Nightwing #80 is the strongest issue so far in this run since it actually has some form of forward momentum. I haven’t been in love with the series as most so far, but I had a feeling my patience would be rewarded and this month’s issue largely satisfies. Tom Taylor’s script turns the screws in on Dick Grayson, putting him at odds with the police and even features a little romantic tension between him and Barbara. A murder mystery now at its core, Nightwing’s previous strengths in its character relationships and lighthearted sense of humor no longer bear the weight of being the only thing the series has to offer.
The first half or so of the issue deals with the fallout of Dick’s attempts to give a homeless man, Martin Holt, and his son, Elliot, a hotel room for the night. For those who don’t remember, Martin was killed last month by our villain “Heartless” by having his…heart removed. Taylor’s script thoughtfully uses this act of generosity against Dick in that he is now directly connected to a murder victim. Dick’s overeagerness in asking if Elliot is okay gets him into further trouble as even the police weren’t aware of Martin having a son. Beforehand, the series’ Hallmark channel attitude rubbed me the wrong way, so it’s nice to see some actual consequences find their way to Dick. The best page features Dick and Barbara teamed up against the cops’ attempted railroading of Dick, blaming him for Martin’s murder. The subtle facial acting, particularly on Barbara, is incredibly well done. Bruno Redondo’s pencils effortlessly capture her slight tinge of anger when Dick brings up their relationship, but also her self assured attitude when she turns the tables on the detectives.
My only complaint about the art deals with a couple of Redondo’s page layouts. There’s a double page spread which is interesting, but ultimately takes a couple times to read over to fully take in what’s going on. The left side of the spread has the reader move down vertically, leaving a few odd panels of nothing but stairs and dialogue bubbles as we then track Dick and Barbara up an elevator. It doesn’t help that the top panel and bottom panel both depict the ground level of the apartment building, which confuses the geography. The spread becomes easier to follow in the right half, but there’s so much empty space in the top right corner, with nothing of interest featured there. The overhead angle is impressive on a technical level, but some beats aren’t all that clear, especially Dick opening a compartment in the wall. At first glance it looks like he’s pointing at nothing in particular, and I initially thought he was giving a command to his dog. When I’m spending more and more time trying to decipher what’s going on, all that tells me is this could’ve been simpler. I’m not convinced this stylish trickery adds to the scene.
Slight visual hiccup aside, the narrative kicks into gear in a major way as Dick teams up with Tim Drake and Barbara to investigate the local homeless tent city. Where the book really shines is in the banter and visual storytelling. A truly great sequence has Tim and Dick discussing Dick’s newfound wealth atop a speeding train. The moment when the duo duck under an incoming tunnel is a wonderful visual moment, the perfect blend between grounded brotherly banter and superhero antics. The more “mundane” mixed with the heightened reality the bat family lives in is what makes a Nightwing book truly unique. I’d be remiss to not compliment Adriano Lucas’ colors, especially in this sequence. The soft blue night sky gives the entire sequence a pleasant look, as if the reader can taste the fresh air, which immediately gives way to the orange glow of the train tunnel. Wes Abbott’s letters also blend perfectly with the art, whether it be the chunkier “Ch-Chnks” of the train or the looser “Arfs” from Dick’s dog that fill the entire opening page.
The final moments have Tim and Dick investigate the tent city and come into conflict with a couple of Blockbusters goons, Brutale and Electrocutioner. Some readers may eat up the fan service moment where Tim asks Dick if Barbara spent the night at his place, not realizing Barbara can hear their conversation. I’m not crazy about the style change in Barbara’s reaction panel, but I’m sure this is pressing the right buttons for a number of readers. The dialogue clips along well here, balancing this playfulness with the exposition needed to move the plot forward. The requisite fight scene is well done and Nightwing’s reveal panel is truly fantastic, with him balanced above his foes on a wire, a full moon right behind him in the sky. There’s a really nice sequential action page, where the composition remains still and wide, allowing Redondo to show off his figure work and fight choreography. The final couple pages do feel a little abrupt on a script level, but I can’t complain about the cliffhanger since I was hoping for more conflict to arrive sooner rather than later. However, the whole picture is still a little unclear. Taylor is more than capable of handling multiple plot threads, but he’s given himself a lot to handle between Melinda Zucco, Blockbuster, Heartless, and Dick’s goal of revitalizing his community.
- You love a little bit of fan service in regards to Dick and Barbara’s relationship.
- Tim Drake’s appearance makes this a must buy.
- More forward momentum in the narrative is something you’ve been wanting.
Nightwing #80 does a great job at balancing the narrative alongside the fun banter between Dick, Barbara and others. While the previous two issues spent more time musing on Dick’s responsibilities to his community, here we get a more overt threat in the form of Blockbuster goons, pushy police detectives, and Heartless. Fans so far will enjoy what’s here, but those wanting a little more focus and momentum in the series will find much to like.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.