Every time I’ve opened a copy of Nightwing in the last year, I’ve mentally braced myself. (Yes, the “Ric” Grayson saga has run for about a year, not the interminable, dreary eons it seems like to some of us.) I did that again with #64. To my surprise, I found myself relaxing as I read, thinking this was…better. In some ways, it is. The pace is better, and there are fluid, dynamic action scenes. Unfortunately, the pluses don’t outweigh the problems.

Mild spoilers ahead.

For a nice change, this issue doesn’t open with a long, chunky recap. The last issue ended with Talon, as William Cobb, walking into the Prodigal bar. The current issue picks up a few minutes later as he talks to Bea. The shadowy, candlelit bar would be cozy if they were friends. Since we know Talon’s not one, it’s ominous. Rioters interrupt them, invading and torching the bar. Talon does his thing in a solid, well-paced action sequence. Facial expressions, particularly Bea’s, show great variety, going from angry to frightened to aghast.

All the action sequences move well and advance the plot, and the minimalist cityscape or blank-panel backgrounds help keep attention focused on the characters. When characters are in danger or there’s action occurring, I care about them, not about what’s behind them. Besides the confrontation with the rioters at the bar, there are great sequences with a fire truck and a motorcycle and a fight against looters. The fire truck scene has dynamic pictures of Ric leaping onto a truck. He vaults onto a car facing us, bringing the action toward us. Then we change to the Nightwings’ perspective and see how daring his leap is when he jumps to the truck.

The action comes toward us in a different way when a collision flings Ric into a dumpster. He’s in the foreground, and we look over his shoulder to the looters rushing at him, giving the scene immediacy and showing his danger. My favorite action sequence, though, was the one with the motorcycle. I admit to a certain bias in favor of Grayson on a motorcycle. It is, after all, his vehicle of choice, even if he doesn’t remember that. When a guy on a bike attacks him, Ric takes him out easily, as we see below. Then there’s a great stunt where he uses a car as a ramp to escape the looters delaying him. The angles, looking up from ground level, put us into the action and underscore how high the jump via the car really is.

There was a combined artwork and story problem later in the book, though. Ric comes out of the Prodigal, and Bea calls out to him from the roof. But the next panel shows her in a position that wouldn’t let her see the bar’s doorway or the street or sidewalk directly in front of it. How did she know he was there?

In addition to this problem, there are unfortunate writing issues. In the bar scene, when Bea confronts Talon, she says, “You’re…him.” Presumably she means Cobb, but it isn’t clear. I first thought she knows who Talon is, but that wouldn’t make sense because Ric hasn’t spoken to her since Talon attacked Zak. Stopping to puzzle over it pulled me out of the story. At one point, she calls Ric to say Talon’s “trying to grab” her, but when we last saw them, he had a grip on her wrist. Is she forced to call? Or is this a continuity issue? We don’t know.

The pace slows when Ric takes Zak to the hospital and the Nightwings arrive with his sister, Nightwing Colleen. This scene runs about twice as long as it needs to, especially when we’re worried about what Talon’s doing with Bea. The head Nightwing, Sap, gives Colleen a speech about people rioting because they’re frustrated over the failure of the American dream. Even assuming that’s true, it wouldn’t comfort me if my brother were gravely wounded. It would be faster and more effective for Sap to just go with the part of his speech about why cops serve.

Then there’s Ric himself, who still can’t acknowledge any debt to the Bats. When he’s flung toward the dumpster and twists to land, he says his parents showed him how to use momentum. That’s fair, with falls into nets and such. How to fall when he needs to land in position to defend himself, however, was probably not a skill they taught. Later, he tells us that even though the Bats say they love him, he can’t love them because he can’t remember them. And of course he’s too lacking in empathy or gratitude to give them a chance to be part of his life. He also says the Bats are “not real family—more of an adopted one.” Yes, he says exactly that, and the bolding is in the text. Does DC truly want one of its heroes saying adoption doesn’t create “real” families? If I didn’t already dislike Ric, this would ensure that I did.

In contrast, Bea provides a welcome bright spot in this issue. She stands up to rioters, is careful what she tells Cobb, and doesn’t cower from Talon. We already knew she cared about her community (Nightwing#57) and was kind and sympathetic. Now we know she’s also brave. I seriously hope she’s not going to die. If I weren’t firmly Team DickBabs, I would be rooting for her to stay around.

Recommended if…

  • You like Ric or Bea
  • You’re a Year of the Villain Completist
  • You like the Court of Owls

Overall

The story has several solid action sequences, with dynamic art. Bea shows us her courage, yet another reason to root for her, and Talon is appropriately menacing. Unfortunately, Ric is an even jerkier ingrate than before, and that’s a deal breaker.

Honestly, this isn’t the time to start reading Nightwing. Ric is starkly unlike the Dick Grayson so many of us love. Ric cares only about Bea, shuns the Bats, and keeps the Nightwing team at arm’s length. Dick, however, is one of the most connected characters in the DCU. He’s the big brother of the Bat clan, a mentor, and a team leader working with close, trusted friends. If you start reading now, you won’t get an accurate picture of him.  I think you would do better to wait until this Ric thing ends and he’s himself again. Which I really, truly, deeply hope is soon!

Score: 4/10