SPOILERS: he doesn’t.

The “Nightwing Must Die!” arc wraps up this week, and I must say, it’s super-duper weird.

Remember in the previous issue how things got increasingly creepier the further Dick and Shawn went along?  The deeper they went into the desert tomb, the crazier the imagery and more unsettling the atmosphere?  Yeah, that’s a good half of this issue, and that’s for the better.

Nightwing has tracked Dr. Hurt down to a tomb where he’s threatening to kill Damian, but Dick begins to succumb to the effects of the strange dagger Deathwing cut him with.  Stuck in a semi-catatonic state and unable to rescue Robin, Dick begins hallucinating and projecting his own self-doubts.  He envisions himself (as Deathwing) fighting… himself (in super-rad motorcycle gear).  This whole arc, at its core, has been about Dick’s confidence and place as a hero.  Those themes have occasionally taken a backseat to the relationship drama or the weird doll-mask murder creatures, so it’s easy to forget that since moving to Blüdhaven Dick has been questioning his identity.  He moved to find his place in the world, to see what kind of hero he’s supposed to be, and he finally has that answer.

With a sweet left-hook to Dr. Hurt’s jaw.

Really, who hasn’t wanted to do that?  Live vicariously through Nightwing, friends.

This issue doesn’t go along quite at the clip as the last one, but it’s still a pretty quick read.  It’s quite entertaining as well, which certainly helps, and has some pretty touching moments.  Dick’s internal struggle/hallucination is just so crazy, right down to its “Dark Side Cave” resolution, and Fernandez makes good use of warped and distorted panels.  It looks trippy, which helps set that action apart from the “real world” events.

In fact, this might be Fernandez’s best work on the title so far.  Besides the crazy look in the hallucination scenes, his figures are nice and strong and the action is frenetic without being confusing.  The final splash page is just gorgeous as well, a triumphant piece that is only enhanced by Chris Sotomayor’s vivid colors.  Seriously, flipping (or swiping) to that final image may just take your breath away it’s such an exhilarating end.

Oddly enough, Shawn and Deathwing actually have a few nice moments together.  They sit together in the chamber above, lounging against a large pillar and just… talking.  It’s Shawn’s willingness to listen that makes Deathwing open up, showing regret for all the evil he’s done.  While I’m glad Seeley decided against making Deathwing a preexisting antagonist, giving him a bit of an arc and character was the right choice.  He would have been perfectly acceptable as a faceless horror, just another one-off villain to propel the story forward.  Giving him some semblance of a heart, though, shows that Seeley isn’t just looking to waste storytelling opportunities.  It adds depth to the narrative while also strengthening both Deathwing and Shawn as characters.

I already liked Shawn, despite not feeling her romance with Dick.  Truly, I think she’s a fun character and hope that she sticks around as a friend and ally in the future.  Seeing her, a girl who has a bit of a mouth and attitude, show some compassion for someone who could easily be dismissed as a monster is nice.  Genuinely, sincerely nice.  Their conversation, while brief, is genuinely moving and a break from all the zaniness going on elsewhere.

Ultimately, though, Seeley understands the relationship that works best for Nightwing: his brotherly bond with Damian.

These two just work so well together, and using Damian as the tether that brings Dick back to reality is fitting and earned.  It’s almost a shame that Damian is the star of two other books, because I really wish he could stick around in Nightwing for a while.

Despite leaving a few open-ended questions out there, this is an issue of answers.  Dick finds out the type of hero he’s supposed to be, his relationship with Shawn is given a clear direction, and he’s reminded of his purpose in Blüdhaven.  It’s a fitting end to the arc, closing a few doors and opening up a host of new possibilities.

Recommended if:

  • You love Nightwing.
  • You want to see some surprisingly moving characterization.
  • You also want to see some truly trippy visuals.
  • You love the camaraderie between Dick and Damian.

Overall: Nightwing has been a remarkably consistent title since the beginning.  It has skirted greatness and has never been anything less than entertaining.  Reaching the end of “Nightwing Must Die!”, the title once more approaches greatness.  The characters are great, the dialogue is winning, and the artistic talent is top-notch.  I’m loving Nightwing, plain and simple.

SCORE: 8/10