For what it’s worth we are now full steam ahead in the Ric Grayson saga. The endgame is within sight, the issues are no longer plagued with excessive recaps, and the stakes are at their highest. This doesn’t mean Nightwing #66 is a successful book. In fact, after a momentarily interesting annual last month, the series flounders with both a tensionless subplot featuring our Nightwing Club and a lack of progression with Ric himself. There’s a problem when our lead character remains motionless almost the entire issue, while the core essence of his character evaporates before the reader’s eyes.
The previous annual established that Dick’s memories have been purposefully repressed by the Court of Owls with hopes of eventually indoctrinating him to their cause. What comes next is no surprise as William Cobb, otherwise known as Talon, places a pair of mind-altering goggles on Dick to make him think he was always part of the Court. Previously, I questioned if Dick’s memory loss being a long gestating plan by the Court of Owls enhanced or hurt the series. My fears came true as the chapter completely sidelines Dick in his own book and removes all of his agency. A lot of the book features renditions of the false memories implanted in Dick’s mind as Cobb narrates. Unfortunately, Jurgens squanders the opportunity for some exciting sequences by having Dick’s new origin play it safe. After his parents are murdered, Cobb takes in Dick and trains him in the lethal ways of the Court and the corresponding origin is about as standard as it gets. Dick throws daggers into wooden targets and fights some ninjas with swords. We’ve seen it all before and it’s not different or lethal enough from the type of training Batman would teach. Seeing Dick’s morals twisted against his will should be harrowing. Instead, it’s bland and unsurprising.
Ronan Cliquet’s art and layouts do nothing to spice up the false memory sequences either. The page layouts of the false memory scenes are often identical to the pages set in reality and don’t add any sense of uneasiness or horror. Additionally, the art style remains the same and colorist Nick Filardi only slightly mutes his colors to differentiate the memory scenes against reality. There’s one panel where we see Dick hold his hands near his head as if in pain while the goggles erase who he was. However, nothing in how the false memory sequences are drawn hints at any struggle within Dick’s mind. However, there is one aspect to Dick’s new origin that provides a bit of interest.
On top of all this, I already have issues with Dick having a destiny from childhood that isn’t related to Bruce Wayne. What makes these characters the most endearing is that they choose to become heroes without requiring some sort of long lasting lineage to push them in that direction. Seeing “Ric” fight crime and gallivant around as Nightwing in everything but name suggests that Dick Grayson is forever destined to be good and fight for others. It’s a hopeful rendition of the essential good in some people no matter the circumstances. On the other hand, further reinforcing the Court of Owls into Dick’s childhood only puts into question what moves Dick Grayson at his core. The more you add to the origin of a legacy character the more you threaten to muddle his or her core ethos. If pushed too far, we’re left with a Dick Grayson who moves at the will of other characters’ long gestating plans at his expense.
The other parts of the book follow the other Nightwings and their attempts to maintain order as the city erupts into chaos. Our opening page has Hutch charge through a burning school to save children and their teacher. It’s nicely rendered and shows Cliquet’s strength in dramatic splash pages along with Filardi’s good texture work that makes the environment appropriately smoky and dangerous. Jurgens also shows a flash of veteran skillset in having each character call each other by name at least once to remind readers of their identities and introduce them to newcomers. It’s a small detail, but one that a surprising amount of books lack. It’s also appreciated as our group of Nightwings verge on forgettable, which is the main problem with this sequence. We don’t learn anything new about our Nightwings and the action sequence itself feels perfunctory and present merely to pad the length of the book. Jurgens’ dialogue in these scenes is also extremely on the nose and expository. All of the Nightwings espouse the same generic lines about not giving up and never giving into fear. With an entire team of crime-fighters at his disposal, Jurgens has not done a good job at differentiating their personalities here, especially since the end times scenario would be a great time to highlight any cracks in their resolve.
- Dick Grayson’s connection to the Court of Owls is something you like.
- You want to see the Age of Doom’s impact on the series.
- Revisiting scenes from previous Batman runs interests you.
Nightwing #66 establishes the stakes for the Ric saga’s endgame without much nuance. Bluntly redefining Dick Grayson via a memory implanting set of goggles is about as trite a plot device as you can get. With Dick even further removed from who he once was, Nightwing must rely on its supporting cast to carry reader interest. Unfortunately, none of the new Nightwings has done enough to carry the torch. Jurgens has dug himself into a pit I fear he cannot escape from by removing Dick’s agency and calling into question some of his core characteristics.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with this comic for the purpose of this review.