Does it feel to anyone else like the Nightwing title has been getting knocked around by editorial interference from the start? It’s a book that’s shifted gears a lot. It looked like Nightwing was going to stand out as a book about a hero who gets to tour the US as a traveling hero who doubles as a Circus manager, right? Nope. Well, what about this subplot involving a corrupt cop who tried to frame the Batman? Nope! He wants to create his own amusement park in Gotham and revitalize the communit– Nope! Screw, it! He’s moving to Chicago and he’s going to stay there and have fun and Dick Grayson is going to have a whole new life– NOPE.

September’s Forever Evil #1, which had Nightwing held captive and his identity announced to the world instantly made Dick Grayson the most interesting character in the DC universe at that moment, so why the hell is that capital being squandered in the very book with his name on it? Ever since the fantastic Tony Zucco/Prankster arc ended Nightwing has just become filler as we wait for things to catch up to the events of Forever Evil and that just feels like a completely wasted opportunity to me. Maybe if DC wanted to make Nightwing a big part of their uber important event they should’ve collaborated with the main Nightwing title a little bit more, eh? I find this all terribly aggravating.

In issue #27, which continues where we left off with Mad Hatter making a surprise appearance, nobody acknowledges how odd it is that Nightwing and Mad Hatter are bumping into each other in a totally different city. In fact, if this was your first issue of Nightwing, you’d swear it took place in Gotham. During a fight with Mad Hatter’s goons (who thankfully are controlled by hats and not a satellite dish or some other non-hat-related nonsense), Dick Grayson’s roommate and the police officer who feeds him info tag along, but ultimately remain a footnote in this story just to remind us that they exist. The battle wraps up quickly and the dead weight of the roommate and cop are left behind so we can sink our teeth into something new: the origin of Marionette.

You’ll learn about her history with Mad Hatter and how she became what she is today, which is all fairly interesting, but I could have done without a panel that illustrates Dick Grayson’s deductive prowess when it comes to faces. His observations are all pretty obvious but I guess the point trying to be made is that Grayson was looking to see if Marionette was lying about her past. Really though, it just looked like he was taking note of things that any human being would recognize in that moment, which would be quite the downgrade from examples we’ve seen in prior issues. How did we go from deducing Bruce Wayne is Batman to recognizing someone’s poker tell to now realizing that if a girl is crying then she’s likely upset? Another scene that is not so well illustrated takes place soon after in Nightwing’s apartment, but I’ll put that in spoiler tags.

Spoiler
How did the roommate’s friend, Jen, find Nightwing’s suit? Was it the “Ka-Thud” sound effect that occurred when she dropped the sneakers on the floor? Is “Ka-thud” supposed to mean that the floor sounds hollow? Since I don’t see a pile of sneakers dropped on hardwood flooring that often in comic books, I have no way of knowing that “Ka-thud” is out of the ordinary. We could’ve used another panel in which she knocks on that patch of flooring and hears another “ka-thud” or maybe she knocks in one spot and hears “knock-knock” and then she knocks on the hidden compartment and gets a totally different response or maybe a different sound effect should’ve accompanied each befallen shoe “ka-plop, ka-plop, KA-THUD” then I could easily recognize why she’d be suspicious.

Soon thereafter we deal with some leftover roommate drama from the previous issue, which doesn’t take long before we go back to yet another exceedingly brief Mad Hatter confrontation. The way Mad Hatter is portrayed here has some similarities to Hurwitz’s characterization, but it is thankfully toned down slightly and his villainous plot doesn’t deal with recreating an Alice in Wonderland chapter for the millionth time, which was refreshing. However, it is a shame that we get no explanation as to how Hatter escaped and made it to Chicago and I was extremely disappointed to see how little of a threat this classic villain was in this story. I mean it, he is brought down very easily.

All in all, it’s a halfway decent albeit forgettable adventure that mostly serves to flesh out a new character, but I honestly don’t think it enriched her enough that she’ll endure after Higgins’ run eventually ends. The final pages give readers some nice payoff for all the tedious roommate drama, but it’s ultimately a very flawed reveal and I’ll explain why in spoiler tags.

Spoiler

One huge flaw: the comic’s big surprise is that someone in Dick’s life discover’s he’s Nightwing, but that’s in no way shocking or meaningful to us readers because we all know that due to Forever Evil #1 (which we read 4 months ago yet this comic won’t catch up to until Summer) EVERYONE in the WORLD will know who Nightwing is soon anyway, so who cares?

Another big factor dragging down this book’s score is the artwork which is shared between Will Conrad and Cliff Richards. Conrad does well in the opening action sequence, which is dynamic and fun to watch unfold with only minor inconsistencies when it comes to Marionette, whose face is shown with flower tattoos in all panels but one (and they are missing in the hear-to-heart scene later on). Richards, on the other hand, draws some very unappealing faces and perspectives that seem slightly off. This and today’s Batgirl #27 featured very underwhelming artwork.

 Recommended If…

  • You’re just looking for a simple Nightwing adventure with a bit of action and a familiar Batman villain. You could probably even pick this issue up on its own without reading part 1
  • You care about Dick Grayson’s roommate drama
  • Details on Marionette’s origin are of interest to you

Overall

The artwork gets pretty ugly near the end, the plot isn’t all that interesting, and the revelation on the final page has been rendered absolutely meaningless by the events of Forever Evil, but Nightwing himself is as charming as ever and seeing him fight the Mad Hatter’s goons has its moments. However, now that I think about it… his adventure here is kind of one of those Raiders of the Lost Ark/Last Crusade situations where if the hero would’ve just sat things out everything would’ve ended pretty much the same way.

SCORE: 5/10