Last issue ended with Ric freeing Bea from captivity and confronting Talon, Dick Grayson’s great-grandfather, on the rooftop of the Prodigal bar. Issue #65 picks up with Talon still in mid-leap toward Ric, and we’re off to the races… But only if it’s a turtle race. The overall arc is still moving at the pace of an arthritic turtle.
On the plus side, there’s no multi-page series of captions in which Ric explains everything since Nightwing#50 to the reader. On the minus side, most of the issue is backstory explained throughout a fight scene as Talon details his goals and Ric’s destiny in the Court of Owls. We do see the Nightwing Club confront looters, with Nightwing Hutch delivering a really good speech about why they shouldn’t do this, though. It shows us Bludhaven is still in chaos but it changes nothing in the grand scheme of things. Only at the very end does something happen that really matters going forward. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Since most of the issue is one long fight sequence, let’s look at that first.
I have to admit up front that I hate wordy fight scenes because nobody in the middle of a fight becomes a chatterbox. Lengthy speeches should occur during breaks in the action, not in the midst of it. In addition, stopping to read all the words kills the pace of the fight. Granted, talking in a fight is a classic comics trope, but some of Talon’s and Ric’s dialogue seems too long-winded for the circumstances, just look at the two examples below.
I also have problems with the fight choreography and the progression of the action. Ric Grayson may not remember his days with Batman or the Titans, but we’ve been told over and over and over again how incredibly skilled he is thanks to “muscle memory.” We’re spared that this time, but we also don’t see him looking particularly skilled outside of acrobatics. Talon clearly has the upper hand in this fight. He thinks his victory’s a foregone conclusion, but I can’t help wondering what happened to the guy who regularly took down metahumans, beat Ra’s al Ghul in a duel, and has gone toe-to-toe with Slade Wilson. Toward the end of the book, after Ric absorbs a lot of punishment in the fight and comes back unimpeded, then has a short, talky breather, one kick makes him extremely groggy! This just doesn’t make sense. It’s fair to say Ric is nerfed for this issue.
It’s also fair to say that his “muscle memory” clearly doesn’t include all of his tactical training. The time to unmask a foe is when that foe is down and restrained, not before. But Ric, apparently not having Dick’s analytical skill, can’t wait, and that backfires. Badly. When a mysterious symbol appears in the sky, both Ric and Talon stop fighting to natter about it. Really? Not smart on either of their parts. Talon has a pretty good idea what it means, so why isn’t he taking advantage of his target’s distraction?
Another downside to the mysterious symbol is Bea calling Ric’s attention to it when he’s in the middle of a slugfest with a deadly opponent. Um, no. Really no. She’s a smart woman, so this seems out of character. She gets points, however, for showing us more of the courage showcased in the last issue. When the fight goes badly for Ric, she wades in, more than once despite having been warned not to and threatened by Talon. She has no real skill, but she does buy Ric a few minutes.
The artwork unfortunately also has problems, mainly with sequencing. While Ronan Cliquet’s panels individually are dynamic, they don’t flow well from one to the next. For example, the positions depicted in the panel below don’t logically lead into each other. Moving from the first to the second to the third would require sort of crawling in mid-air. Then with the fourth…Ric Grayson can’t fly. Therefore even he has to push off with more than a fingertip to flip up to that hand-on-post position.
Another example was this exchange from the talky page above. Talon connects with a right-foot kick. That kick knocks Ric back. So how are they still close enough for Talon to deliver a second right-foot kick, apparently in the other direction?
And then there’s this sequence. Talon has Ric down with a knee in his chest. We cut away, and when we return, Ric pulls Talon forward, apparently kicking his thigh to shove him off. Talon wouldn’t gain that kind of altitude without a boosting kick to his body, not his thigh, and Ric can’t deliver such a kick without contracting his thigh bone to pull his leg under Talon’s.
My final problem with this story is the direction the ending seems to point toward. The heart of any tale about heroes turning to or being tempted by the darkness is the hero’s internal conflict. If there is no internal conflict, if the hero easily goes in one direction or the other, there’s nothing to engage the reader. Unfortunately, that’s where the end of this book implies we’re going.
• The Ric Grayson storyline enthralls you
• You’re a Year of the Villain completist
• Story arcs that move very slowly work for you
• Bea Bennett is a bright spot in this slogging saga for you
This story is one long fight with Talon pontificating about his goals and Ric’s place in the Court of Owls. The fight isn’t choreographed well and doesn’t flow logically. The one bright spot is Bea’s courage, though she offsets that by doing something stupid during the fight. The visuals unfortunately also fail to flow logically in places, and the ending doesn’t do much to raise anticipation.
According to the DC solicitations, this Court of Owls arc will last at least through December. That means we’ll be stuck with I’m-Not-Nightwing Ric in Dick’s place for the next couple of months, it not longer. DC Comics announced that Dick Grayson will be returning to himself and his Nightwing identity next year (via James Tynion IV’s Batman run and not in his own book, and what’s with that?!), but they haven’t told us exactly when. It can’t happen soon enough for me.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.