Nightwing #84 is a skippable, yet breezy enough read for long time fans. Tom Taylor’s script doesn’t spend much time addressing dangling plot threads from the main narrative, and instead dives head first into Fear State and the newfound dangers that come along with it. Robbi Rodriguez’s art is a fine enough fill-in, though the simplicity of Bruno Redondo’s pages are missed in a book that thrives on being slick. Ultimately, there’s fun to be had, but this three part tie-in feels like an interruption and not a fun diversion.

The issue starts out with a funny recap of everything Dick has been up to in the series. If this is your first issue of Taylor’s run, the first page establishes Dick’s new mission of using his newfound wealth to battle corruption in Blüdhaven while lifting up the disenfranchised. A noble goal is on his mind, right up until his earpiece delivers an encrypted message that sends him to Gotham, leaving Blüdhaven behind in the process. It’s a common set up (Catwoman #35 has the exact same premise) but it works well enough to get Dick to drop what he’s been doing and get involved in the larger Fear State picture. I really like the page of Dick leaping throughout Blüdhaven, even diving off Blockbuster’s own building, flying right past his window as he looks on. There’s an energy to Rodriguez’s panels here, with the blurred backgrounds, and Dick’s escrima sticks leaving behind a wavy blue trail of their own. A second panel has Dick leap right by a couple civilians, in a way that really captures him as a member of the neighborhood (much like a certain webslinger from a rival company). These are the elements that make this series work and after this opening, they largely vanish.

Credit: Robbi Rodriguez, Adriano Lucas, Wes Abbott

Rodriguez’s art is good with cute scenes like when Dick drops off his dog (Bitewing?) to be taken care of by Clancy. One panel, Dick has the dog and food in his hands, then the next panel they’ve vanished with Dick surrounded by question and exclamation marks. It’s fun, it’s cute and it’s hard to deny the energy of Rodriguez’s expressive character work. There’s a nice panel on the same page where two kids play with “Bitewing”, both of whom are overjoyed, including the dog as he lets out a perfectly placed, tiny “ARF”. Scenes of traversal also lend themselves well to Rodriguez’s pencils. I particularly like the way smoke is rendered as Nightwing’s bike rips across a bridge, with large, dirty plumes of smoke dispersed around him. Every movement has a lot of visual cues to lend a sense of weight and direction. Adriano Lucas’ colors adapt well to Rodriguez’s pencils as well. Lucas definitely changes his approach with Rodriguez, adding just a bit more grit to the proceedings, leaning away from the hyper slick aesthetic he has with Bruno Redondo.

Credit: Robbi Rodriguez, Adriano Lucas, Wes Abbott

So while the first half of the issue has enough charm to distract the reader from it all being set up for Fear State, the second half falters on a script and art level. I’m not impressed by the “trap” set by the Magistrate. There’s absolutely zero surprise or suspense as we watch Dick travel into an obvious set up. That’s further dampened by some less than stellar fight choreography. This series has been defined by Bruno Redondo’s slick and simple page layouts that often pull away from the action to give a clear sense of space. Rodriguez’s action is incredibly muddled and not very dynamic. Compositions are awkward, movement is unclear, and Wes Abbott’s lettered sound effects are pulling way too much of the weight. I can hardly tell what’s happening on certain panels. For example, one panel has a few blue silhouettes that are meant to track Dick’s movement as he fights several guards. However, the silhouettes are largely undefined and bleed into each other so that they look more like blue smudges rather than comprehensible silhouettes. Redondo does the same trick, but draws full figures that are easy to track through space.

Credit: Robbi Rodriguez, Adriano Lucas, Wes Abbott

That’s not to say there aren’t moments that are successful in the second half of the book. Slight spoilers to follow, but Batman’s arrival is incredibly well done. The composition faces upward as both the reader and a Magistrate soldier look up at Batman as he descends upon them. Lucas’ colors here are sublime, using different shades of gold and yellow to backlight the inky Batman’s silhouette. Their team up is fun and leads to some of the better action beats. I’m particularly fond of a moment where they charge through several apartments, breaking down walls in the process, to escape hostile drones. However, when it comes down to it, Batman’s presence is more of a cameo as he doesn’t linger long, but not before Taylor’s script lays down some schmaltz. Batman claims he came to back up Nightwing not because he thought he needed help, but because the trap was in crime alley and he wasn’t going to let his “son” share the same fate as his parents. Taylor knows how to write a tender moment. That doesn’t mean it feels any less shoehorned in.

Credit: Robbi Rodriguez, Adriano Lucas, Wes Abbott

Spoiler
The final moments between Dick and Barbara do bring forth a little excitement once Barbara decides to suit up as Batgirl again. Right now, I’m more interested in seeing how Taylor develops their romantic relationship, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he puts that on the back burner until the series returns to normal. Nonetheless, fans of Batgirl seem to be in good hands here, even if I have mixed opinions on the constant flip flopping of whether or not Barbara should be Batgirl or Oracle.

Recommended if…

  • You can’t get enough of Tom Taylor’s Nightwing and don’t mind it being a tie-in.
  • Every Fear State title is on your pull and you want the full picture.
  • You’re a fan of Robbi Rodriguez’s art.

Overall

Nightwing #84 is a competent tie-in issue that is likely skippable to those not invested in the larger DC universe. There’s not much continuity here with the story Taylor has been telling over his first arc, though Barbara’s inclusion could lead to some important moments between her and Dick. For readers invested in Taylor’s run, this first issue might be worth a pickup just to get more Nightwing in your life. However, for those who have zero interest in Fear State, I’d wager that not much will be missed here in regards to the series’ main narrative.

Score: 6.5/10


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