Nightwing #16 review

Must he?  I mean, we all like Nightwing, right?  Does he really have to die?

Alright, enough with the dad jokes.  Point blank, this issue has me torn.  There’s quite a bit about it that I liked, and quite a bit that I didn’t.  What I liked about it were relationships and aspects that have had years to develop, and what I didn’t like was a lot of the newer stuff that’s being brought to the table.

But really, this isn’t a case of a grouchy old man wanting things to stay the same way they always were.  I mean, sure, I might be grouchy and old (no debate about me being a dude), but I also realize characters need to change and grow to stay interesting.  Characters need change, and I want that change.

It has to work, of course, and there’s the rub: as much as I love Seeley’s writing and characterization of Dick, I don’t think many of these new elements are working well.  Shawn Tsang is an interesting character, and one I look forward to (hopefully) seeing more from as a supporting character.  As a love interest, and even more so the “love of Dick’s life”?  I don’t buy it.  This relationship has developed far too quickly in far too short a time to feel like an actual, genuine relationship and not just a short fling.

That’s not to say they don’t have any chemistry at all.  Far from it.  There’s definitely some good verbal banter between the two, and the prospect of some slightly flirtatious sparring.  As a partner in crimefighting and loyal confidante in Blüdhaven?  Sure, Shawn’s great.  Right now, though, she feels like the worst possible thing a character can be: a plot device.  I have faith that Seeley can and will turn things around, no question.

One of my fears after the previous issue is allayed fairly quickly: Shawn isn’t dead.  As predicted, she’s been kidnapped, and now Nightwing has to go find her.  Sure, she’s still a plot device right now, but at least there’s time and room to develop her character.

And then there’s the added wrinkle that… I don’t know, guys.

In the midst of enjoying a night out busting heads, Dick finds out that Shawn is likely pregnant.

This has me torn.  It may just be a ploy by her captors to enrage Dick, which could end up feeling cheap if it isn’t handled well.  I’m not sure about that, though, as Shawn clearly wanted to talk to Dick about something important before he left her place.  It could have been something else, sure, and that may end up being a red herring to make us think she really is pregnant, but I still don’t know if I like it.

And then, if she is and I don’t like that, could this just be another round of not wanting to see characters grow up and become adults?  I mean, I hated the idea of Batman having a son when Damian was introduced.  It just didn’t sit well with me.  Now… well, I still hate Damian a little, but only in the ways I’m supposed to.  I like the character and the dynamic he adds to the Batfamily, so who’s to say Dick having a child won’t have the same effect?

Either way, I’m not a huge fan of this development, but I’ll resort to one of the most frustrating phrases to throw around: we’ll see how it plays out.

If you don’t want to be spoiled, just know that I didn’t really like most of the material with Shawn Tsang this issue.  The sum of those scenes and developments would probably lead me to give the issue a 5 or so.

Except Damian is in it.  And man oh man, does Seeley nail Dick and Damian’s relationship.

If you don’t believe me, listen to how Damian ends up in Blüdhaven: he’s sitting in Titans Tower, perusing a Twitter analogue, when he notices Nightwing is trending.  People start calling him #BestRobin.  The Titans agree.

Needless to say, Damian is not amused.

So, naturally, he hightails it to the ‘Haven to prove that he’s the better Robin.  Totally out of spite.

It’s classic Damian, and it is awesome.

Let’s not wrack our brains trying to figure out just how Grant Morrison’s brilliant Batman & Robin run fits in continuity, and instead rejoice in the simple fact that it does.  Dick and Damian’s chemistry is as great as ever, even when Grayson is distracted and a little more gruff than usual.  It’s part of what made me start to appreciate that little turdrocket in the first place: his self-entitled snobbery played well against Dick’s easy-going likability, and that’s what made them good partners.  It looks like Damian will be sticking around for a few issues, too, so here’s hoping we get more of that banter.

After a several month absence, Javier Fernández returns on pencils.  There’s no question that I loved Marcus To’s contributions to the book, and I’ll be glad to see him back in a few months, but Fernández is no slouch.  This isn’t his most polished work on this book, and I think that works to the issue’s benefit: I loved the gaudy, false sense of cleanliness that To’s style gave to the ‘Haven, but Fernández’s slightly rougher pencils makes it look like the dirty place that it is.  His etching style gives everything a bit of a rough edge, harkening back to the look the city had in the Nineties.  His layouts are great, too, giving the narrative a nice visual flow.  There isn’t anything too crazy here, but he utilizes panel layouts, angled shots, and the gorgeous colors of Chris Sotomayor to great effect.  It’s a classic example of great visual storytelling, something this book has never lacked.

So, while the main thrust of the book left much to be desired, there were other elements that I really loved.  Had Dick and Damian’s relationship been the focus of the issue it would have garnered an 8 to a 9, easy, so let’s just do some “Jay is really bad at math” and say this is a solid 6.5

BONUS: A couple of swell variant covers this week.  Nothing against Fernandez’s cover, but these are both pretty great.


That one’s pretty cool: a nice, dynamic image.  It’s Ivan Reis’ variant that will garner the most attention, though:

And with good reason.  It’s a direct homage to Frank Quitely’s cover for Batman & Robin #1, the first appearance of Dick and Damian as the Dynamic Duo.

Fun story: like I said earlier, I hated the idea of Damian at first.  I didn’t like that Batman had a kid, and I didn’t like that he supplanted Tim Drake, the Best Robin, as Robin.  Well, time has softened my position on the former point (it’s a wonder what becoming a dad can do for your perspective), and a friend told me that Dick and Damian had great chemistry as Batman and Robin, which was enough to give that series a chance.  And, wouldn’t you know, it ended up being one of my favorite comic runs of all time.

Point being, that cover is awesome.

Recommended if:

  • You want to see Dick and Damian back to their old ways.
  • You’ve been enjoying the Nightwing series so far.
  • You can look past some questionable storytelling decisions and appreciate great character moments.

Overall: The first real disappointment of Seeley’s Nightwing run, though it’s not without its charms.  I appreciate what Seeley has been doing with Dick’s personal life, though I wish certain aspects of his relationship with Shawn hadn’t been rushed.  As such, since that’s the driving force behind this new arc, it doesn’t quite come together.  Thankfully, Seeley still knows how to write Nightwing, and he certainly knows how to write Damian as well.  Those brilliant interactions, along with some reliably great work from Fernández and Sotomayor, elevate the book above its disappointments.

SCORE: 6.5/10