This week, Nightwing faces his final judgment!
I had a good feeling about this book before I read it because Jay sent me a picture of a panel with the text “#SickNasty!” What is the panel that’s deserving of such eloquent praise? Why, this one, of course!
I, too, find this panel to be #SickNasty, so I told Jay I was going to quote him, then stopped what I was doing to read the conclusion of “The Untouchable.” Before I get into my full assessments of this issue, let me first tell you that the chapter starts off by putting it’s best foot forward… with Guppy!
I’ve made it no secret that I think Guppy is the best addition to this arc and have questioned why Humphries left him out of some issues. I understand the story isn’t about him, but he is very much a part of the story. Anyway, he is present in this issue, and he’s great as always! There’s a good chance that some of the feelings Guppy expresses – whether it be about himself, the Judge, or even Nightwing – are things you’ve also felt while reading “The Untouchable.” His story comes full circle, but is left open enough that there’s a chance we could see him again in the future if another writer is smart enough to take advantage of this goldmine!
Guppy’s role in this issue is to essentially be the voice of reason. We learn that he’s now serving time for the murder of his father, but his outlook on the events are quite complex. He’s enduring a bout of depression because of what he did while under the Judge’s control, but isn’t incapable of forgiveness. He knows his desires were at the root of his actions, and he owns that. Whether the action was his will or not, the desire that led to it was… but he’s forgiven himself. This is the very lesson he pushes on Nightwing. Forgiveness, even with yourself, is key for growth. It’s an idea that’s as simple, yet complex, as Guppy himself, and it’s why we love him! Guppy has a beautifully tragic story in “The Untouchable,” and somehow still manages to end the arc with a positive outlook. Simply put, he’s incredible.
Nearly every plot is wrapped up quite well here – though some character arcs are handled better than others. As expected, Nightwing and the Judge have their final “judgment,” and while the conclusion is somewhat predictable, it is still enjoyable. I’m certain there will be complaints about the predictability of this conclusion, but there’s no way DC is going to present a stand-alone arc without letting the hero be victorious. I think we can agree that we, the readers, want to see our hero succeed. I know I’d previously mentioned that I wanted to see Nightwing fail in capturing the Judge during a previous review, but that was before I realized Humphries was only writing one arc. I wanted to see the Judge escape so Nightwing could encounter him in the future and succeed then – creating a moment of growth for him throughout a writer’s run. So yes, while I agree that the outcome here is expected, the conclusion presented is the best option.
Now, that’s not to say that I don’t think some elements could have been handled better. Quite the contrary. I do feel that the final confrontation between Nightwing and the Judge happens too easily. Nightwing has struggled to even get to the Judge since the introduction of the story, but in this issue, he basically drops in on him as if he’s done it dozens of times. Typically, I wouldn’t think much of this, but Humphries put quite a bit of time and effort establishing that the Judge was always one step ahead of Dick, predicting his movements before he made them. That made the approach to this encounter feel forced.
While I had no doubt that Nightwing would be victorious, I did wonder what the Judge’s ultimate fate would be. I found his underwater captivity quite interesting, and am glad he survived. I’m disappointed we didn’t get answers pertaining to his abilities, or how, exactly, the sea changed him, but I also see this as a potential opportunity for another writer. While Humphries lack of detail hinders this story, it could actually benefit the Judge long-term. There’s still so much that can, and quite frankly should, be explored. Hopefully, a writer will choose to break the Judge from his underwater prison and expand on his story.
The other supporting characters don’t receive the attention that Guppy or the Judge receive, but they still get a decent send-off. Svoboda probably has the most satisfying conclusion of the remaining characters. Her role in this arc wasn’t as big, but she’s also been a consistent part of Dick’s world since he moved back to Bludhaven. That being said, I wish her arc – or at least her point of view – would have been showcased more. Her take on the Judge could have been really interesting, but she was mostly used as a plot device. I’m not knocking this approach, I’m just stating that it could have been interesting to experience.
The character that really felt like a wasted opportunity though, is Lucy. Her role seems pointless here. The Baby Ruthless plotline went nowhere, and the tease in issue 40 with her pulling out the costume was stupid because there was no follow-through. Humphries attempts to add an interesting twist with her character at the end of this issue, but the execution isn’t that great, preventing the scene from reading clearly. I think I know what he was going for, but I’m honestly just left questioning whether my assumptions are correct or completely off-base.
What does scratching the coin signify? Is it supposed to imply that she was never under the Judge’s control and is just an opportunist? Does it mean that she’s still acting out part of her desire? Is it a fake coin that she pretended the Judge gave her? I’m honestly not sure what the reality is, I just know this story probably would’ve been better without her.
Now, you’re probably curious as to why I’m mostly discussing characters for my review, but it’s because this story is a character story. For me, the narrative was less about the plot and more about the people involved. I typically prefer this approach to storytelling (It’s often my approach when writing.), but will admit this typically needs multiple arcs to receive a proper pay-off. Considering Humphries only scribed one arc, this approach resulted in nearly every aspect being undersold. Unfortunately, the character that suffered most from this is actually Dick. The story revolved around him rather than being about him, and that greatly hindered the overall story.
The Art: If you look at the cover, it’s quite clear that this is the end of this arc/ run. Chang’s cover has that, “Let’s feature every character involved in this arc because it might be the last time you see them” flare to it, but despite that presence, is the weakest cover of the run. Putri’s variant cover is beautiful as always, but lacks that finality that Chang’s inspires. So they’re both nice, but neither are great.
Bernard Chang and Jamal Campbell team up for the internal art and both deliver great work. I mean, did we expect anything less? I appreciate the similarity of the artists’ styles, and love the characterization and storytelling they bring to the table. This is, however, the one issue where I felt like the art suffered a little though because there were some choppy transitions that interrupted the flow of the narrative. In Chang and Campbell’s defense, these decisions could’ve been dictated by the script or editors, but I still feel slight alterations to panels would have made the moments less noticeable. In the end though, these are just minor complaints.
- You want to see if Dick stops the Judge.
- You’re invested in the supporting characters. (Guppy!)
- You’ve read the entire arc, why stop now?
Overall: “The Untouchable” improves on its previous issue to end on a better note, but I’m not certain I’d classify it as a high note. There are many opportunities in this arc, and the finale adds to that a bit due to predictability – something Humphries hasn’t struggled with up to this point. Ultimately, those opportunities are minor though, and this story has more than enough fun and mystery to warrant a read if you have some spare time and money.