Nightwing #17 review

It’s Nightwing and Robin’s European Vacation as Dick and Damian make their way to France in search of Shawn.

If you haven’t been feeling this title recently, or have even moved away from it altogether, then fear not: the narrative is turning around and coming together.

At least, it starts to after a while.  The first few pages or so are a tad on the slow side.  It’s fun seeing Dick and Damian together, especially when they’re doing something as crazy/amazing as gymnastics on a flying car that’s carrying them over the ocean, but some of the dialogue seems a little old hat.  There’s lots about Damian wanting to be the true heir, Dick’s place in the family, and the like.  Enduring themes for both characters, sure, though it rings a bit hollow for some reason.  They have a good, easy chemistry, and always have.  I think that maybe they just play better off each other when they’re not repeating their problems to one another.

When I started the issue, I thought that Fernández’s pencils looked a little sketchy and rushed.  The first few pages lack finesse, coming across a little muddy.  Even the sparring match atop the Batmobile looks a little strange, especially the large, rounded fins of their ride.  I know that’s how that particular vehicle is supposed to look, but it’s just a little too loose for my liking.

Once we arrive in France, though, the visuals begin to coalesce and tell a story that’s rather fascinating.  His architecture work is very nice, with those European arches and pointed rooftops giving the locale a distinct sense of place.  At its core, this issue is an extended fight scene between the boys and Deathwing.  Just standing on those merits, it’s a solid entertainment.  The choreography is great, the fight itself is well-illustrated, and there are personal moments and revelations that punctuate the action to raise the stakes.  While I certainly still feel like Dick’s relationship with Shawn has been rushed, there’s no denying the heartache when he thinks she’s been harmed.  Or possibly even worse…

As a hero, lives matter to Dick.  Even without the emotional attachment to somebody, he wants to save who he can, and when he thinks it’s too late it’s heartbreaking to see.  I love the humanity that Seeley displays in Dick, the frantic nervousness and fear when he thinks he can’t save someone, anyone at all.  It makes him a little sloppy when he’s fighting Deathwing, but reinforces his great partnership with Damian who serves to ground him and bring him back to reality.

Damian, of all people, but it works, it works well, and it’s not at all without precedent.

Then there’s Dick beginning to wrestle with his identity thanks to this impostor and questioning who he really is.  And I don’t mean he doubts himself and questions whether he’s cut out to be a hero; I mean he literally questions his identity and what universe he comes from.

From left to right: Deathwing, Earth-Two Robin, Talon (Owlman’s sidekick; I had to ask about this one), and Thrillkiller Robin.

That is awesome, and there’s a similar page where he does the same with Damian.  Just looking at it that’s a wonderfully surreal image, with the heavy blacks contrasting the water color-style coloring marvelously.  Then there’s the details, like the myriad Earths in the background and the alternate reality identities of Grayson from the past.

So, yeah, Dick and Damian fight Deathwing while Dick hallucinates and questions the very meaning of reality.  But who is Deathwing?  He’s been positioned as somebody who knows all about Dick’s life and history, plus he has that creepy zombie face.

The answer?  Nobody.

As spoiler-free as I can make it, Deathwing’s identity isn’t anybody of importance.  Honestly, that’s the best outcome I could think of, because mysteries and reveals like this often fall flat because the mystery itself is better than the answer.  Deathwing here, though, isn’t really important.  He’s simply a foil, a pawn.  So it’s not who he is but what he is that matters.


Yep, Deathwing is simply one of Professor Pyg’s Dollotrons.  That’s so much more satisfying than “he was really X from your past” because no answer would have sufficed in this situation.  Instead, having him be a tool of somebody from Dick’s past makes much more sense, and given Pyg’s disgusting and twisted motives it all makes a certain amount of sense.

And come on, anything is better than what the original Deathwing was.

Now that these pieces are in play, I’m excited to see Dick and Damian take on their oldest foe, and save the girl in the process.  This title is always at the very least consistent, and now that Seeley is touching on Multiversal concepts I think we’re in for some exciting times.

Recommended if:

  • You like Nightwing.
  • You also like Robin.
  • You like Nightwing and Robin.
  • You’re excited to see the idea of different realities creep into stories.
  • You want to know who what Deathwing is.

Overall: After a slightly shaky start this issue comes together as one of my favorite in the new Nightwing run.  It’s exciting and action-packed, well-illustrated with enough good character work to give it an emotional core.  Seeley twisting Dick’s “identity crisis” on its head and bringing in ideas from the Multiverse was a great surprise, and I love the almost non-issue of who the Deathwing character is.  The relationship with Shawn still isn’t all there, but seeing it simply as “Dick needs to save somebody in danger” gives him more than enough of a clear motive.  Nightwing has been consistently entertaining since day one, and when it’s good it’s really good.  This issue?  It’s really good.

SCORE: 8.5/10