Nightwing #76 addresses a number of interesting themes that fit perfectly with Nightwing’s current identity crisis plotline. Jurgens touches upon the juxtaposition of the mundane and superhero as well as the ability for these two worlds to exist with one another. Bea and Dick’s relationship is a highlight of Jurgens’ run, however, the plot takes a safe, melodrama laden route that sets out to restore a status quo that most readers hope for. While Nightwing #76 finally sets the stage for a back to basics run, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed at the sacrifices made along the way.

Jurgens’ penchant for recaps is still here but only lasts a couple of pages in a redo of the infamous scene where Dick is shot in the head. There isn’t much new added to this scene other than Dick questioning why he was the target and if the circumstances of his survival were accidental, but it’s a good way to catch up any uninformed readers. What’s less engaging is the heavy reliance on narration during the subsequent action scene that makes the hostage situation with Bea and KGBeast feel a little stagnant. Dick spends far too much time ruminating on the fateful night where he was shot in the head and less on the actual dynamics of the current fight scene. I do like the moment where Bea frees herself and the panel where she elbows KGBeast is powerfully drawn by Ronan Cliquet and colored by Nick Filardi. Many panels like this tend to color the background a different color than the rest of the scene to give it more pop. Filardi wisely keeps the palette the same for this beat which makes Bea’s attack blur the background as if to mimic KGBeast’s surprise at being struck. I also love the moment where we see a couple walk outside the bar, unaware of the situation at hand inside and separated only by a window that KGBeast is soon thrown through.

Credit: Ronan Cliquet, Nick Filardi, Andworld Design

The blending of the average life of a Bludhaven/Gotham resident with superhero theatrics is always fun to see, but here it introduces an important theme of this issue. As Bea watches Dick fight KGBeast she sees him as belonging to “another world”. This ends up being the most engaging aspect of the entire comic that is later completely upended by Jurgens’ script, but more on that later. The moment to moment focus of this part of the comic is on Dick’s fight with KGBeast which does hit all the basic marks of a fight sequence. Cliquet’s choreography is clean and easy to follow and he captures Dick’s unique, acrobatic fighting style with style to spare. Almost every panel Dick is in has him posed differently between his flying kicks, somersaults, and acrobatic leaps which makes the sequence engaging to follow. Filardi’s colors also boost the drama with cars’ headlights in the background casting a strong glow over the entire scene, making both Dick’s and KGBeast’s costumes glow and look otherworldly, keeping in with the main theme. While there are no big surprises in the outcome of this fight, the top notch art makes the fisticuffs more than palatable. 

Credit: Ronan Cliquet, Nick Filardi, Andworld Design

The real trouble begins in the second half of the issue. I like seeing Hutch return as a firefighter and thought to myself, I’d love to see the supporting cast pop in and out of the series in their day jobs like this. That hope was immediately squashed when Dick basically gives Hutch the green light to become a vigilante again but with more training. The former replacement Nightwings can still have their place in the series, but we don’t need more superheroes taking the spotlight away from Dick in his own book. The bigger problem is with how Jurgens’ script treats Bea. For those who don’t want spoilers all I’ll say is that while the final few pages are technically sound, the general direction is trite and largely familiar. 

Credit: Ronan Cliquet, Nick Filardi, Andworld Design
Spoiler
My prediction became true in that Dick breaks up with Bea to protect her. It’s hard to not be disappointed by this for multiple reasons, at least for me. One is that it’s the most cliche way for a relationship to end in a book like this. If Jurgens wanted them to break up he could’ve at least had Bea break up with him to change it up ever so slightly, which I thought was where it was leading when she saw Dick in his element fighting KGBeast. Her switch from being scared of Dick’s superhero persona to seemingly embracing it felt fast. But my main problem is that the series keeps introducing love interests for Dick only to throw them away along with the relationship. It’d be refreshing if for once one of his love interests could stick around as a supporting character even if they’re no longer together. As it stands, the series treats many of its female cast members as expendable and only defined by their relationship to Dick. Of course Dick is the main character, but Jurgens has no trouble finding a way for Hutch to remain part of the book. Bea can easily remain involved as a friend, but the way things end here makes it hard to see that happening. The last two pages are really beautifully drawn though, with the final splash page being a highlight of the book. At least the stage is set for a clean slate and a return to more traditional Nightwing stories.

Recommended if…

  • The premise of KGBeast taking another shot at Nightwing appeals to you.
  • You want to know if Bea and Dick’s relationship continues.
  • Seeing Nightwing on the precipice of fully breaking free of the “Ric Saga” is something you want to see.

Overall

Nightwing #76 is a technically competent comic that goes in a few disappointing directions. While many fans will be glad to see Nightwing back, Jurgens finds himself in a tough position of deciding what to keep from the “Ric Saga” and what to break free from. In my opinion, some wrong choices were made but your mileage may vary in that regard. If anything, the series is set to grow stronger from here on out, now that the push and pull of Dick’s identity crisis is in the rear view mirror. 

Score: 6/10


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.