In this week’s issue of Nightwing, Dick continues his motorcycle death race to try and save his friends! So, is he successful? Well… That’s a loaded question, but this is probably the most enjoyable issue of Nightwing I’ve read under Percy’s pen, so at least it has that going for it.
The best thing I can say about this chapter is that it’s fun. We are treated to some great action sequences that really improved upon the attempts of the previous issue. In addition, the supporting characters feel like they actually have a place in the race, after their introduction last month felt nothing more than a forced attempt to up the ante. But this chapter improves in so many ways, that it almost feels as if an entirely different writer stepped in!
The biggest improvement comes in the form of characterization! For the first time in a while, I actually felt like I was reading a Nightwing book. I know that should sound like given, but considering how poor his characterization has been as of late, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised. Dick’s presence here feels natural, and his humor is presented perfectly. I particularly enjoy a joke that Dick makes at Damian’s expense when he discovers Silencer’s abilities!
But it’s more than Dick’s humor that returns to form here. Even his approach to heroics returns to form. I’ve greatly missed seeing his heart and drive to do what’s right. Thankfully, this chapter is full of it. Not only do we get to see him in all of his acrobatic goodness, but we see him, time and time again, take the higher road while encouraging Silencer to do the same. Everything about him feels natural and easy – and honestly, that’s how it should be.
As for Silencer, she’s also improved ten-fold. We learn the real reason she’s entered herself into the race, and if I’m being honest, it’s a shame it wasn’t set-up in issue #48. The moment her purpose is revealed, the story opens up and allows the plot to progress at break-neck speed. But it’s the way that Nightwing and Silencer play off of one another that makes this chapter special. Honor, more than anything, wants a good, normal life, and she couldn’t have a better role model than Dick Grayson as far as her moral compass is concerned. It’s almost as if she’s learning for the first time that a threat can be neutralized without having to kill them, and it genuinely makes me want to see more of these two together.
The pros for this issue don’t end here though. While heavily underdeveloped, I enjoyed Endgame, Professor Pyg, and Flamingo in this chapter. We don’t get any more background into why they’re in the race (other than last month’s generic one-liners), but they have their fair share of exciting roles within the race itself. I know I’ve mentioned this in a review at some point in my career, but reading stories with “death races” such as this always take me back to a Scooby Doo cartoon I used to own where there was a Halloween race that the Scooby gang competed in. Yes, it’s silly and over-the-top, but I’ve always loved on the concept despite its absurdity.
Now, while I’m giving this chapter plenty of praise, it’s far from perfect. I’m excited because I’m noticing improvements in the storytelling, and that’s a good thing! But when you break it down, there are still a number of plots that don’t necessarily line up. There are a number of times when the progression of the race just doesn’t make sense. For example, Nightwing and Silencer will be behind other racers at times, stop to talk, then will continue the race, and they’re suddenly ahead of everyone. These types of mistakes aren’t critical to the story, but they annoy the hell out of me. Also, when you dig deeper into what’s going on in Silencer’s world, it still doesn’t make sense that she’s here, and Percy never really explains why Leviathan is going after Nightwing. We’re basically left with a, “I don’t know why they want you dead, but they do.” And the worst part about this is that Leviathan wanting Nightwing will never lead anywhere. It’s just here as an excuse to put Nightwing and Silencer together. It’s lazy writing.
Even the conclusion leaves something to be desired. The story ends rather abruptly without actually providing any type of resolve of progression. I can’t help but feel that the way the story ended only makes the entire event more irrelevant. Yes, we do get a conclusion, and yes, something happens… But when all is said and done, Nightwing is in the same place as he was before the race started.
The Art: Now that Amancay Hahuelpan isn’t having to account for tons and tons of padding, we’re able to see the art open up and embrace the idea of this death race. There are a number of pages and panels that not only look great, but contain a lot of action and energy. He does play into the problem of the race progressing unnaturally, but I can’t say for certain that this is his fault or the script’s. I feel the blame is 50/50 at this point.
- You like death races.
- Nightwing actually feels true to character.
- The Silencer
Overall: This issue is far from perfect, but it does play out much better than previous attempts from Ben Percy. The death race is a fun, wild ride that should entertain most readers, and I’m happy to say that the presentation of the characters actually feels like it’s on point. Logic and convenient, unbelievable progression hinder the story a bit. Depending on how forgiving you are, these moments might be easy to write off, but even then, it’ll be hard to deny that the ending of this chapter basically makes the entire story pointless.