Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing attempt to do a lot of things in this one-and-done issue of Nightwing… And they fall short with every single attempt.
If I were to speak generally, I would say that this is a story of Nightwing fighting his way through an ancient branch of the Yakuza to save Robin. The story sounds simple enough – and honestly, it is – but the execution leaves something to be desired on every single page. In the hands of better writers, I’m sure you could find a worthwhile read here, but this attempt falls victim to an abundance of clichés, poor story structure, anemic characterization, and a meandering search for a theme. What makes all of this even worse, is that it’s clear the writers tried really hard to make something special… In fact, they tried too hard.
The structure of this story is probably this chapter’s biggest opportunity. The entire narrative relies way too heavily on exposition. If you ever want to see the quality of a writer, remove the exposition and see if you still have a solid narrative. Granted, there are times where exposition is needed or is the best option when writing, but this is definitely not one of those instances.
The exposition here is presented in the form of an ancient parable that’s been injected with various types of Asian proverbs. This is where the story falters not only in structure but in execution. Having a narration tell you everything that’s taking place is bad enough, but there are inconsistencies within the parable itself. Sometimes the parable tells the story of a character as if the narrator is removed from the situation, and other times the parable is written with first-person experiences. It’s a minor detail but is something I noticed early in the issue, and it annoyed me every time I encountered it. Kelly and Lanzing could have done this intentionally to foreshadow the story’s conclusion, but if that’s the case, then it backfired for anyone who expects consistency concerning these details.
I also have issues with the actual parable itself in terms of the tone. For all intents and purposes, this should have been a really fun issue, but the parable is written as a serious folklore. So while cool and unique things are happening in the panels, the narration is somber and poised, while also sounding like it was written after eating Panda Express and watching the worst of Bruce Lee’s movie catalog – there’s even a Bruce Lee reference in the issue.
In the end, the tone of the parable clashed with Nightwing’s tone in the issue. While the parable attempted to have a sense of reverence to it, nearly all of Nightwing’s lines were quips or puns. I’m not joking… Nearly. Every. Single. Line. This is bothersome. I love Nightwing as a character because of his carefree, lighthearted nature, but he’s way more than just quips and puns. And honestly, most of these quips aren’t even funny, but rather desperate. There were moments where I actually thought, “Oh God… Why do I feel like they’re going to write Dick saying, “Cool story, bro.” because his dialogue was verging on “bro” the entire chapter. It’s not the best presentation of Dick, but it’s also not the worst. His characterization is just one-note the entire issue.
The most entertaining aspect of this issue is the action. Simply put, it’s fun, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s great. Corona’s art gave the book more of an identity and presence than anything else in the script, but the style of his pencils will probably turn some readers off. I personally preferred his work in We Are Robin and felt that the overall appearance of his art was less “hokey” there. This chapter plays so heavily into stereotypes, that it rides a fine line, but avoids being offensive. The fight scenes are fun, but I wish they were longer. The limited page count prevented the fights from unfolding and flowing naturally, resulting in some poor cuts and transitions.
There is a “twist” and “reveal” at the end of the issue, but neither of them land well. So, as much as I want to say I liked this chapter, I can’t. Mostly, the entire book is mediocre, but then some technical aspects – which may go unnoticed by casual readers – drops the quality of this issue even more for me.
- You’d ever say, “Bruce Lee knows what’s up.”
- You’re all about a kabuki showdown.
- You have money to spend and time to kill.
Overall: I have no doubt that some people will enjoy Nightwing #42. There isn’t much weight to it, and the heavy action will allow for a quick, exciting read for select audiences – something many readers may desire following the arc with the Judge. It has an interesting presentation, but I felt like the writers were heavily influenced by lackluster Bruce Lee films and some Marvel Netflix series… I’ll be honest though, it’s way more Iron Fist than Daredevil, and we all know how these two series rank in comparison… If I had a choice, I’d skip this issue.