The “Better Than Batman” arc has been one of the most exciting, consistently entertaining stories coming from of DC Comics in the past several months. I’ve used the word “swashbuckling” to describe it a few times, and I still feel that’s accurate: it’s a grand adventure, serialized entertainment that hearkens back to the Silver Age of Cinema where heroes went on globe-trotting adventures at dangerous locales, each more exciting than the last. Throw in some superheroics and genuinely compelling relationships and Nightwing has been a winner, through and through.
It’s sad, then, that the finale to such a great run is just… good. And it is good, but it’s “just” good.
One of the main factors, I’ve no doubt, is the “Night of the Monster Men” crossover coming next month. Don’t get me wrong, I think it sounds ridiculous and/or awesome, but considering Seeley has been playing a long game here it’s disappointing that he was rushed to wrap up in time for a different story altogether. He can still play the long game, and there are certainly hints and seeds planted here that will no doubt be explored in the future, I just wish this arc hadn’t been wrapped up so neatly.
None of these reservations should be taken to say that this is a bad issue, because it is far from it: from the opening page, where Dr. Leviticus describes the Parliament’s archiving system that is akin to recording onto a vinyl record, the issue hits all the right beats to be enjoyable.
The main conflict in the issue, as evidenced by the cover, is an extended fight that Nightwing and Raptor have with Moloch, a member of the Parliament who is also a weird were-creature. The battle is pretty entertaining, with some nice action from Fernández and Sotomayor, though it does peter out toward the end.
That’s kind of symptomatic of the issue as a whole, as everything that happens makes sense, but there isn’t much payoff to anything. Even the bigger events are just… there, presented without much weight. The whole thing feels like an extended montage rather than a standalone issue, with beats coming and going so as to finish existing stories at the cost of telling its own.
But really, I’m being too negative. I had a good time reading this issue, and it at least serves its purpose. The character work is spot on, and we even get some new hints at Raptor’s history and motivations, and there was a surprise cameo at the end that is sure to make any Grayson fan laugh out loud.
My personal favorite scene was a small one, but it spoke volumes: Dick and Raptor are in the labyrinth looking to free the captives the Parliament took back in the second issue. Dick, obviously heartbroken at the condition the refugees are in, has had enough of peering into the abyss and decides he won’t go any further. Instead of playing a part, he does what’s right for the oppressed and releases them. It’s a powerful moment that speaks to Dick’s relentlessly heroic nature, one that makes reading insanity like fighting giant behemoths worthwhile.
There was one misstep at the end, in a scene between Dick and Bruce, and it rang a little hollow to me. Dick acts a little too much the part of a petulant teenager, all but yelling at Bruce epitaphs like “I’m an adult and I can make my own decisions!”, and it came off as just a little too petty. Granted, Seeley’s all about the long game and I know he’s more than capable, but right now it seems like a step back for Dick’s character.
Then again, it could just be part of Dick’s play that Bruce is totally in on, so we’ll see. Besides that, the issue is good, just not as great as the rest of the series to this point.
- You love Nightwing.
- You’re intrigued by Raptor.
- You like fights with large, shape-shifting owl… things.
- You’ve been waiting to see the Parliament of Owls be taken down, even as an afterthought.
Overall: Good, not great. Everything works in context, even if it plays out more like a montage than anything, with plot points and beats coming and going rather than being fleshed out with a lot of substance. Problems with structure aside, it’s still full of what makes Nightwing great, and barring a misstep or two I still had a good time.