Nightwing #18 review

After a few read-throughs I’m still trying to wrap my head around this one.  It’s just so… weird.

Of course, it does feature Professor Pyg as the primary antagonist, and that guy is nuts.  From a narrative standpoint, though, this issue feels more like a collection of scenes and ideas than an actual narrative.  Again, not always bad, but there’s not much to really latch on to.  It’s a transitional issue rather than one that stands on its own.

At its core, this is effectively an extended fight scene with some Pyg/Dollotron weirdness sprinkled in.  The first half-dozen or so pages are a little slow, a little loose, but once Seeley goes full crazy it becomes much more enjoyable.

If you’re going to mine material, might as well go with Morrison.

There are a bunch of little lines like the RoboCop plug that are great for a laugh, and they break up the pace of the rest of the issue.  Beyond that, Seeley has proven time and again that he knows the characters, so there’s nothing particularly revelatory here.  The script is generally fine, peppered with a few solid emotional beats and a funny line or three.

The most affecting scenes involve Deathwing and the Dollotron Robin, amazingly enough.  The latter is caught up in an emotional and mental crisis, unsure of who he actually is.  Given the conditioning from Pyg, he’s been made to think he’s Robin, through and through.  But “Dinesh Babar,” son of a London bus driver, keeps trying to poke through and reassert himself.  It’s pretty moving, particularly because all of his grief and doubts are portrayed through his words.  Since he’s wearing the doll mask, artists Javier Fernandez and Minkyu Jung can’t utilize Dinesh’s full facial expressions to evoke emotion.  His eyes are somewhat emotive, but that’s about it.  This actually makes his plight much more heartbreaking and even a bit terrifying.

This “false Robin” is reminiscent of the character Sasha from Pyg’s first run-in with Dick and Damian, but he isn’t derivative.  Whereas Sasha was an innocent who had an unfortunate relation to a criminal, Dinesh, if his memory is to be believed, is even more tragic.  He had no connection to crime, nothing that should have put him in harm’s way, yet he found himself in the hands of a madman.  That’s not to say one character’s fate is any more or less tragic than the other’s; rather, it just goes to show how despicable and vile a character Pyg is.

Like Dinesh, Deathwing is lost to Pyg’s machinations.  Unlike Dinesh, Deathwing doesn’t seem to have retained a bit of his soul, which makes his actions that much more reprehensible.  Even if Deathwing is designed to be an empty canvas, a one-note character, his choices make him a relatively effective one-off villain.  The scenes of the Doll Robin trying to appeal to Deathwing’s conscience are as moving as they are fruitless, and they provide the emotional backbone of the issue.

As far as the actual backbone of the series, Nightwing himself?  How does he fare after beating up the bad guy and saving his girlfriend.

Yeah, I wish I was feeling this plot more than I actually am.  The cliffhanger is promising, and now that Dick has saved Shawn (who kicks about as much butt as Dick does) maybe he’ll stop moping and punch some bad guys.  I love character work, of course, but I’m just not feeling it right now.

Maybe it will all come around in retrospect.  We’ll see.  The “normal” stuff just doesn’t compare to the weird, horrific aspects of Pyg’s experiments, though.  It’s not a tonal imbalance, per se, just a matter of wanting more of what really worked.

But, yeah, it’s fine.

There are two artists credited here, though I didn’t notice too many discernible differences.  I think the first and last few pages are from Jung, but his style is a close enough match to Fernandez’s that I may not have even realized it had I not read the credits.  The action is mostly solid, and focusing on multiple different characters at one time never proves distracting or confusing.  There are a few odd coloring choices here and there, like some inexplicable black lips on Dick at one point, but overall the book looks good.  Fernandez really wrings a lot of emotion out of the Dollotron Robin, as mentioned before, and both artists make effective use of closeups in their storytelling.

All in all this issue is fine.  It’s the midpoint of the arc, so big stuff is sure to come, but on its own this feels a little slow.  I trust Seeley to tell a great story overall, though, and where it looks like this arc is going I think the best is yet to come.

Recommended if:

  • You like Nightwing.
  • You’re willing to ride out a narrative slump in favor of a full story.
  • You like Morrison-era Batman.

Overall: There’s nothing inherently wrong with this issue, and there’s nothing particularly great about it either.  Some individual moments are particularly strong and it’s never outright boring, but it does feel like the arc has hit a lull.  There are some good action bits, some enjoyable weirdness, and a genuinely moving subplot, so while this may not be Nightwing at its best it’s entirely serviceable.  Frankly, I just wish it had gone full-Morrison and been weirder.

SCORE: 6/10