The last issue ended with Talon William Cobb on a rooftop, using a drone to shadow Ric. Lex Luthor appeared on the rooftop to make Cobb an offer, but we don’t see the specifics of it.

Spoiler
The solicitations say he offers Cobb what he’s always wanted, a chance to get Dick Grayson into the Court of Owls.
This issue opens with Rick and one of the BPD Nightwings arriving at a museum to stop the theft of paintings. Superimposed on the five-page fight scene are many narrative captions detailing Ric’s shooting by KGBeast and resulting amnesia. I realize there has to be a recap for readers picking up the book and expecting Dick Grayson as Nightwing, but that doesn’t require five pages of wordy captions. And there’s a further recap when Cobb rides in Ric’s taxi. That makes eight pages of backstory out of twenty-two pages total! All we need to know is that Ric was shot by KGBeast, has amnesia, and happily remembers nothing about his hero days.

Scenes like the one above illustrate Ric’s lack of gratitude. Ric is pulling thieves out of their vehicle and believes “muscle memory and innate knowledge” enable him to engage in superheroics. He can’t admit he owes his superhero moves to the people and experiences he has shut out of his life. As for “innate knowledge,” was he born with that sense of tactics and strategy? No. He learned it from those same “irrelevant” people.

Acknowledging that in any detail would be too much in the panel above, I’ll admit. But something like “Skills from the years I’ve forgotten let me do this, but I worry about the Nightwings.” Or some such. Or acknowledge it earlier, in the looong recap, maybe saying that he doesn’t remember those years, but the skills he acquired come in handy now and just stick to dialogue in the panel above.

Surprisingly, after all that, I actually think that Ric is less aggravating in this chapter– though still not a character I can like. He used to scoff at his upbringing in the Batcave and his years as a hero. You know, all the things that made readers his fans. Now he doesn’t acknowledge his debt to his past but at least has stopped sneering at it. And he’s out of that transient phase! Instead of squatting, he lives with his girlfriend, Bea. We can assume he helps with expenses because good people do, but we shouldn’t have to assume. The story should show us.

I would like to see him being a responsible adult, helping Bea with expenses and finally paying his bar tab, and I would like to see more of the civilian life he’s supposed to be building. We occasionally see him drive his cab, but what else does he do? Does he have any other friends besides the Nightwings, whom he sees only when they fight crime together? Does he spend all his free time in the Prodigal bar, chatting with Bea?

Anyway, getting back to this specific issue, after the fight, Ric declines the offer of a Nightwing suit, saying it’s not his style. His refusal to admit he’s a superhero is not only hypocritical but should create some internal conflict. Exploring a conflict like that would add layers and depth to this shallow portrayal. If he’s torn, we should see that. If he isn’t, he should wear the costume and join the Nightwing Club.

The action flows well throughout the book. Ronan Cliquet positioned the characters in the fights with one move shifting into another so that the sequence from each page or panel to the next flows well. For example, I especially liked the jump from the roof to the cab in the example above. The scene below also grabbed me, with the arc of Ric’s swing setting him up to deliver the double kick. The smooth transitions from one move to the next give the fight scenes a dynamic feeling that’s unfortunately undercut by all the distracting narration.

I liked the panel below because the acrobatic poses of the Nightwing Club as they arrive give the panel a sense of motion even though it served mainly as a way for Ric to introduce the Nightwings to new readers.

I also admired the use of reflections in Cobb’s eyes, its not only a more creative way to illustrate the events that are unfolding, but it lets us know he’s still watching Ric and reminds us he’s still a Talon. That said, the first panel would have been more effective, given Ric’s inner narration about trouble in the rear view mirror, if the cab had been driving away from Cobb so that he was actually in the rear view mirror.

Throughout the issue, the backgrounds are detailed but fade out enough that they don’t distract from the foreground action. In a scene where the Nightwings are patrolling, the yellow and white flames stand out against the night-time cityscape. Much of the city seems to be ablaze. There’s a little inconsistency, though, when Ric goes to answer an alarm. He swings down with flames below him, but there are no flames shown in the ensuing sequence.

