Nightwing #77 is an appropriately festive and heartwarming tale that manages to slightly push Dick Grayson back to the bat-family even if its actual plotline is largely familiar. Despite its level of holiday cheer, the issue struggles to make an impression due to untapped potential in Dan Jurgens’ script while Ronan Cliquet’s pencils do what they can to build up the drama he’s afforded.
I love a well-timed holiday themed book and the opening pages tick all the expected boxes. The atmosphere is pleasantly chilly as Nick Filardi’s colors manage to capture Gotham City’s icy exteriors while still imbuing a little warmth with a Christmas tree’s shining star topper emitting a blinding yellow glow. These first few pages work very well on an aesthetic and thematic level and it is always a treat to see Batman and Nightwing work together. Jurgens’ tendency to summarize the series’ current status quo is still here, but done more naturally through Bruce and Dick’s dialogue. Dick still retains doubts about where he truly belongs, but his integration back to the bat-family seems imminent. Given it is a holiday themed issue, the central tension of where Dick will spend Christmas is appropriate. Nonetheless, seeing Batman head off to fight escaped Arkham inmates is a hard pill to swallow when Dick’s mission is far less engaging.
The real meat of the book lies with Dick’s attempts to help a local corporation, Dexiturn, find and capture a group of hackers called “Nabstract.” Jurgens’ dialogue for these greedy businesspeople is on point and their overt anger at being stuck with Nightwing instead of Batman is humorous. The action doesn’t take long to arrive as Dick faces a few goons dressed in comically obvious “bad guy” clothes, balaclava and all. The fight scene is both exciting and Cliquet’s strongest scene in the entire issue. Of note is a clever use of gutter space as Dick’s baton crosses over two separate panels to create a sense of motion and dimension. Cliquet’s figure poses are on point as usual, and he’s proven to be a more than capable Nightwing artist. Still, the fight is short and offers readers their only glimpse of action.
The next few sequences crank up the sentimentality as we follow the true criminal who we soon learn has a good reason to bilk the unethical Dexiturn out of a couple million dollars. The message is nice, but once our criminal with a heart of gold is introduced, it’s painfully obvious where the storyline is headed. Cliquet churns out a couple more interesting panels in these lower key scenes. A striking moment is a reveal panel where Nightwing stands in the criminal’s home, with various sources of light bouncing off him, which basically turns him into a Christmas angel. It’s hard to not empathize with our “villain’s” plight and their attempt to right a wrong, but it’s even more difficult to shake its predictability.
If there’s a true star of the issue, it’s Filardi’s colors which gracefully shift from sterile boardrooms to a struggling homeless encampment with scattered bursts of warmth from trash can fires and jury-rigged light sources inside the tent homes. There’s a great deal of texture in every scene and these little touches elevate the cookie-cutter story. Cliquet deserves credit here too as he lends a level of detail to each home environment that gives credibility to Jurgens’ holiday themes. My main complaint is that some of the stickier problems the script brings up are dismissed by a flex of wealth courtesy of Bruce’s remaining assets. For a man who is no longer a billionaire, he seems to be doing pretty well. In fact, Bruce’s recent financial woes courtesy of “Joker War” could’ve made for a more interesting holiday chapter. As it stands, Jurgens settles for the easy way out.
- You want a little holiday cheer in your pull list this week.
- Dick’s slow but sure reintegration with the bat-family appeals to you.
- An over-abundance of sentimentality doesn’t scare you away.
Nightwing #77 is a safe, but still endearing holiday themed issue with solid art and some progression for its title character. I’m sure most readers are ready now for Dick to fully delve back into his usual crime fighting ways, but with “Future State” looming, that might have to wait just a little longer. For now, Nightwing #77 does enough to satisfy those in the mood for some cozy winter comfort. Those less susceptible to these charms will find less to grab onto here.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.