Dan Jurgens doubles down in Nightwing #67 and delivers an issue that is near impossible to recognize as being a Nightwing book. Previous arcs in the “Ric” saga offered glimpses of the optimism that Nightwing embodies, even if Dick Grayson himself wasn’t behind the mask. Nightwing #67 is a grimy book, set at the peak of DC Year of the Villain synergy which casts a grim glow across the entire universe without our titular hero to offer a ray of hope.
The cliffhanger from last month’s issue held promise. Dick, now fully brainwashed by the Court of Owls, takes up the Talon mantle and prepares to assassinate the new Nightwing team. It’s a classic cliffhanger that oozes drama with the highest stakes the series has held in a while. While it’d be difficult to believe Jurgens will have Dick kill someone, even if brainwashed, the compromise in morals even in injuring one of the innocent Nightwings is enough to keep the reader engaged. Unfortunately, Jurgens pulls a punch and only gives us a few pages of Dick attempting to kill the Nightwing team before introducing a new character to take the beating instead.
Let’s start with the first five pages which don’t fully deliver on the promise from last month. There’s a good level of brutality in Dick’s attack on Hutch, Colleen, and Sap which mostly distracts from the fact that we know deep down none of them will actually die. Even still, it’s enough to see our co-leads of the book get pummeled by Dick’s potentially lethal maneuvers. However, Ronan Cliquet’s pencils along with Nick Filardi’s colors could have afforded adding a tad more blood to the proceedings. The actual strikes that Dick lands on the new Nightwings look painful, but the blood is inconsistent from page to page. A kick to a face spurts a little blood, but a dagger to the knee and foot results in none. The letters by Andworld Design do their best as a blood substitute with their red, jagged sound effects, but it isn’t enough to completely sell the brutality.
The book takes a sharp turn when Condor Red, a member of the Global Surveillance Ops, enters the fight. His entrance destroys the tension of the fight between Dick and the Nightwings since Condor Red quickly takes Dick away from the others. It was obvious that something would interrupt the fight and not allow Dick to kill anyone, but I wish one of our leads found a way to save themselves. The addition of Condor Red is frankly jarring and he dominates the book thereafter, which further makes Dick and the Nightwing mantle itself feel increasingly dismissed. The art and panel layouts in these scenes are well done though. Condor Red’s speed comes across clearly as Cliquet draws subtle, but effective speed lines whenever Condor Red flies through a panel. Additionally, Condor Red’s armor allows Dick’s attacks to be more brutal without killing him. Cliquet’s layouts during this fight are well executed as he allows the smaller beats to play out in simple compositions, but then changes perspective whenever Dick lands a significant blow. The figure work is dynamic too as Condor Red’s wings allow Cliquet to easily display the direction of his attacks without needing to tilt the panels to sell his movements.
Less successful are Filardi’s colors. Almost the entire book has an ugly green color palette, which seemingly comes with the “Age of Doom”, but Filardi could’ve done a better job of adding more variety. Condor Red’s appearance does eventually come with a palette change, but by that point the green glow of each page has already sunk into the book. The issue becomes much easier on the eyes once the backgrounds shift from green to pinkish hues when Condor Red and Dick fight atop a bridge. The new colors also allow for more striking contrast whenever Dick’s blades strike Condor Red’s armor which results in sparks and electricity. There’s also a good bit of subtle storytelling through the colors near the end. A bit of hope peeks its head into the story just as the sun rises and the background colors shift from dark red and pink to a soft yellow.
The dialogue remains exposition laden as ever with little to no characterization throughout. William Cobb and Beatrice narrate the first part of the fight between Dick and the Nightwings and they basically repeat much of what was established from the last issue. Their conversation as they look over the fight does little but drain any tension from the scene. Whenever there are talking heads over a fight scene, it tends to make the reader feel less engaged in the fight itself. It’s as if we’re in a shared audience with the side characters of the book as we watch the leads fight among themselves. At what should be the climax of the entire “Ric” saga, the action doesn’t feel immediate enough. Condor Red gets a lot of dialogue, but most of it are simple declarations of not wanting anyone to get hurt and ineffectual jabs at Dick calling him “Owl Boy”. The other Nightwings don’t get much to say after their initial beat-down and their dialogue doesn’t do a good job of making them appear to be in shock after almost dying. In fact, the entire team of Nightwings seem perfectly fine after being stabbed repeatedly, which makes the initial fight scene feel all the more toothless in hindsight. With a less intriguing and somewhat vague cliffhanger, Nightwing #67 ends on a shrug.
- You want to see Dick Grayson as a Talon.
- Seeing the faux Nightwing gang get pummeled appeals to you.
- You want to see the “Ric” saga through to the end.
Nightwing #67 fails to live up to the promise of last month’s cliffhanger. For anyone who has been waiting to see the Nightwing team get taken down a notch, this book may not fully satisfy. For everyone else who has dismissed the “Ric” saga until now, this chapter does little to entice those readers back. Dick Grayson as an assassin is a great set up for some high stakes drama. While the new Nightwing team isn’t the richest set of characters to put in danger, they’ve been around long enough for their potential deadly fates to have impact. Unfortunately, Jurgens delivers the bare minimum beat-down our leads could take without substantial loss and the rest of the issue can’t hide its lack of stakes with its adequate action scenes. Nightwing #67 is a pulled punch in a series that desperately needs to deliver on its promises or transition back to its roots.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with this comic for the purpose of this review.