Nightwing #70, written by Dan Jurgens with pencils by Ryan Benjamin, clarifies a few muddy plot points from previous issues but without much elegance. Jurgens’ script falls into familiar pitfalls such as an abundance of recap and lack of agency for Dick himself. The stage has been set for Dick to fully reclaim his mantle for a while now and seeing his progress undermined by lackluster plotting drags the “Ric” saga along without much energy.
Immediately it’s disappointing that the first five pages are just recap. We’ve heard Dick summarize his situation quite a few times now and having a fourth of the issue dedicated to the past isn’t the best use of page count. However, Jurgens does address some of my previous concerns about Dick’s current mental state. There’s a good line about how Dick “intellectually” feels like his heroic past is the one he should embrace but that it’s still hazy like a dream he can’t grasp. Seeing the entire run summarized does expose how silly certain plot points are, chief among them Dr. Haas’ magical crystal. So while it’s good to gain some clarity as to why Dick doesn’t just embrace his heroic background, the rest of the recap doesn’t justify its unnecessary length. This is especially noticeable in retrospect when you realize how little Dick does the entire issue.
The opening recap also exposes the strengths and limits of Benjamin’s pencils, which fill in for Ronan Cliquet. Overall, I like Benjamin’s pencils, even if his facial work verges on poor more often than it should. There’s a roughshod quality to his work, which I don’t mind, but he does make Dick look much older than he should be. Scott Hanna’s scratchy inks perhaps don’t help in this aspect, as there are far too many lines on each character’s face which makes everyone look not quite themselves. It doesn’t help that Dick’s mask is much thinner than how Cliquet drew it last issue. Generally though, the inks serve the pencils well, particularly in the limited action we get. However, whenever things slow down, the pencils reveal some issues with wide set eyes, inexpressive faces, and misshapen anatomy. A sequence where Dick looks down at the memory crystal in his hand displays these issues. In the panel where he looks down at the crystal, his eyes are visible through the mask and look further apart than they should. In the next panel where his face is reflected in the crystal, his eyes are not visible through the mask and his hair has changed which alters his look entirely. It’s not clear whether or not this is intentional. Although these are minor issues, they appear often enough to slow down the reader on beats that shouldn’t require scrutiny. In other words, the storytelling isn’t always clear.
Benjamin’s pencils work in dialogue heavy sequences due to his well paced panel layouts and perspective changes. A quieter scene with Hutch, Colleen, and Zak in the hospital works because of how the art flows with the beats in the writing. A well-done establishing panel shows us where everyone is in relation to each other with great use of depth, with Zak and Hutch in the foreground and Colleen in the background. Another panel where Zak tells Hutch to listen to Colleen smartly places Colleen in the foreground, with Hutch’s back to her. The angles increase the dynamism of the dialogue and keep the attention away from some of Benjamin’s lesser figure work, including Hutch’s odd anatomy as he leans over Zak’s bed.
Technical merits and issues aside, Jurgens’ script sidelines Dick once again. Sapienza gets the one action scene of true consequence as he faces down Joker in his hunt for Talon. It’s an appropriately moody sequence as Sap searches a dark bar drenched in rich shadows, which allows for a great Joker introduction as his gleaming smile cuts through the dark. Again, the simple layouts armed with great depth in the pencils make up for small details that don’t quite stand up to scrutiny. Things don’t go well for Sap when he faces the Joker, but hopefully the scene’s vague ending is addressed next issue in regards to Sap’s fate. Afterward, Dick gets one action scene where he disrupts a drug deal and while Benjamin’s pencils make it exciting to read, its irrelevance to the plot at hand distracts. When Dick kicks the drug dealer, his leg stretches out into a misshapen mess and resembles a blade rather than a foot. Luckily, I can consider it a quirk of Benjamin’s style as the impact of his action beats make up for it. Something as simple as a thug hitting a trash can as he flies through the air adds dimension to a simplistic action scene. Ultimately though, the scene feels unnecessary and as if Jurgens is playing for time.
With little for Dick to do outside of stopping a random crime and getting headaches, the issue ends with a bit of a shrug since it ends extremely similarly to last month’s issue. Joker is after Dick and that’s all we really know so far.
- You want to see how Joker’s presence in the book changes the stakes.
- Benjamin’s unique style works for you.
- Gaining some clarity into Dick’s current mental state is worth the price.
Nightwing #70 doesn’t completely derail the momentum Jurgens’ series has carved out for itself lately, but Dick’s lack of pro-activeness in the plot is worrisome. Previous issues have done a better job of balancing the recap of Dick’s current mental state and giving him something to do in the plot. With a change in artist and a relatively shifted status quo, Nightwing #70 feels like a soft reset rather than the next issue in a previously fast moving plot. With the Joker now in the mix, Jurgens needs to retain focus on Dick and his own choices in the plot and not spread the series out too thin.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.