Nightwing continues to be a bit of a conundrum. There’s the elephant in the room, and that’s the fact that I’d hardly consider this a Nightwing book because, for all intents and purposes, this is not Dick Grayson. But at the same time, the narrative and characters (even Ric to a degree) are interesting. So, how do you fairly rate a book under these circumstances? A conundrum indeed…

I’ve complained enough about the amnesia aspect and DC’s insistence on destroying their legacy characters – both figuratively and literally – so to refrain from sounding like a broken record, I’m not going to harp on that here… Though, it should be noted that I absolutely hate what they are doing to Dick. Anyway, outside of the dumpster-fire that is Rick Grayson, we actually have an interesting character before us… if he weren’t actually Dick Grayson.

I’ve previously expressed interest in the concept of “Ric Grayson.” No, no, clearly not the “I have amnesia so I’m going to go by a different name and reject my friends” concept, but the “cabby who is so tired of seeing crime and injustice in his city, that he decides to take the night shift and act as a vigilante to thwart it” concept. That, to me, is incredibly interesting and believable. I’ve even expressed that DC is actually missing a huge opportunity to do some great work here because they’re using Dick Grayson as the vehicle for this idea rather than creating a new character. As I’ve stated before, imagine if this character were foreign, particularly middle eastern. You could have a gold mine that would’ve been perfect for the New Age of Heroes line, or even as a supporting character within Nightwing! There’s so much potential, especially if the narrative were written well and featured appropriate and relevant themes rather than pander to propaganda. I might be alone in this notion, but I would definitely read that!

Anyway, the point of this is to say that there are aspects of “Ric Grayson” that I like, but they are in his mission alone. We do get a character moment in this issue from “Ric” that is also quite nice. Ric meets Bea – the bartender we’ve seen the past few issues – for a burrito in the park, and the developing relationship serves as a nice read. There is chemistry between the two, but Scott Lobdell writes the exchange well enough that it feels incredibly natural. And I have to admit, after numerous shoe-horned attempts at forcing relationships in books, I appreciate the effort put into this scene to make it relatable. It also helps that we get more Dick Grayson than “Ric” here, and Bea is simply a lovely lady. Beyond that though, even the “Ric” portion of the conversation – the “talking to me without wishing I was someone else” bit – is really good. So, for these elements, I say kudos.

The good doesn’t necessarily end there either. A new Nightwing has hit the streets, and while I expected to hate this approach… I surprisingly don’t. Detective Sapienza, a member of Bludhaven’s finest, has taken it upon himself to carry the name of Nightwing. This works and doesn’t work at the same time. From a character standpoint, I like Sapienza. I thoroughly enjoyed his exchange with Ric and that made me feel I’d judged the character too quickly. But then the action comes into play, and while Lobdell was smart enough to add in some shortcomings for Sapienza, it isn’t consistent. First, Sap manages to disappear like any member of the Bat-family when he’s really just an ordinary citizen. Yes, he’s a trained cop, but far from the ninja-like skillset of Batman, Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, Orphan, etc. Then there are moments where Sap jumps through a skylight and fights five people on his own. Again, he has some hiccups in the process, but it’s all too easy for him. I get that he’s a cop, and I understand that he’s had training, but not hand-to-hand training in a way that would allow him to easily take five armed guys while he’s unarmed. So, while I appreciate the characterization and the attempt to make him less than, it wasn’t consistent, and I found that to be a bit frustrating while also diminishing the abilities of our heroes.

I also want to point out that the covers for Nightwing #52 and Nightwing #53 both ruin potentially interesting subplots. We already knew Sapienza would operate as Nightwing because it was revealed in the conclusion of an issue… But then we had two covers back-to-back featuring the “Nightwings.” Unfortunately, this issue attempts to introduce a concept that the other “Nightwings” aren’t interesting in being a Nightwing… Clearly, based on the covers, we know that Sapienza’s friends will take the call to duty. It’s minor, but there could’ve been some nice intrigue here had it been allowed to play out naturally.

Speaking of misuse, we finally have a scene featuring Scarecrow that feels relevant. Lobdell smartly ties Crane to a character from Ric’s current life, and quite frankly, this should have been the first appearance of Scarecrow in this arc. Every appearance before this is essentially wasted because all it does is repeat its purpose – establish that Scarecrow is in Bludhaven.  This goes back to what I said in a previous review. DC should’ve just used these first few issues to establish “Ric Grayson” rather than feel as though they need to introduce a known threat, only to introduce him three more times. In fact, if I were DC, when I collect this story for trade, I’d probably cut Crane’s previous scenes. The narrative itself will have more impact that way. I do, however, want to point out that Crane apparently has magical powers now considering his costume just appears out of thin air…

The Art: Travis Moore and Patch Zircher cover art for the issue. I’m a huge fan of both of these men and their incredible work, so they honestly made me excited to read the issue. I was curious as to how well their art would blend, and it’s done so nicely. On my initial read, I was caught up in the plot enough that I didn’t even notice where one artist’s work ended and the others began. When I actually made a point to look for it, I managed to notice it in the depiction of eyes and noses. So if you’re worried about having two opposing styles, then don’t be. And if you’re familiar with either of these men, then you know you are in for a stunningly beautiful and effective visual treat! Tamra Bonvillain also deserves high praise for her spectacular colors!

Recommended if:

  • You’re open to trying new things.
  • You prefer Ric Grayson.
  • Scarecrow finally receives an earned introduction (it only took three or four attempts…)

Overall: Nightwing #53 continues to improve on the current problem – aka: this isn’t Nightwing – and introduces some interesting ideas. Unfortunately, what this issue really does is prove why it’s important for publishers to actually plan their stories before jumping into them. This could have been a great story that actually featured Nightwing with strong supporting characters that are based on the new characters at play here – Ric and Sapienza – but instead, we’re getting a rushed, mess of a story that has been inconsistent every step of the way – both in the script and visual presentation.

SCORE: 6.5/ 10