This book has been so good. Ever since Rebirth launched, Nightwing has been one of the most consistently excellent titles in DC’s roster. There have been good issues; there have been great issues; what there has not been is a bad issue. Sure, the Monster Men installments were weak, but even those were probably the best installments of the crossover. Every two weeks Tim Seeley brings us another installment of this fantastic book, and every time I think the streak is going to be broken I’m proven wrong.
Once again, I am proven wrong.
This book has been so good that it’s almost hard to write about it anymore: I’ve constantly praised the talents of Seeley, Marcus To, Chris Sotomayor, and Carlos Mangual to the point that I feel like I’m repeating myself. It’s a good problem to have, for sure.
What makes this arc work so well is the pacing. There are times that it’s threatened to get dull, I’m not going to lie, but anytime I feel my interest waning even slightly there’s a curve thrown in that draws me back in. It happened when Dick became the new face of tourism in Blüdhaven, it happened when Orca showed up in a surprisingly excellent role, and it happened this week when the pieces of the driving mystery fell into place.
I think I get caught off guard because this is superhero storytelling in a fashion I’m not used to. With the long, arc based schedules these days, it’s not often that a story takes the time to get you to care about even the most minute of details. Nightwing, though, takes that time and earns it.
Look at the Run-offs. They’re C-listers, if that, with goofy gimmicks and even goofier names. But man, I’d be lying if I said that their treatment here isn’t short of moving. They’re insecure and full of self-loathing, but they’re not aggravating or insufferable. When Thrill Devil realizes what it means that his stolen bike was used as a murder weapon, the look of resignation he gives is just heartbreaking. The disappointment in his eyes works because time was taken to make it work.
“We gotta fight every day not to be criminals,” Mouse says. “Maybe we don’t think of ourselves as villains anymore. But that doesn’t mean we’re good enough to be heroes.” It’s a line that will punch you in the gut, and probably surprise you that it did so. These characters were jokes, products of a bygone era that were forgotten by all but the most attentive of fans, yet they’re treated like real people. I’d stop short of saying they’re each fully-realized, three-dimensional characters, but they have no uncertain amount of depth regardless.
That’s what happens when creators treat characters with respect, though: the readers start respecting them in turn. Never once did I think I would be moved by Stallion, but Seeley struck the right chord to make him sympathetic. It’s a small miracle, and a welcome one at that.
Besides the Run-offs, Dick’s growing a nice supporting cast as well, with a disparate group of characters from different walks of life. My personal favorite? Detective Svoboda, the surly, cigar-chomping cop who doesn’t take kindly to masked types. Then again, I’m sure she’s bound to be everyone’s favorite at this point, and with good reason: Dick’s level-headed and she’s impulsive, so they’re bound to have some good back and forth in the future.
If she doesn’t try to arrest and/or kill him, that is.
About the only thing that I didn’t think worked this week was the reveal of the true mastermind behind Grimm and Shawn’s framing. No spoilers, but it’s a pretty obvious twist that’s been telegraphed right from the beginning. I mean, even the name of the character is a pretty big clue as to their true affiliation, with a sense of irony that comes off as slightly contrived.
The journey there is great, though, and man if Marcus To doesn’t illustrate it beautifully. I’ve been waiting since the beginning of the arc to see what To can do with a full-on action scene, and he does not disappoint. He handles perspective marvelously, giving the reader a sense of vertigo as characters jump and swing across rooftops, and his use of motion is just magnificent.
The thrown escrima, the shadow figures to illustrate Dick’s tumble, everything about that sequence is phenomenal.
I will say that after four issues now I’ve found something to be critical of with To’s art: his faces can get kind of samey. There will be multi-panel conversations and each character’s face will hardly change, no matter how they’re supposed to be reacting. That’s ok, though, because I love Tom Grummett and all of his faces look exactly the same, and you can’t tell me he’s not one of the greatest of all time.
While the mystery may be solved, Dick’s story isn’t over. The issue ends on a cliffhanger that shows that even though one chapter may be over, his time in Blüdhaven is just beginning. The slowly realized supporting cast is coming into the foreground more and more, and Dick is slowly but surely getting his footing in the city. Seeley is being patient with his story, and that refusal to move things too quickly is already paying great dividends. Each day brings its own set of challenges for Dick, for the battle against injustice is never truly finished, and I can’t wait to see what the coming months have to bring.
- You love Nightwing.
- You love great comics.
- You’re willing to invest in a slower-burn to allow for emotional moments to pay off.
Overall: More of the same greatness that’s come to be expected of Nightwing. The deliberately paced storytelling allows for investment in the characters, and that investment pays off when the script asks you to be moved. It’s a tricky balance, and one that’s not used often enough these days, but the creative team strikes it almost perfectly. Nightwing is my favorite character, and I’m glad that he’s the star of such a well-written, gorgeously illustrated book of his own. Moving, involving, and exciting, this is everything good comics should be.