Oh Dick, don’t you know better than to make a deal with the devil?

I suppose not, because if he did this would be one short story arc.  “Blockbuster” continues this week with Roland Desmond, the titular villain, making Dick an offer to take down the gangster Tiger Shark that the former Boy Wonder begrudgingly accepts.  I’d tell you it goes about as well as you’d expect, but I assume you pieced that together just based on the cover.

Yes, Dick plays into Roland’s hands, which isn’t that surprising.  Desmond uses a honey tongue to sway Nightwing, playing the role of concerned citizen and victim of the pox of crime to form an uneasy alliance.  Dick isn’t totally naive, of course, but their dialogue with one another is really solid.

I said it before: I like that Blockbuster isn’t the big man of Blüdhaven yet.  This arc is shaping up to be just as much his origin story as it is another stepping stone in Dick’s attempt to make a new life in the city, and the way Seeley plays everything off of each other is fascinating.  While Desmond may still be rough around the edges, he’s still crafty and rather cunning.  Those traits will serve him well as he rises the ranks in the ‘Haven’s crime circles, and I can easily see him becoming the cold, almost refined Blockbuster of yesteryear.

Like the crime families in Gotham, I like the street-level threats Seeley has been introducing and incorporating in his run.  Having mob bosses like the Falcones and Maronis have as large a presence as the costumed villains makes Gotham feel bigger, and giving Dick his own nemeses in Tiger Shark and the Second Hand will allow Blüdhaven to follow suit.  With Desmond rubbing elbows with those figures, it provides an opportunity for his upward mobility to, hopefully, become the Blockbuster.  Nothing is introduced by accident, as Seeley is bringing back elements as far back as his run on Grayson.  It strengthens Dick as a character while making the story richer in return.  For that, I love this book.

While this is a largely dialogue-driven issue, the conversations are punctuated by a few great action beats.  Minkyu Jung is a pretty dynamic artist, particularly in how he plays with the borders of panels.  It’s an old comic trick, having characters or parts of images escape the confines of a basic panel, and Jung is pretty clever in his treatment.  The details are often small, such as a foot or part of Dick’s hair overlapping another image, but even those small details make the scenes feel so much bigger.  You really get a sense that Nightwing is truly swinging through the air or, you know, driving a forklift through a robot the way Jung illustrates it.

Its a testament to his skill that the issue is so exciting, considering how heavy a lot of the dialogue is.  None of it is bad at all; on the contrary, the confrontation between Dick and Shawn may be one of the most tense scenes I’ve read in recent memory.  They aren’t talking about the end of the world or terrorist organizations holding the city hostage or whatever.  It’s just two people, venting frustrations and sharing their doubts and fears with one another.  And it is absolutely fantastic, in all its pain and heartbreak.

Dick, golden boy that he is, has a moment of weakness here that isn’t admirable, but understandable.  He says something to Shawn that is intended as honesty, but comes across as incredibly hurtful.  It wasn’t his intent, but it doesn’t matter, because he shouldn’t have said it.  Much as I love Grayson, too often he’s portrayed as being a little too perfect.  This scene brings him back down to earth a bit and makes him more relatable and Shawn more sympathetic.  It’s a delicate balancing act that Seeley nails perfectly.

During all of this, though, Jung and Sotomayor keep the book visually interesting by playing with shadows and perspectives.  I’ve thrown the term around before, but some of the shots are cinematic in quality, like cuts in a movie scene.  It will shift from a close-up of Shawn delivering a monologue to a silent shot of Dick from outside a window, then to an interior shot of Dick against said window while he pours out his heart. Stellar artistic direction here.

Still, this is a superhero comic after all, and Seeley never forgets that.

Precious hamburgers?

For those keeping track, by my count this is the second appearance of Skyhook this month.  The monster was created by John Byrne during his legendary Superman run back in the Eighties, and he’s popped up both here and in Superwoman (yes, I read Superwoman, and yes, I kind of dig it.  It has Steel!).  The demonic creature typically abducts children, which is far more sinister and despicable than how he’s portrayed here.

Nightwing, in the middle of a sting, gets captured by the flying monster and deposited in the middle of a group of D-list villains.  No surprise, Desmond’s behind the whole thing, and this leads into the next issue where Dick will doubtless fight a hundred super-villains.  How do I know this?  The tag at the end says “NEXT: THE NIGHT OF ONE HUNDRED SUPER-VILLAINS!”  Love it.

Every two weeks, Nightwing continues to impress.  Seeley’s slow-burn approach works with the episodic nature of the arcs, and he’s backed up by some truly stellar artists.  I’m as excited as ever to see where he takes our Boy Wonder, and it’s great issues like this that prove just how consistently good this title has been.

Recommended if:

  • You like good dialogue-driven stories.
  • You’re a huge Skyhook fan.
  • You want to read some gut-wrenchingly real relationship drama.

Overall: Proof-positive that good character work and strong dialogue can be just as gripping as wall-to-wall action.  From the get-go Seeley has taken a slow-burn approach to Dick’s life, and when it works it works in spades.  “Blockbuster” is shaping up to be a gripping drama, letting each piece fall into place in its own time.  Even though it’s deliberately paced, it’s never boring, and further proof that Nightwing is one of the most consistently solid titles on DC’s slate.

SCORE: 9/10