crazy at one point in his life. Even at the end when Jimmy has a chance to explain he simply says that “it’s best to keep what’s behind you behind you.” which I suppose could have been a thematic choice for the issue what with Dick stirring up the past and conjuring up a few demons of his own in the main mystery plotline… But I think that’s reading too much into it and giving the book too much credit.
And speaking of over analysis: how does Jimmy not recognize Dick is Nightwing? They were up close, had a conversation, Dick doesn’t change his voice, his mask—it’s a domino mask! He’s your boss, you’ve known him your whole life, Jimmy! Dick’s alter ego doesn’t even part his hair differently for *%#@s sake. *sigh*
Nightwing #5 is filler. Fun for those who like to see their hero fighting monsters, but filler none the less. The only important development occurs on the final page and the rest just isn’t worth $2.99. Is it a wonderfully drawn and colored self-contained adventure? Yes. Is it a good story? Far from it. Instead, I recommend you flip to the end, take in the unsurprising twist, put it back on the shelf, and buy this week’s Lord of the Jungle #1 instead. It’s Tarzan, which might make you groan or laugh at the mere suggestion, but it’s well written, the cover was done by THE Alex Ross, and it’s only ONE DOLLAR.