Nightwing #52 review

This might be the best issue of “Ric Grayson’s run” of Nightwing, but it’s barely above average so I’m not certain that really says much.

As I’ve stated in the past, the idea of a cab driver working the night shift to allow the opportunity to operate as a vigilante is an interesting concept. It becomes even better when you establish that the motivation of said character is simply an aggravation with crime and injustice within the city. Unfortunately, altering an established character who is already great in his own right to tell this story is a huge mistake. And that’s the biggest problem here. Fans have fundamentally lost – even if temporarily – a beloved character for an experiment that could ultimately damage this brand. But before I harp on this too much, let’s examine what works here.

This issue explores Ric’s discovery of his instincts and muscle memory when reacting to certain moments or encounters. I find this particular plot intriguing and enjoy his curiosity of discovering his own abilities. Along with his curiosity are hints of shock and fear. While he’s able to find positive outlets for his abilities, Ric is also learning that he lacks self-control or discipline when using them. He doesn’t know his limits, or the extent of his skill. Strictly speaking from a narrative standpoint, I enjoy this.

But here we are at the core problem with this entire idea… As solid as these ideas are, this isn’t Dick Grayson. This isn’t Nightwing. I feel like this is some New Age of Heroes book that happens to be taking place while DC figures out what to do with Nightwing. And, quite frankly, had this actually been a New Age of Heroes book called Cabby – or something in that vein – with a completely separate character, I’d most likely sing its praises. But this isn’t a New Age of Heroes book. This isn’t called Cabby. And this isn’t a new character. This is Nightwing… And it isn’t Nightwing at the exact same time.

Dick, now going by Ric, continues to do odd things that prevent him from being likeable. He squats in people’s homes, eats their food, and brushes people off who care about him. He establishes his desire to be a loner, revels in it even, but only when it is convenient for him to be edgy and gruff. The moment the creative team needs him to be heroic though, he’s suddenly the caring, endearing guy who loves his friends. The inconsistency is amateur and merely a convenience for the sake of the plot.

Ric’s approach to relationships isn’t the only aspect of this book that is inconsistent though. The entire concept of his amnesia, what he remembers and what he doesn’t remember, is also quite convenient. It’s as if the limits of his memories ebb and flow throughout the course of the arc. And then, all of this is wrapped up in a story where an abundance of pages are spent recanting information we already know.

Now, I understand there’s an unwritten rule in comics that every issue should be written as though it’s a reader’s first comic. I get the idea behind this. But I’m also beginning to feel more fervent that this approach to writing hinders books and plot progression. It also tends to be insulting to readers – mirroring the idea that exposition is always needed for readers to keep up. We were here. We read the issue. We know what happened, so let’s progress the plot… You know, aside from yet another single-page feature to remind readers that the Scarecrow is involved in this story.

There is one tease at the end of the issue that I honestly thought I would hate, but the set-up is handled surprisingly well. Yes, if you’re wondering, I’m referring to the “Nightwings” teased on the cover. And what a shame that the cover exposed this rather than let the reveal unfold naturally within the story. There should be a sense of care when crafting narratives, and, unfortunately, that care appears to be nonexistent throughout this book.

The Art: Chris Mooneyham returns to Nightwing, and while I feel like his art here is a vast improvement over his recent work for the title, it’s still a difficult transition from Travis Moore’s impeccable art. To be fair, nearly any artist would have a difficult time when compared to Moore’s work. But Mooneyham did remind me of what I enjoyed about his art early on. He does an incredible job at capturing moments throughout his art, adding to the story from beginning to end. When rushed though, these moments slip and disappear – making his work an average mess. Thankfully, this isn’t that average mess. This is the Mooneyham that I can get behind.

Recommended If:

  • You’ve been reading so you might as well continue?
  • You never liked Dick Grayson?

Overall: I can’t bring myself to recommend Nightwing at the moment, and that’s odd because I’ve spent year insisting people check the book out. But this is not Nightwing, so don’t waste your time… Unless you have nothing better to do.

SCORE: 5.5/10