Dick Grayson and Raptor go head to head in a battle of wits and words in Nightwing #32, trading rooftops for the glitz and glamour of a casino.
This is a dialogue-heavy issue of Nightwing, dealing more with the histories and relationships between characters than in fights and action. Given Seeley’s knack for writing dialogue, this is often a good thing, though there are still times when this issue drags.
The setup is engaging: Dick is at work in the casino, dealing hands in Blackjack, when Raptor sits at his table. Seeley stages the conversation around the Blackjack game, which could have had some interesting parallels. It doesn’t quite work, however, as declarations of “house wins” and the like don’t quite land with the power he was intending. There’s still some good dialogue, though, as Raptor decries Dick’s decision to ally himself with Bruce after his parents’ deaths. While it does veer a little too far into the trap of “explaining someone else’s motives to them,” there’s some good connection. Dick in particular manages to turn the tables on Raptor in a particularly cutting monologue, looking past the pretensions of his “Robin Hood complex” and writing him off as nothing more than a common thief.
While the casino has most of the action and plot, it’s actually the Run-offs who have the most interesting scenes here. Led by Defacer, they display an admirable sense of loyalty and unity in the face of opposition. Shawn’s realization that Pigeon is in cahoots with Raptor adds another layer to the story that, while it hasn’t fully paid off, brings the two plot threads together in a way that makes sense.
I applaud Seeley’s restraint in not labeling Grimm “gorilla.” Way to stay strong, Tim.
Orca shows back up, and if the cards are played right, she might have one of the best comeback stories of the year. I really liked how Seeley used her way back in the “Blüdhaven” arc, making her a more sympathetic character than such a silly concept probably deserved. I’m all about using and even redeeming the goofiest of characters (that’s kind of the entire point of using Pigeon), and believe that given the proper treatment, even the “worst” characters can have good stories to their names. Having Orca be an outcast like the Run-offs, yet not quite thinking she’s worthy enough of redemption is some pretty powerful stuff. Couple that with the Whale’s Enders corruption of her already fragile image and Dr. Grace Balin’s story could be one for the books.
I do get the feeling that Seeley is trying to cram two arcs worth of stories into one. Some of the pacing is weird, for instance, and it almost trades off: the previous few issues have had a lot of Raptor and very little Run-offs, while this issue moves the Run-offs’ story forward while almost treading water with Dick and Raptor. There’s nothing in the story that I particularly disliked, it’s just a lot of stuff we’ve already seen before to make up the time.
Scot Eaton and Miguel Mendonça tag-team pencils, and honestly, I didn’t even notice until I went looking for it. Their styles aren’t identical and I was able to discern who did what on a second read-through, but the differences aren’t drastic enough to be distracting.
In fact, I quite like the look of the issue. Sotomayor is a champ with his colors, complementing each penciler’s style perfectly. If the credits line up, Wayne Faucher and Diana Egea inked Eaton and Mendonça, respectively, with Faucher’s inks a bit heavier than Egea’s. That makes Eaton’s pages just a bit darker with more defined character outlines, as opposed to the smoother look of Mendonça’s style.
Either way, the artistic team is great. Minoarticularly loved the background storytelling on this page:
The focus is on Raptor, yet the action is going on behind him. It’s basic visual storytelling and it’s done well.
Like I mentioned before, everything here is fine, even above average, but it doesn’t quite feel like it’s a complete issue. Instead, it reads like one part of a greater story, scenes meant to further the narrative rather than tell a story of their own. In this age of trade-length arcs it’s something to be expected, to be sure. This is a perfect case of an issue that will likely read better once the story is complete, I just wish it read better as it is.
- You like Nightwing.
- You find Orca oddly compelling.
- You’re super into Blackjack.
Overall: There’s plenty good here, it just never coalesces into a solid story. Rather, this plays off like scenes meant to drive the narrative forward rather than a cohesive issue in its own right. Seeley’s script is mostly solid, if it touches on themes and relationships were used to seeing by now, but his Blackjack parallels don’t quite land. The subplot with the Run-offs is remarkably strong, though, and the great visuals go a long way to elevate the quality of the issue. Overall I liked it well enough, I just wish I had loved it.