Ben Percy and Chris Mooneyham begin their run on Nightwing, and as much as I want to say they knock it out of the park… I can’t. Well, Mooneyham hits a home run, but Percy only made it to first base.
There are three things that define and shape this book, for better or worse: Nightwing’s care for relationships, Ben Percy’s awareness and commentary on society/ politics, and Chris Mooneyham’s ability to capture the range of Bludhaven. I mention these three elements because it appears that this will be the constant we can rely on for the tone and voice of this story. So, for this review, I’m going to cover the book by speaking to these three elements.
Before I jump into specifics though, you’re probably wondering what’s continuing forward from Seeley and Humphries’ respective runs, if anything. Well, Dick is still in Bludhaven and operating as Nightwing, so the core idea of the book is clearly the same. And while it’s a little too early to say for certain, it appears the only character pulling forward is Detective Svoboda – a constant since Rebirth – as is Dick’s day job as a personal trainer. It does, however, feel that Percy is open to utilizing previous characters, and is on a mission to expand Dick’s “world” by focusing on the people he surrounds himself with. In fact, this is one of the highlights of this story.
There’s a scene in this issue that features Dick talking on the phone with Barbara. Everything about this scene felt “right.” This reminded me of the relationships these characters had back when I was growing up with them in the 90’s, so I greatly appreciated this moment. There’s no drama, no weirdness, just two people who care about each other and want to help one another. If there’s a perfect moment in this issue that shows promise from Percy, this is it! Also, Mooneyham drew Dick shirtless for this scene, so that didn’t hurt… Just saying, a number of us probably wouldn’t mind if Dick laid shirtless on his couch and called us.
But in essence, this moment shows that Percy has a grasp on Dick as a person, and that part of what separates him from our other heroes, is how deeply he cherishes the people in his life. So much of Dick’s internal dialogue throughout this issue is reflective on relationships in one way or another: his relationship with Bruce, Barbara, Svoboda, and even Bludhaven itself. All of these are wonderful moments. Unfortunately, that’s where most of my praise for the script ends.
The plot is simple enough. There’s new technology sweeping Bludhaven, and there’s more to it than convenient benefits. A number of phones and devices randomly start turning into bombs, causing Dick to investigate the series of incidents, only to learn that there’s much more going on. The idea presented could be interesting, but there are too many inconsistencies – whether it be the tech itself, what it’s capable of, or Dick’s grasp on tech as a whole – I kept finding myself getting pulled from the story.
What’s more frustrating here is Percy’s heavy hand with the theme. If there’s one complaint that I have about Ben Percy as a writer, it’s that he’s too preachy. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate or agree with the stances he takes, it’s just that he tries too hard to push his agenda. In this issue, in particular, Dick makes a point to acknowledge that he feels technology is moving too quickly for society to keep up – a relevant conversation to have in this day and age. Unfortunately, this conversation – like most of Percy’s attempts to create a dialogue – is one-sided. There is no rebuttal or argument for technology and how connected people are to it, just that it’s distracting, ruining, and replacing genuine interactions. It reaches a point at times that Dick sounds more like an irritated grandparent than a young adult questioning people’s addiction… And, quite frankly, that’s only going to turn people off to what Percy is trying to say.
If there is an outright win here, it’s Chris Mooneyham’s art! This guy is talented! I praised him for delivering an abundance of Dick shirtless (and seriously, you should also thank him for that if you want to see more pecs and abs), but he offers way more than eye candy. His depiction of Bludhaven and its range is incredible. Overall, he’s returned to capturing the seedy quality of Bludhaven that is reminiscent of how Chuck Dixon and Scott McDaniel established the city. The way his pencils create an inherent texture and grit to the landscape adds so much character to the narrative by bringing life to his panels through a background and landscape that feels lived-in. It’s incredible work that only continues through Dick’s characterization as well. His pencils are reminiscent of so many incredible artists (Romita, Capullo, Kubert, etc). Facial expressions, body language… It’s all good! Nick Filardi’s colors, and especially Carlos Mangual’s letters help bring this city to life. Where the script lets me down, these artists deliver!
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
Relationships. As I said in the body of my review, I’m happy to see such a strong effort to bring casual relationships back into the fold. I can’t describe how much I enjoyed witnessing Dick and Barbara have a normal conversation… with minor shop-talk thrown in, of course. It’s not the conversation itself that is exciting me (though it is really good), it’s simply the idea of it. This concept feels like the exact thing that Scott Snyder discussed for his run on Justice League, and how he is going to set things in motion to bring characters back together. These guys share a universe, and above that, a calling… There’s no reason they shouldn’t be friendly and interact with one another.
Nostalgia. I’m sure people will think this is stupid, but I like that Dick still owns a landline. I have one in my home, so I relate with him. And as weird as it may be for some of you, I also enjoy hearing the sound of a dial tone. My parents considered getting rid of their landline a year or so ago, and I begged them not to. I didn’t want them to lose a number that I’ve grown to associate with them and my childhood home… Because of that, they didn’t get rid of their landline, so now when I call them, I make a point to call their landline first. It’s silly and pointless in the grand scheme of things, but it means something to me. Had Percy left Dick’s standpoint on technology with this, I think it would have served his intention better. Instead, he took things further and made Dick seem like an old-fogey that despises tech.
Svoboda. Aside from his scene with Barbara, the next best scene is the one Dick shares with Detective Svoboda. Their interaction read incredibly well, with the scene shifting between noir and humor. I genuinely enjoy the contrast of Svoboda compared to Dick, and the line about Bullock is a riot! If Percy writes these two characters this well, then I hope we get to see plenty more of them over time. Also, I love the way Mooneyham framed this scene!
The Tech. The tech in question for this story is a stretch… A company has made a device that lets you alter your environment. It’s essentially a “skin” for your store/ home/ etc. As cool as this idea might be, it’s a total stretch to believe it, or more importantly, believe that a local shop owner could afford this despite Dick never hearing about it. It’s all just a bit much.
This Guy Screams Bad News. We get to see Dick training a new client, and he has “future serial killer” written all over him. His demeanor is odd, to say the least. I feel it’s pretty clear he’ll play a villainous role in the near future, but I hope that isn’t the case because it’s too “on the nose” at this point. Anyway, I felt like I needed to mention this guy because it’s clear we’ll see him again.
This Scene Bothered Me. There are so many things wrong here. First off, Dick changes into costume on a dimly lit train, then follows that up with a cheesy line. Then he throws his escrima stick letting it ricochet off the train walls and people’s hands/ phones, knocking them into a corner furthest from passengers to protect them from the explosion. Then to top it all off, he swings them – all at once – from one train car to another… Come on, Percy. You’re better than this!
- You believe the Cylons are coming.
- You want to read a Nightwing that feels reminiscent of Chuck Dixon’s run.
- There are plenty of panels of shirtless Dick!
Hubba, hubba… Well, except for that weird techno-virus, eye glowing part. Also, your crotch is glowing… You should see a doctor about that.
Overall: Another new creative team, another run for Nightwing. This issue doesn’t start as strong as I’d like, but it still has plenty to enjoy. On the character/ relationship front, there’s a lot of promise here, and that has me excited for the future of this book. That being said, the editors need to scale back Ben Percy’s desire to preach, or at the very least, have him speak to both sides of a situation/ problem. His political and social views presented the way they are could turn off as many people as it inspires, which won’t be great for sales. The real saving grace here is Chris Mooneyham’s art! His panels are worth sinking your teeth into and add quite a bit of depth to the story overall. Is this story perfect? No, but there’s enough good here to warrant checking out the first arc at least!