Nightwing #21 review

It’s boy’s night in Blüdhaven as Dick Grayson and Wally West take a night off and bro down.  Given the difficulties the two have been through in their respective personal lives, what with girlfriends being kidnapped or completely forgetting they exist, the boys decide to just chill out and have a nice, relaxing evening sans superheroics.

It goes about as well as you’d expect.

The broad strokes of this issue are a lot of fun.  I mean, it’s two likable characters hanging out and saving the day.  What’s not to like?  It’s the finer details that prove to be this story’s undoing.  Silly little things like, you know, dialogue.

Really, I don’t want to give the script too much grief.  It’s penned by Michael McMillian, one of the graduates of DC’s writer’s workshops.  That in itself is pretty impressive, even more so when he’s been given an issue of a pretty big book like Nightwing.  It’s understandable, then, if McMillian feels like he has something to prove, and that’s exactly how this issue reads: he wants to touch on the shared history between the characters, tell an exciting story, and write some witty banter.  He doesn’t really succeed at any of those, but it’s not an out-and-out trainwreck.

Frankly, I can’t say that I blame him.  I mean, if I had just graduated from a writing course put on by my favorite comic publisher and was told “hey, you’re going to be writing a fill-in issue for your favorite character,” I’d certainly give it my all.  I’d throw in as much history as I know and try to make the dialogue as fun and snappy as possible.  There’s a definite possibility that I’d fail, of course, but I’d try anyway.

It does help that both Dick and Wally originate in an era that was more wholesome and a lot more… let’s say “cornball” to more modern sensibilities.  Dorky jokes and goofy lines don’t really feel that out of character for them.  It’s the frequency of the forced humor and awkward lines that is the problem.  One or two cute little lines and cheesy jokes?  That’s ok, but when that’s what the bulk of the script consists of it gets a little tiring.  There’s even a quip about how the bad guy needs to work on his banter, and it falls flat precisely because the whole script is an exercise in needing to work on banter.

Regardless, it’s still a good effort.  Seeing Dick and Wally hang out outside of the Titans title is always welcome, for one thing.  Wally should really have his own title, not just serving as a member of a team while his story slooooooooowly unfolds over time, but unfortunately that just isn’t the case.  Any amount of Wally we can get right now is welcome, and this is no exception.

The crime they find themselves stopping is fairly clever too, as they track a thief who uses a strange harness to stop time.  It’s… actually really similar to an episode of The Flash from a year or two ago, but whatever.  As a nice bit of continuity, it brings the Second Hand back into the game, as the harness was a stolen piece of equipment they funneled into the streets.  The guy wearing it is kind of insufferable and obnoxious, but he gets punched in the face so it’s all good.

Christian Duce, known for that sweet Azrael story in Grayson Annual #3, one of the better issues of post-Rebirth Justice League, and the classic Craftsman Bolt-On System Saves the Justice League #1, provides pencils.  His work is fine, very solid and workmanlike.  There were some weird continuity issues between panels every now and then, but overall his style works.  He brings a lot of character and personality to Blüdhaven itself, with action taking place in a bar, a Chinatown street fair, a train station, and all across the rooftops of the city.

The changing locales make the story feel bigger and the city feel more alive.  Duce takes the great groundwork that Marcus To laid out in the first issues of the “Blüdhaven” arc and builds on that.  With all its gaudy lights, crowded streets, and grimy back alleys, Blüdhaven still has a bit of legitimacy to it.  It’s kind of a dump, but you can almost see how the city is being turned around to appeal to citizens and tourists.

There isn’t much here that will stay with me, but I enjoyed it for what it was.  Good on DC for giving a fresh face a shot at a popular character.  Hopefully McMillian will learn and grow as a writer, and more opportunities will open for other new talents.

Recommended if:

  • You like the friendship between Dick and Wally.
  • You’re willing to give a new talent a shot, warts and all.
  • You want a somewhat fun, fairly frustrating, ultimately forgettable reading experience.

Overall: As a one-off story with a bit of setup for future arcs, this is fine.  I promise you I’ll forget most of it within the month, but it’s fine.  The writing is a bit rough, consisting of both great ideas and grating dialogue.  It’s a breeze to read, though, and even with a questionable script Dick and Wally have an easy chemistry.  Blüdhaven itself is probably the most fascinating character here, with different locales bringing out different aspects of the city.  While this was not my favorite issue of Nightwing, it was a serviceable break between arcs and a nice little breather.

SCORE: 6/10