Nick Filardi’s colors do a nice job of working with the inks to depict the Prodigal bar mostly shadowed because the city’s having rolling blackouts. One of my favorite sequences in the book is the one hidden behind the spoiler tag below (it’s the final page). The shadowy inks and muted colors, consistent with a place lit only by a few candles, give it an ominous feeling that’s a great incentive to read the next issue.

Spoiler

Although I mostly liked the coloring, I did have one problem with it. I found it weird that Ric was drawn with more hair on top than on the sides, which are gray instead of black and appear to be shaved, as in the panels below. This is probably so we see the inverted-bird scar, but the scar’s a problem. How many people of Ric’s approximate age, height, and features run around Bludhaven with scars like that on their heads? I would bet not many, so anyone who sees hero Ric and cab driver Ric would know who he is. He should let his hair grow over it.

Keeping his identity secret apparently no longer matters anyway. Nightwing was shot on the GCPD roof, and Richard Grayson was hospitalized. So why does everyone at the hospital and the GCPD not know he’s Nightwing? Do they know, and the heroes don’t care? Did Batman have a contingency plan for such an event? All that has yet to be explained.  Either secret identities are still a thing in the DCU, or they’re not. Whichever it is, the story should deal with that question.

Speaking of his identity, I have issues with that grease mask. It apparently wipes right off with a few strokes of a towel, but anyone who has worn theatrical makeup or even ordinary cosmetic makeup knows it doesn’t come off that easily. It gets down into the pores and any fine lines on the face. If this is some kind of automotive grease and not makeup, that’s even worse. I get the symbolism of not wearing a costume and mask, but the grease thing is just stupid. They should let him continue avoiding his actual costume and have him use a plain mask that doesn’t mimic his own. At least an actual mask would conceal some of the contours of his face, as the grease or makeup or whatever it is fails to do.

Well, I didn’t hate it as much as I expected to. In the interests of full disclosure, you should know I’ve been a Dick Grayson fan since he was Robin. I cheered when he led the Teen Titans and New Teen Titans and loved it when he became Nightwing. I even stuck with him after the disastrous almost-wedding to Starfire! When Nightwing launched in 1996, I read it faithfully. I loved his relationship with Oracle, hated the Tarantula cycle, and was dismayed when he killed the Joker. Despite occasional winces, I stuck with it through issue 51 of Rebirth… But then I dropped it because I just couldn’t take “Ric.”

Some people like Ric, and that’s fine. To each their own. But for me, it’s a concept that could have been good, but fails utterly in its execution. As we go along, I think you’ll see why it doesn’t work for me, whether or not you agree.

I became a fan in part because Dick was smart, brave, and loyal. He was connected to the Titans, the Bat family as it grew, and even the Justice League. He also loved a good pun. And sometimes a bad one. While he had his moments of anger and occasionally lashed out, he was also kind, concerned for others, and always ready to help. Ric has Dick Grayson’s agility, humor, and courage. While he cares about some people in Bludhaven and about the city, he doesn’t have Dick’s general empathy for other people. When this arc started, he lived as a squatter in people’s homes without any thought for the way his intrusion would affect them, and he has no concern for the Bat clan. He’s completely ungrateful for everything the Batman family has given him and shows no sympathy for their loss. That’s one of my pet peeves about this arc.

I liked Dan Jurgens’s pre-New 52 run on Nightwing and have enjoyed other things he’s written. I’m thus assuming that this total avoidance of the Bat family is an editorial mandate. And a bad one that lacks nuance. A little sympathy for the Bat Family’s loss, a little openness to getting reacquainted, and (for Pete’s flaming sake!) a little gratitude for the combat skills Ric learned from the Bat family and now uses with Team Nightwing would go a long way toward mollifying the army of fans this arc has alienated.

Recommended if…

  • You like Ric Grayson
  • You like the BPD Nightwing Club
  • You’re a Year of the Villain completist.

Overall

This issue continues to suffer from unnecessarily slow pacing due to extensive exposition and scenes that drag on far too long. There’s too much narration that distracts from the action and far too much recap of a story that many fans just want to end.

Score: 4/10


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.