It’s the details that make this book work so well.
Sure, there are masked heroes, a steadily growing supporting cast, an involving mystery, and a gorilla. All staples of the genre, and all working together to make Nightwing well worth checking out.
But it’s the details, the smaller moments going on in between all of the bigger, more obvious stuff that make it special. From a storytelling standpoint this is a pretty slow issue of Nightwing, but that’s not inherently bad. The character work is developing at a deliberate, believable pace, and the thematic material is finally starting to gel and come together. It may not be a wall-to-wall action, and it does bear the typical signs of the final installment of an arc, but it’s still a confident, solid piece of storytelling.
It was revealed in the previous issue that the perpetrator of the crimes framing various Run-Offs was none other than Mr. Nice. It was a blow that hit close to home with the group, as Nice was their advocate. He went to bat for them, encouraged their meetings and reforms, and ultimately took advantage of their vulnerability for his own gain. It was a clever, welcome break from the supervillain norm these days: instead of trying to slaughter thousands of innocents or cause billions of dollars in property damage, Nice sought to destroy reputations. That’s not to say that one breed of criminal is “better” than the other, mind you. Aiming to kill people and cause destruction is psychosis, no doubt about it. Targeting the vulnerable and broken because you know they’ll be made the scapegoat, though? That’s a different kind of evil. That’s malice.
Mr. Nice isn’t a fully-realized villain yet, but given time he may prove to be a memorable adversary. He’s dangerous in the sense that he’s not afraid to strike low-blows, both physically and verbally. There’s a moment late in the issue where Nightwing, Defacer, and Svoboda have cornered Nice and pinned the crimes on him. Even backed up against a wall, Nice is cruel: he mocks Defacer and taunts Svoboda with her involvement with the death of a cop. It’s only when Dick turns the tables on him does Nice let up for the briefest of moments, leaving an opening for the heroes to take him down.
Seeley invests more in the character than he really needs to, and it works toward the book’s benefit. Some of the imagery and parallels are a little too on the nose, especially given the state Nice is left in at issue’s end. I wouldn’t say it’s an outright misstep, as it works within the context of what this arc has built toward. I just… I don’t know, it felt like something was missing from the climax.
I mentioned the “details” earlier, and it goes beyond just the characterization of the villain. This is as much a story about Dick Grayson as it is his adventures as Nightwing, and the mission of self-discovery is finally starting to coalesce. I haven’t felt that the themes of disillusionment and self-doubt have been remarkably strong, given that Dick is acting just as confident and assured as ever. But then I got to thinking: not everybody grapples with those feelings in the same way. When I have self-doubts (which is often, let me be real), I may shut down whereas someone else may become that much more driven to prove themselves wrong. Just because Dick isn’t acting the way I think I would act doesn’t mean that he’s not wrestling with the same issues. I like that Seeley gets that, because even if Dick is in costume through most of the issue, this is still as much about Dick Grayson as it is about Nightwing.
As much as I’ve enjoyed and appreciated this slower pace, I do hope there’s some high energy and great action soon. Considering Dick’s scheduled to travel the world again, it’s probably a good bet that there will be. I just really want to see Marcus To let loose with his pencils. He’s a perfect fit for this arc, what with the great architecture in Blüdhaven and the beautifully cinematic body language and facial expressions he uses. Coupled with Sotomayor’s soft color palette, To’s pencils are never short of gorgeous. It’s just that with the small taste of action scenes we’ve seen from him I’m craving more, as his use of motion and perspective are incredibly dynamic. Fernandez is back on the next arc, I believe, so hopefully after that To can flex his chops more.
I like what these guys are doing here. It may not be to everyone’s taste, and this type of storytelling doesn’t work for every type of story, but I’m glad Seeley took the time to actually tell a story and develop his characters. Having another romantic interest for Dick is a trope that’s getting old, but with such consistent storytelling I’m willing to forgive minor quibbles.
BONUS: Check out this great variant cover from Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert and Sula Moon.
- You like Nightwing.
- You like a slow-burn of a story arc.
- You want to see some genuinely gorgeous artwork.
Overall: Nightwing’s return to Blüdhaven has been a confident slow-burn, an example of solid storytelling told at a deliberate pace. It isn’t flashy or fast, it’s just good old fashioned character-focused storytelling, taking the time to explore ideas and themes that other books or creators may gloss over. The cast is great, the art is beautiful, and the title character is regaining the confidence that he’s had all along.