Nightwing #82 makes good on the promise of its cover, spending most of the issue in a flashback showing exactly how Melinda Zucco is Dick Grayson’s sister. While there will be some readers who are immediately put off by this revelation, what’s on the page here is a well told story that remains true to the essence of Dick and the Grayson family name.
Right from the start I’ll just say that this type of revelation (a long lost sibling from the past) isn’t the most exciting thing to happen in a series. It’s a tactic embraced by soap operas, which comics arguably operate as, and it’s something that can easily be retconned away if a future writer decides to. Long story short, “canon” can be sacred or meaningless to me and my opinion is a reaction to what’s on the page here and less so on any implications it can carry into the future of the character.
With that out of the way, I like this issue even if it means the series is still without any semblance of a coherent, forward moving narrative. You’ve got Dick’s mission to help the downtrodden of Blüdhaven, Heartless preying on those people, Melinda’s political maneuvering, and Blockbuster is also in the mix. However, none of these pieces have coalesced into an overarching narrative and this remains true even after this issue. Is this a problem with the series? Not necessarily, but readers should know that this run is on a definite slow burn as it casts its foundation for some major moves to (hopefully) happen in its near future. The opening page picks up right where we left off, with Melinda and Dick in mid-conversation. As per the norm, Adriano Lucas’ colors make a great first impression. The red background on the panels with Dick and Melinda are eye catching and dramatic as they should be. They also stand in nice contrast to the pale green glow from Barbara’s computer as she calls off the rescue team sent after Dick. The page turn revealing the Titans (and Batman) already on their way is hilarious, but also touching in that you get that solid family dynamic at the heart of the series on full display. Bruno Redondo is as solid as they come and his renditions of the Titans and Batman make me eager to see him get the opportunity to raise the stakes of the series in the months to come.
After a brief introduction to Melinda’s mother, Meili Lin, the majority of the issue is told in flashback to Meili’s past where she met John and Mary, Dick’s parents before they were a couple. Art duties shift to Rick Leonardi and Neil Edwards at this point (though the credits don’t specify their exact pages) who are both more than suitable replacements to give Redondo a slight break. Leonardi plays a little more fast and loose with his character’s anatomy, but this perfectly suits the Graysons’ acrobatic nature. Edwards is no slouch either and the two artists work well with each other. Consistency is maintained due to Lucas’ thoughtful colors, especially his decision to radically change the palette in these flashback sequences. There’s also an entirely different texture in the flashbacks too, via the strong usage of Ben-Day dots, which greatly adds to the atmosphere. A couple of artistic highlights include a brief fight sequence between John, Mary and a couple of Tony Zucco’s goons with terrific lettered sound effects courtesy of Wes Abbott. Edwards’ pencils come off more traditional, but he gets to flex with a show stopping splash page, which depicts the ultimate demise of The Flying Graysons. The entire production on an aesthetic level is terrific and surprisingly consistent.
The real problem with the issue is inherent with its premise. Spoilers are to follow below. Meili’s backstory is appropriately tragic, having been sold into marriage to an abusive Tony Zucco. The beginning of Meili’s relationship to the Graysons is endearing, as they come to her aid to keep her out of Zucco’s clutches. The actual romantic relationship between John and Meili may be a harder pill to swallow for some. Taylor’s script goes out of its way to make John’s relationship with Meili more palatable by saying that John and Mary cared about each other, but weren’t at a permanent stage of being a couple. Taylor’s script also mentions that John and Meili weren’t involved long either, just long enough for her to become pregnant with Dick’s future sister. When the script has to repeatedly justify its premise, that’s usually a signal that there are potential problems. When Meili tells Dick “Please understand, [John and Mary] weren’t together yet”, that’s not really her telling Dick, that’s Taylor asking readers to not be too mad at him.
It also casts Zucco’s murder of John and Mary in a different light as he seeks revenge for them freeing Meili from her marriage to him. Only time will tell if these changes remain part of the canon, but right now a lot of it feels inorganic and forced. It doesn’t help that Dick takes all this shocking news in such stride, but it’s not totally out of line with his personality. However, when a character is always as nice and respectful as Dick Grayson, there’s the risk of making him nothing more than a pleasant, yet blank slate. Hopefully more time is dedicated next issue to Dick coming to terms with such a sharp swerve to his backstory.
- Last month’s cliffhangers makes this a must read.
- You don’t mind when books retcon a character’s past.
- Tom Taylor is a favorite writer of yours and you trust him in the long game.
Nightwing #82 spends its time dealing with last month’s shocking revelation that Melinda Zucco may be Dick’s sister. The change-up in artists breathes a little fresh air into the series that’s been more than capably handled by Bruno Redondo. I don’t blame anyone who’s put off by the change in Dick’s backstory, but the execution is solid, even if Taylor’s script seems painfully aware of potential backlash. As it stands, future issues will determine if these changes are worth it, but right now I’m not fully convinced.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.