Nightwing #79 shows that Tom Taylor understands not only what makes Dick Grayson tick but what makes him appealing to so many readers in the first place. So far, this is a very pleasant series. It has a strong community vibe and gives Blüdhaven a sense of character that has long been missing. Bruno Redondo’s clean figure work armed with Adriano Lucas’ gentle colors makes the entire series go down like a warm cup of hot chocolate on a winter night. And yet, I can’t help but feel there’s a lack of drama. A significant move needs to be made in the plot soon, especially since Taylor’s take on some serious social issues, such as homelessness, lacks a clear sense of vision beyond its simplistic moral scale.
My problems with the series only arise when I take a step back and look at the larger picture. In the moment, the book is a delight to watch unfold. The opening page, which depicts Dick, in his various costumes he’s worn over his life, leap from a building and bounce off a telephone line is the quintessential imagery a Nightwing book should have. It also leads into the overall theme of the issue about how Dick “always had someone to catch me”, from his birth parents to the bat family. There’s even a great visual gag when Dick’s parents catching him during their trapeze act is immediately followed up by Bruce letting Dick fall to the ground during training. Taylor’s script is strong in these moments of sentimentality. His varied definition of picking people up, which also includes a tender moment between Dick and Alfred after a fight with Bruce, is touching.
There’s also a beautifully composed panel of Barbara petting Dick’s newly adopted dog where Dick narrates about “someone who makes us feel safe”. As a “Dick and Babs” fan…it’s hard to deny that I liked that. Redondo shines the most in these quieter moments since his character work is undeniably strong. His figure work is among the best I’ve seen and his facial acting is equally as impressive. I also think Lucas’ color work is a revelation after some reservations I had last issue. The lighting in each scene leans soft, which allows Lucas to cast soft purple and pink hues over many scenes and injects life into moments that don’t include fisticuffs or large crowds.
My main takeaway this month is how deftly Taylor’s script adds more character to Blüdhaven than seen in recent memory. Something as simple as a twenty-four hour pizzeria (named Marv and George’s in a nice little nod to Nightwing’s creators) with a “going out of business” sign gives an idea of what the city is going through. The man working at the pizzeria looks a little too happy to be losing his job soon though. Better yet, is a nice speech Dick gives about a fountain statue depicting a sailor fighting a giant squid, which represents the city’s whaling past and when its citizens felt like they could actually win battles against monsters. If that’s not foreshadowing I don’t know what is. Taylor makes Dick very aware of the social issues plaguing the city and his idealism is on full display here. There’s nothing necessarily new to the whole “Batman could have done more as Bruce Wayne” angle, but if any character will take on that challenge, Nightwing is a great choice.
This also brings me to my biggest worry about the series so far. Dick takes it upon himself to buy pizza and hotel rooms for the homeless and down on their luck. A nice gesture sure, but also a surface level “fix” for a more complex problem. At this point in the story, it’s unclear if this is meant to be an appropriate sacrifice for a newfound billionaire. To me, a pizza party for the homeless comes off as infantile. I don’t expect every comic book to have the solution for the world’s worst social problems, but when a book engages with such issues, it invites criticism. There’s a very nicely drawn page where we see a large crowd eating pizza outside the pizzeria. Everyone is smiling, the colors are gorgeous, and yet there’s still that going out of business sign in the window. I feel a sense of disconnect between the texture and the text.
A couple villains are introduced here as well. Sal Maroni makes an appearance as he has a meeting with Melinda Zucco and the presence of more typical gangster characters always excites me. This scene also delivers a nice action sequence where Redondo gets to flex his abilities with a lovely two page spread, which tracks Nightwing leaping from a roof all the way down to taking out a couple of Maroni’s goons. The sense of movement, anatomy, and composition is essentially flawless. We also get a glimpse of a mysterious new villain who steals hearts…literally with some sort of gun looking device. I’m interested, but there’s not much given here other than the implication that they prey on the homeless community. There’s a lot of moving pieces in terms of villains and I hope Taylor wrangles them into a cohesive shape soon. However, Dick seems more dead set on acting as a “safety net” for those in need in Blüdhaven. It’s a compelling idea, but the fact that Dick sees himself as a safety net both worries and intrigues me. I’d rather Nightwing take the fight against the powers that be instead of playing defense. Are our comic book characters social workers or are they super heroes? Is the stage being set for Dick’s finances to be used as a bandaid for the corruption of the city or will Dick be more proactive in righting the wrongs being committed against the downtrodden? Or will “the man with no heart” who kills homeless people be a stand in for the actual reasons people find themselves on the street? Only time will tell.
- Bruno Redondo, along with Adriano Lucas’ art, is worth the price of admission alone.
- You’ve been waiting for Blüdhaven to feel more like a lived in city with a rich history.
- Simplistic takes on complex social issues don’t drive you away.
Nightwing #79 is a gorgeous and warm hearted book that will please even the most discerning Nightwing fans. While I have reservations about some of the trickier subject matter at hand, it’s hard to deny the sheer charm of the entire production. However, I want more of a narrative to take shape fast. There’s four villains introduced at this point and little motivation given for any of them at this point. Beyond that, Dick is at a contemplative point in his life, which results in a lot of hand wringing instead of exciting action. With a darker ending page, I have little doubt Taylor’s scripts will turn up the heat in the coming months.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.