Dan Jurgens’ Nightwing is definitely trending in the right direction in recent months. While Dick still doesn’t know which memories are real or implanted, his character is more proactive and drives the plot forward rather than being at the whim of others. The scripting and art remain workmanlike, but there’s a clear sense of progression that gives the series a rare spring in its step.
Jurgens’ structure works well here as it allows Dick to jump straight into action with his mission to find Dr. Haas and figure out what’s behind his fractured memories. There’s a palpable sense of excitement to see Dick edge closer to his old self, take his fate into his own hands, and wear a proper mask instead of the grease paint look. Dick’s new look, courtesy of Ronan Cliquet, makes for a good visual indication of his slow recovery. Dick infiltrates Haas’ castle hideout as he narrates his current predicament. At times, the series suffers from an overabundance of summary, but Jurgens largely avoids that problem here by having the narration (which is actually a one-sided conversation with Bea) play over an action sequence. This opening does a good job of clarifying Dick’s current mental state and how he currently has both sets of memories, but he doesn’t know which one is authentic. However, given the fact that he knows Haas is an Owl and William Cobb just attempted to mind control him, it should be fairly obvious which life is the fake one. Nonetheless, I don’t mind giving memory loss storylines a little leeway when it comes to contrivances and a good splash page by Cliquet effectively displays Dick’s fractured mind.
In general, it’s best not to think too hard about the current split within Dick’s mind and how the Owls tricked him. The middle of the book takes a step back and shows Dick and Bea sneak into Haas’ doctor office in Gotham and discover she’s an Owl by finding her conveniently placed mask in her desk. (Thankfully this is later shown to have been done on purpose). The dialogue between Bea and Dick is expository and not exactly character driven. There’s an overwhelming sense of déjà vu as we once again hear Dick talk through his current predicament with his memories and head pains. Whenever the book isn’t in the midst of a fight, Jurgens’ dialogue has nowhere to go but to become repetitive and continually restate the obvious. This problem is at the heart of Jurgens’ run since an amnesia plotline doesn’t really allow for much else to be discussed, which becomes extremely clear in this sequence.
Luckily, we rejoin Dick on his more action oriented mission before long and things pick up again. On the whole, Cliquet’s art gets the job done. I like his page layouts and his action beats are clear, but could probably use some lettered sound effects to create more impact. Nick Filardi’s colors also do a better job in darker, shadier scenes as his shadow and lighting work is very good and add a great sense of dimension. Filardi’s exteriors on the other hand sometimes lack punch. In the beginning of the issue, Dick’s infiltration into a snowy, mountainous castle hideout should look dramatic and atmospheric. Filaridi’s colors however, don’t sell the appropriate Swiss atmosphere, as the vaguely purple sky looks dull and doesn’t enhance the otherwise chilly setting. Where his colors do work though are in Haas’ introductory panel, flanked by two Talons. A torch on the wall next to them casts a fiery glow on the masked assassins and a peek of red lighting behind them contrasts well with the shadows that engulf the rest of the page. The ensuing fight is fun, but generic in the sense that I feel like I’ve seen several of the figure poses before, and the lack of visualized contact in the blows between Dick and the assassins makes everything feel weightless. Andworld Design needs to add lettered sound effects or Cliquet needs to add more motion lines to garner more intensity.
Jurgens’ plotting takes a bit of a dive in the final pages of the issue as well. As if to simplify an increasingly unwieldy mind wipe narrative, Jurgen introduces a McGuffin-like plot device in the form of Dr. Haas’ identity crystal necklace. Haas even admits that the copious amounts of therapy she’s given Dick isn’t as important as what the crystal has been doing all along. It makes a lot of the previous plot reveals feel redundant and wiped of their importance by having most of Dick’s problems pinned on a single item. (Additionally, someone in the comments here has already noticed the seeming importance of said necklace to begin with). It’s all very convenient and the fallout of the entire sequence between Haas and Dick feels rushed. Without going into spoilers here, much of the drama is wiped away by an unnecessary explosion, which leaves Dick without gaining much new ground.
- Seeing Dick more proactive in the plot calls you back.
- The appearance of a prominent Batman villain piques your interest.
- You don’t mind Dick’s memories still being split between real and fake.
Nightwing #69 falls short of completely reinvigorating the series as it nears the home stretch of the “Ric” saga, but still sees the book trend in the right direction. There’s a sense that Jurgens struggles to explain how exactly Dick’s mind was controlled and his introduction of several convenient plot devices exemplifies that. A clue left behind on purpose, a magical crystal, and an inept security guard all make for rather stale drama, but it’s nice to see Dick on a mission of his own choosing. Dan Jurgens’ Nightwing needs a bit more flash in both its art and writing to truly break free of its recent history of mediocrity, but Nightwing #69 is a step in the right direction.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.