Nightwing #54 review

Nightwing reaches “dumpster fire” status for me this week, and considering the number of pages used to recap the story increases with each issue, I suspect we’ll have two-page plots before too long…

I’ve made it very clear since the beginning that I’m not a fan of this concept. Taking a character and removing their memories so they are no longer their core-self has become a tired trope in comics, and a lazy way to try and change the status quo. It also isn’t permanent, readers know that this isn’t permanent, and that completely destroys the buy-in for many because there aren’t really any stakes.

That being said, here we are. We have Dick Grayson, who was shot in the head by KG Beast in Batman, and now he doesn’t remember anything about who he was… Unless a memory is needed for the plot to create emotion or establish a conflict, then he suddenly remembers parts of his life to support whatever the creative team’s agenda is. It’s a convenient list that just keeps growing with each issue.

Now we’ve got Ric Grayson, and he’s easily the least interesting part of the entire arc.  Yes, I know I’ve praised the idea of a cab driver becoming a vigilante – and I genuinely like that idea – but that too often feels disconnected from who “Ric Grayson” is. Simply put, “Ric Grayson” has no clear identity. One minute he’s the edgy guy who drinks all day, rejects people, and isolates himself from society while mooching off of others, the next he’s the caring, charismatic Dick Grayson we know and love, and then he’s this confused, off-beat mess of bewilderment as he tries to asses his life. The only thing that’s been made clear, is that he doesn’t want to be Nightwing or a vigilante… until something heroic needs to happen, then he decides he wants to be a heroic vigilante. Are you starting to identify part of the problem here? The only thing consistent in this story is its inconsistencies. As I said, it’s a mess.

This issue tries to delve into the psyche of Ric, and the exchanges come off feeling like dated, misguided, psycho-babble nonsense. Ric shares his thoughts and feelings about himself, his situation, his future, and Dick Grayson. Meanwhile, none of these pages actually have the intention of progressing Ric’s story, so they feel wasted.  Instead, these pages progress Scarecrow’s story since he’s posing as the therapist helping Ric. Aside from the fact that none of the counseling sessions are written particularly well, these scenes are bad because, at the end of the day, they’re just repetition from previous issues. No, it’s not a complete copy and paste of a scene, but the intention of these scenes fail to accomplish or establish anything that hasn’t already been accomplished or established.

Take the sessions with Ric and Scarecrow. All Ric does is repeat the same feelings he’s expressed in every single issue since he’s been shot. And it’s not just a panel here or there to establish this as a reminder, it’s pages. We literally get pages of Ric explaining his perspective – something we’ve read, in detail, four issues in a row leading up to this issue. We get it. Move on. And to make matters worse, these self-assessments or commentaries always come on top of a recap of events from previous issues as well. So, not only is it narratively and thematically repetitive from issue to issue, but it’s also repetitive within each issue.

Crane’s involvement is no different. Five issues in, and we know nothing more than he’s operating in Bludhaven. No plan, no purpose, he’s just doing evil things. You might be able to make the argument that he’s closer to Dick/Ric now, but we all knew it would lead to this, and it shouldn’t have taken five issues to actually happen. This should’ve unfolded within one or two issues.

I’ve noticed that the overuse of repetition has become a problem in books recently. Repetition can be an effective strategy in narratives, and I’m certain a number of writers will say that’s their intention. There’s also that golden rule that “every comic might be someone’s first comic, so you need to fill them in.” This is probably the most common answer you’d get if you confronted a writer about their use of repetition of scenes or plots. My thoughts are that its complete bull. If you want to recap a reader on what’s taken place in the title/ arc, keep it limited to a page, two max. If you can’t do that effectively, then pull a page from Marvel’s book and include a recap summary at the beginning of each issue.  Or, you know, just add an editor’s note that encourages the reader to seek out the previous issue.

But I genuinely don’t think repetition in a number of cases is actually for new readers. I honestly feel writers are looking for a quick, easy way to fill pages because of deadlines. You haven’t fully worked out the specifics? No problem! We’ll just recreate these scenes, and I’ll hit my page count! Two words: Lazy. Writing.

In addition to all of this, we have the Nightwings. Now, I’ll admit that I didn’t expect to enjoy these characters, but they’re honestly not bad. In fact, I’m rather interested in their story because it is interesting. Unfortunately, their arc is inconsistent and isn’t receiving the attention it deserves. We have Sap, who decides to transition from officer by day to vigilante by night, and he attempts to recruit friends to help him. They all apparently reject his offer, until Sap gets the crap beat out of him, then one of them decides to join in. Now we learn that two of his other friends – a brother and sister – are operating as Nightwings, but they’re set-up as if they’ve been operating with Sap this entire time. It’s not awful, but it’s definitely far from great. And when this aspect of the arc is the best thing going for the story – much less the only thing driving the plot, and barely at that – it doesn’t bode well.

The Art: Speaking of inconsistent, the art for this book is all over the place. Within two issues, there have been four different pencilers. Last week, we were graced with Patch Zircher and Travis Moore, but this week we have the unfortunate team-up of Garry Brown and Will Conrad. Their styles clash when next to each other, and it pulls from the enjoyment and experience of the issue. Conrad had clean, smooth lines, while Brown presents a gritty, rough texture. What’s worse, is Brown’s art looks as if he’s trying to emulate Mooneyham – who he isn’t even paired with – but rushed. Ultimately, this is just another negative aspect of a rather lackluster book.

Recommended If:

  • You’re a fan of Scarecrow.
  • You don’t like Dick Grayson.
  • You want to support Dan Didio in dismantling the DC Universe.

Overall: Nightwing is a dumpster fire. Period. Whatever hope this arc had at remotely telling an intriguing story – despite my dislike for the vehicle chosen to tell it – quickly crumbles away due to repetition and inconsistency. I don’t see much reason to read Nightwing until everything returns to normal. And honestly, if I could drop it, I would.

SCORE: 4/10