Bludhaven… See it at night and it shines…

Sam Humphries and Bernard Chang debut their run on Nightwing, and I’m quite impressed with the product. This isn’t an explosive issue though, so if you’re expecting the story to move from zero to sixty, you might be disappointed. While I find the plot intriguing, there isn’t much in the way of high-energy, action-packed fisticuffs. Instead, this appears, as far as I can tell, to be a story worth sinking your teeth into.

Most of you reading this are probably curious to learn what separates this run from Seeley’s run, or even runs that preceded his. If you’re worried that Dick is presented in a different light, then fear not. This is Dick Grayson through and through. But there is something different about Humphries’ approach. The difference is subtle, but it’s there. So, what is this difference exactly? Everything around Dick.

We all know Nightwing. We know his history. We know his journey to become a hero. We know his heart, and light-hearted nature. We know the relationships he has with his allies, his friends, and even some of his enemies. It’s been established for decades, and it feels as though Humphries is well aware of that. So rather than just focus on Dick in this issue, we focus on Bludhaven and the people of Bludhaven equally as much.

When you read this issue, you’ll get a sense that Bludhaven feels and reads like a character. The city has a personality, as well as a presence that is distinct. Yes, we’ve gotten shades and hints of this before, but I don’t recall ever reading an iteration of Bludhaven that is detailed to this degree. It’s almost as if the city has an actual voice. Humphries script is only fifty percent of this though. Chang deserves an equal amount of credit. His vision for the city is executed so superbly, that it inspired my introduction to this review.

Now, if you have a city that is structured with this much texture and detail, just imagine how well the characters will be handled. Humphries carries forward Detective Svoboda and keeps her pretty consistent to what we know from Seeley’s run. His new characters, the Judge and Guppy, however, make a strong impact. Guppy gets a lot of face time here, and I’ll admit I’m already a fan. He’s essentially the local snitch, but there’s so much more to him than that. As for the Judge, we barely get any direct contact with him, but he still manages to leave a lasting impression. We learn more about him throughout the issue – some from Dick’s past, and some from Guppy’s conversations with the Judge – and the more we learn, the better the issue gets. Considering half of the information we receive about the Judge comes from Guppy though, who knows how reliable it is.

The big zing for me is the reveal of what I assume to be the Judge’s abilities. His skillset allows for interesting plot developments and altercations with Nightwing, so I can only imagine how good this will get. Throw in some fun elements such as the reveal of Dick’s new day job, and an interesting cliffhanger, and you’ve got one hell of an entertaining read!

The Art:

Both covers for this issue are outstanding. The standard cover is drawn by Bernard Chang, with colors by Marcelo Maiolo. The cover features our major players for this issue: Nightwing, the villain, Guppy, and Detective Svoboda. The three supporting characters are shown in Nightwing, almost like a background image, as Nightwing’s chest emblem wraps them together. The rest of the cover is splashed with casino coins – something that you discover is extremely relevant to the plot by the end of the issue.  What really makes this cover stand out though, are the striking colors from Maiolo. Nightwing’s blue pops, especially against the magenta wash over the other characters and coins.

Yasmine Putri also delivers a stunning variant cover. She really captures Dick’s movement and grace incredibly well, and the final product is beautiful. The muted colors prevent it from popping as much as Chang and Maiolo’s, and the depiction doesn’t really do anything to hint at the story. Regardless, it’s a true representation of Nightwing as a character, and well worth adding to your collection.

Chang and Miaolo also deliver the interior art. I’ve covered Chang’s work for a while now with Batman Beyond, but there seems to be something especially grand about his work for Nightwing. His technique and style doesn’t look any different, but it does appear as though as he put more though and detail into every element. Hands down, the art in this book is incredible and should receive as much praise as Humphries script.

Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.

Spoiler

The Good:

Bludhaven. As I mentioned earlier, I love what Humphries and Chang are doing with Bludhaven. The city has a distinct look and feel, and Humphries brings the city to life through the characters. I’m excited to explore other parts of the city!

The Judge. When reading solicitations of upcoming issues, the one thing I kept thinking was, “The dynamic of the Judge is really going to make or break this debut arc.” Simply put, if the Judge falls flat, the arc will fall flat… Guess what? The Judge is incredibly intriguing! Yes, there’s already some mystery because Dick has a history with him, but he’s written well enough that he could easily stand on his own without that connection. His view on people and life should catch you rather quickly, and his abilities – which appear to be similar to Marvel’s Killgrave, except through the use of a gold coin – also allow for endless plot potential. I can’t wait to see and learn more about him!

Guppy. Humphries has been talking up Guppy for a while now, and when you read this issue, you’ll understand why. I’m sure a number of you will look at him and think, “Did they really add a shark-dude? I don’t know how I feel about this.” Trust me, it works. For a shark-man, Guppy is all bark and no bite. He’s the quintessential guy that straddles the line of good and bad, and ultimately serves as the tap of information to the “underworld” for heroes. If you’re a fan of Angel (both the television show and the comic), Guppy kind of reminds me of a cross between Merl (from the show) and Beta George (from the comic).  There’s more to him than just being a snitch, and I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a villain. His personality is what shines through though (as the fact that he’s a man-shark). To kind of quote Jay Z, “If you don’t like Guppy, I feel bad for you son. DC has ninety-nine problems, but Guppy ain’t one.”

Grayson: Cross Train Studio. One of my favorite aspects about Nightwing comics over the years, has been Dick Grayson’s day job. I don’t know why this aspect plays so well with Dick, but it does. Where most characters that have a day job have remained in that job for decades, Dick has essentially jumped around from job to job – something I’m sure most of us relate too. Here, Humphries has him starting his own business: a CrossFit gym (or in this case, Cross Trainer). It’s perfect, and I expect there will be a number of enjoyable or funny moments that will develop from this.

Target Audience. Let’s face it, Dick Grayson has become synonymous with butt shots. Honestly, I don’t think Nightwing would be Nightwing anymore without serving up a dish of Dickbutt. That’s why it pains me to say that Humphries and Chang neglected to add that to this issue… Just kidding.

Bang. I didn’t see this coming. I was so caught up in trying to figure out so many other elements, that the obvious wasn’t very obvious to me until it was too late for Nightwing. Clearly, Svoboda shooting Dick isn’t going to result in his death, but it should lead to some solid plot threads for upcoming issues.

The Bad:

League of Limousine Assassins. The small bit of action we do get in this issue is hit and miss for me. The action itself is decent, and the fact that Nightwing refers to these guys as the “League of Limousine Assassins” is funny… but this ultimately feels like a forced action sequence per editorial. We can’t have a superhero comic without an action sequence after all…

Recommended if:

  • You’re a fan of Nightwing.
  • You’re open to introduce a new, intriguing character into your life (Guppy).
  • You like your antagonists to be complex.

Overall: Nightwing #35 is a great time to jump on if you haven’t been reading this title. Humphries and Chang appear to have an incredible story in the works that hits all the right marks for any Nightwing or comic fan as they bring Bludhaven to life in a way that feels fresh and original. Placing Dick in that world only accents and elevates him as a character. There’s a ton of texture and characterization to be found here – both in the script and the art – so go pick it up!

SCORE: 8.5/10