25 issues already.  It’s crazy to think that it’s only been a year since Dick took up the Nightwing mantle again.  Shipping bi-monthly certainly gets you more adventures, of course, and a starring role in Titans means even more Nightwing for your buck.

To celebrate a year back in blue, the ever reliable Tim Seeley uses the extra-sized issue to close out the previous chapter and make way for the next.  One of the things that stuck out to me about Seeley and Tom King’s writing on Grayson was that they treated arcs like seasons of a television show: each arc and run stands on its own as a story while still serving what came before and after.  Seeley uses a similar tactic with Nightwing, utilizing the arc-driven structure to world-build while letting characters, events, and relationships carry over and grow organically.

I’d hate to use a word like “housekeeping” to describe what he does here, as that carries negative connotations.  This issue is by no means a mess, nor has any part of his run on Nightwing been up to this point.  He does tie up plot threads and loose ends, though, wrapping a nice bow on the first year of the book and promising much more to come.

It all starts where the previous issue left off, or at least a few seconds before.  Dick, after having successfully/awesomely worked his way through a gauntlet of supervillains, is left with no time to defuse a ticking bomb and save everyone on board the ship.

But what’s this?  No time himself, maybe, but he knows a Clock King.  And, as it just so happens, Clock King there has been gifted with the same vest Timebomb wore back in issue 21.  Seems poor Creedy didn’t use the vest properly and disintegrated, so the device was up for grabs.  Fugate Tockman tries to warn Dick of the limits of the vest in a pretty hilariously condescending manner, but Dick proves to have a stronger will or punch or… something that allows the aura to extend to everybody on the ship.  It’s not entirely clear how the vest doesn’t harm Dick much more than catching on fire when he’s done with it, but eh, it’s fake physics and he’s the hero.

With the villains rescued, the ship exploded, and Tiger Shark duly ticked, Dick awakens on the shore to the not so welcome sight of Detective Svoboda.  Seeley uses the old “eww, somebody I don’t like is kissing me/giving me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation” cliche to pretty good effect, mostly due to the strength of their conversation.  Yeah, it’s funny that they hate each other and she’s the one that saved him, but they’re developing a grudging respect with one another.  Svoboda admits that part of the reason Nightwing even had to get involved in the city is because of her mistake, which is a nice bit of character-building humility.

The second major scene is the confrontation between Tiger Shark and Roland Desmond, which this whole arc has led up to.  There’s some terrific dialogue here as the two try to out-maneuver each other, even though it’s clear the entire time the Desmond has the upper hand.

I’ve loved the relatively slow burn Seeley’s taken to get Desmond to the top of Blüdhaven’s crime syndicate.  His cunning and strength have both been put on display in equal measure, so we know he’s both a mental and physical threat, and his double-cross and treachery toward Tiger Shark are a believable culmination of his planning.  Desmond wants the city because it’s his, see, and not just another prize to be won or jewel in his crown.  Tiger Shark isn’t worthy of the ‘haven because he doesn’t know it.  For a guy who grew up on its streets, Desmond deems himself the only worthy heir.

He also fights literal tiger/shark hybrids and wins which is hilariously on-the-nose and holy crap so awesome.

With Desmond set at the top of Blüdhaven’s crime empire, the rest of the issue is a montage of scenes that touch on different plots in the book.  Nightwing confronts Blockbuster in yet another scene with some great dialogue, as the two play a cat and mouse game where it’s not clear who is the cat and who is the mouse.  It’s a terrific scene, one of those quiet moments that stands out among the noise, seeing two men cement their status as each other’s arch-nemesis right in front of us.

All the while, Minkyu Jung continues to impress on pencils.  The issue is mostly pretty straightforward but, as before, Jung uses some really creative layout and sequencing choices to move the story along.  I loved the repeated image of Clock King’s pocket-watch at the beginning of the issue, both its purpose in the story and just the overall design of the watch.  He doesn’t let any detail go to waste, even in the smallest of panels.  I particularly loved this simple shot of Dick swinging across the city, punctuated by Chris Sotomayor’s colors.

Dig those hazy clouds against the setting sun.  That could have easily been a much more simple image, but those details really made it stick out.

With Blockbuster on the throne but under his watchful eye, Dick needs to turn to his personal life and resolve some pressing matters there.  The last third or so of the issue consists of a few scenes in quick succession, detailing his relationship with Shawn, his pursuit of a job, and where the story might go next.  Without going into spoilers, I’ll just say that this issue does serve as a pretty definitive act break.  The story will continue, of course, though a lot has changed since the first issue.  With one season ending and another soon to begin, it’s looking like Dick’s story could go any number of places.  As long as future arcs are as great as this one, I’ll be happy to go along for the ride.

Recommended if:

  • You love Nightwing.
  • You like a good crime drama that takes its time getting where it wants to go.
  • You want to see literal tiger-shark hybrids because oh my gosh.

Overall: A good “anniversary issue” in its own right and a nice “season finale,” Nightwing finishes its first year strong.  The storytelling and dialogue are great as always, with relationships developing at a believable, deliberate pave.  That’s to say nothing of the art, which is some truly inspiring from Jung and Sotomayor.  From the opening scene to the final cliffhanger, this issue of Nightwing delivers on just about every level.  Bring on act two.

SCORE: 9/10