Does Dick Grayson work best when he’s in the desert? What could possibly prompt such a bizarre question?
Stay with me here: in the past few years, two of the best issues of Dick Grayson’s series have taken place in the desert. First there was Grayson #5, that masterpiece of a single issue that found Dick wandering the sands, cast in the role of a protective vessel meant to carry a potential Super-child to safety. It was beautiful, poetic, and magnificent, paying tribute to one of the craziest Batman stories ever and grounding it with genuine heart.
Now there’s Nightwing #19. It’s not the masterpiece that issue of Grayson was, but it’s still a whole lot of fun and maybe my favorite Nightwing issue so far.
What helps is Seeley’s light touch. This isn’t a “plot-heavy” issue, nor does it really need to be. Effectively, the entire point of it is to get Dick and Shawn to where Damian was taken to so they can rescue him. The journey there is all sorts of fun, though, as the two disguise themselves as insufferable hipster tourists. Given that this is a comic book, that’s hardly the worst thing that happens to the pair, as they are quickly set upon by members of a death cult. Thus begins the first of two fight scenes, both well-choreographed and illustrated and taking up a good chunk of the book.
It’s a fast-paced issue for sure, but it’s not exactly lightweight. Dr. Hurt is involved, so you know it’s going to get really weird, and right from the first page Seeley, Fernandez and Jung deliver on that promise.
If you don’t know, Hurt was an obscure Silver Age villain who was revived by Grant Morrison and played a big part in his phenomenal run on Batman. It… gets pretty crazy, as you can probably guess, so I won’t even begin to get into the more convoluted aspects of the character. Needless to say he was the spectre behind most of the crappy stuff that happened to Batman, including that great Club of Heroes murder mystery story that has become one of my favorite Batman stories of all time. Seriously, so good.
Anyway, since the guy is on the cover and was even in the last issue I’d say it’s not a spoiler to say he’s behind shenanigans once again. What is surprising is how genuinely creepy his presence makes this issue, as he plays some head games with Nightwing that are pretty unsettling.
Fernandez and Jung trade off on pencils again this month, and their styles are a lot more distinct than in the previous issue. Jung’s style is much more refined, not too far removed from Marcus To’s style, and Fernandez is a bit sketchier and rougher. They work surprisingly well together, though, giving the issue a unique look that plays to both artists’ strengths. I love the loose sense of movement the Fernandez brings to fight scenes, and Jung’s clean work makes the more placid moments engaging even without statues and stuff falling on people.
Which, I mean, that does happen, but it’s not the only thing that happens.
There are a few awkward bits of dialogue here and there, mostly pertaining to Dick’s feelings toward Shawn. I still buy that he cares for her like he does everyone, of course, but I’m still not on board with him being head over heels in love with her. That takes a backseat to the more interesting aspects of the story, though, so it’s not enough to add much dead weight to the story.
From that fantastic cover to the final page, this issue of Nightwing kept me engaged throughout. I can at least appreciate some of the more daring things that Seeley has been doing, and even if his ideas don’t always land, when they hit they hit hard and are really, really good. Nightwing has been pretty consistent from day one; if this issue is any indication, then it’s on track to be consistently excellent going forward.
- You love Nightwing.
- You’ve been waiting for Dr. Hurt to return, because you love anything Grant Morrison does.
- You want to see a great creative team turn in an equally great issue.
Overall: Equal parts creepy, funny, and exciting, this is exactly what I want Nightwing to be. While there’s not been an issue that I’ve outright hated so far, this arc has seen the title go through a bit of a slump. Things are clicking now, though, and Nightwing is finally firing on all cylinders.