There need to be more comics like this, in intent if not content: self-contained, standalone issues.  One-and-dones.  Arcs are fine every now and then, but it’s great to be able to read a smaller story every now and then.  I love being able to pick up an issue that pushes the narrative along without having to be read as “part x of y”.  It’s a rare occurrence in superhero books these days, and Nightwing #15 is a bit of a breath of fresh air in that regard.

In broad strokes, this is all about Dick and Shawn’s relationship.  It takes a sort of “he said/she said” approach, switching between their perspectives to give insight into their courtship.  This gives Seeley the opportunity to do what he does best, focusing on character development and dialogue, and there are some true gems here.

I’ve gone on record many, many, many times saying that Dick and Barbara belong together.  That view hasn’t changed, and frankly, I don’t think it will.  Regardless of that preference, I’m also a bit weary of Dick finding a new romantic interest anywhere he goes.  Sure, he’s handsome, charming, and likable.  That’s kind of his thing: everyone likes Nightwing.  Still, I’d like to see more relationships with females akin to the one that he has with Donna: platonic love and respect that isn’t romantic.  It would be refreshing to see Dick make a female friend who he doesn’t end up making out with ten minutes later.  You know, switch it up a bit.

Saying that, I got caught up in what Seeley did here.  For the first half of the book or so I was just loving the different interactions Dick and Shawn had with each other and their respective friends and confidants.  Wally pops in to have a few beers and talk about girls.  Shawn confides in Stallion, who is a nice brotherly support.  Even Jason shows up in a scene that didn’t end with me wanting to punch him in the face, amazingly enough.

In a good way, this format was a distraction.  I mean, it’s Wally!  And not just in Titans!  That’s reason enough to recommend the issue right there, just to see these two be best friends again.  And look, Starfire!  And Giz and Mouse being pretty adorable!  How fun!

But then, I noticed something.  There’s a countdown running through the issue.  I dismissed it at first, thinking it was simply there to contextualize the passage of time, but then I realized it was running backwards.  Swept up in the interactions, I didn’t realize that Seeley was obviously counting down to something.

Spoiler
My first thought was it would be the dissolution of their relationship, and that’s partly true.  In the span of twenty-odd pages, we’re shown events over the course of several months.  At one point it does seem like their relationship is over, with an argument over an open window of all things, but it doesn’t end there.  In two separate scenes, Dick talks to Barbara and Shawn discusses things with her dad.  They’re both incredibly moving, genuinely heartbreaking conversations, with just as much communication being represented through Jung’s artwork as Seeley’s words.  In the end, Dick and Shawn decide to stick it out.

And then there’s that last page.

Two things of note, one more minor than the other.  First, Dick tells Bruce and Alfred that he thinks he loves her.  I don’t doubt that within the story he does, but it still rang a little hollow with me.  Some of that may be my insistence on #DickAndBabs4Eva, which I’m not blind to.  Really, though, Shawn’s not even been in a half-dozen issues yet, so hearing Dick say that he loves her doesn’t quite carry the weight it should.  I’ve no doubt there are bigger things at play here and this is just one small part of the story, but as it is it falls a bit flat.

The major thing of note is the final panel.  It looks as if Shawn is killed.  I like the character just fine, so of course I don’t want to see her dispatched, but contextually it reads as a little too obvious.  Introducing a love interest only to have them killed off when the hero realizes he loves her?  Seeley’s more sly than that, so I did some digging.  Upcoming solicits state that Professor Pyg has kidnapped “someone Dick loves.”  Now I don’t have any insider information or anything at all, but I’m willing to bet that’s Shawn.  That makes the ending… well, maybe not easier, as it’s still hits pretty hard, but less intense.  Factor in the possible guilt factor the “open window” will have on Dick and it’s looking like this is part of another long game here.

All of this is presented with the pencils of Minkyu Jung and the colors of the ever reliable Chris Sotomayor.  I’m not going to lie, on first pass I thought it was still Marcus To on this issue, that’s how similar Jung’s style is.  It wasn’t until I checked the credits to make sure that I realized it wasn’t To.  That’s not an inherently bad thing, as To’s style is great, and once I realized it wasn’t him Jung’s differences stuck out more.  This installment is almost completely just characters standing around talking, and even without a big action showcase Jung holds his own.  I particularly love the small details and character tics he throws in, like Giz picking his nose and Mouse’s slight smile at how dorky he’s being.  From the slightest touch of a hand to loving embraces, Jung imbues his pencils with an awful lot of heart.

This was a pretty good representation of my feelings toward Nightwing as a whole: strong, solid storytelling with great art and genuine characterizations.  It may not be a world-shattering story, but it doesn’t need to be.  It should be good and entertaining, and this largely fits the bill.

Recommended if:

  • You like Nightwing.
  • You want to read more standalone issues.
  • You want to see Dick get another girlfriend.
  • #DickAndBabs4Eva.  Get it trending.

Overall: A nice little character piece that just makes me wish we could get more one-and-done stories in comics.  The characters and dialogue are solid, the art is great, and there’s enough here to set up future stories without feeling like a part of an incomplete whole.  Were there stylistic choices made that I wouldn’t have done?  Sure.  Is it still evident that Seeley knows how to write Nightwing and his world?  Absolutely.

SCORE: 7/10