Nightwing #85 spends more time relitigating the past than focusing on the Fear State drama at hand. A Nightwing book in name only, fans of Barbara Gordon will find some entertainment in the book’s focus on her attempt to reclaim her Oracle mantle, but everyone else is merely waiting for this tie-in arc to end. I know I am.

To start off, I’m aware of the controversy over whether or not it was a wise decision to “revert” Barbara back to being Batgirl after returning to her role as Oracle in recent months. It’s a sensitive topic for some in terms of representation, but I’m willing to go along with this plotline as it seems set up for Barbara to solidify her claim on being Oracle. What I’m less endeared to is Tom Taylor’s script re-examining The Killing Joke and pointing out how Barbara was victimized and how she refuses to not be in control of her own story ever again. It’s a nice thought, but I’ve read it a million times before already and to be frank I’m sick of it.

Credit: Robbi Rodriguez, Adriano Lucas, Wes Abbott

The next thing Taylor’s script focuses on is the moral ambiguity of Barbara spying on the entirety of Gotham’s populace via her Oracle network to keep them safe. It shouldn’t be a question of whether or not that’s a bad thing to do. It is and the modern era Batman does operate as an authoritarian figure who strips people of their civil liberties for their own good. I don’t like being reminded of it. Not everything needs to be a direct comparison to real life situations and Taylor’s scripts as of late have done exactly that. Does Barbara express regret now that her network has been hijacked? Yes she does, but would she regret using her spy network if it was never taken from her? Probably not. Will future storylines examine this moral dilemma? I doubt it. Move on please.

Credit: Robbi Rodriguez, Adriano Lucas, Wes Abbott

Robbi Rodriguez’s art is much more refined this time, but a lot of that is probably because there’s less action. I like the flashback scenes with Dick and Barbara in their younger days as they sneak out for a bit of freedom from their respective guardians. The colors by Adriano Lucas are stellar here, as they are both vibrant yet slightly faded to indicate the passage of time. The aesthetics are not the problem with this month’s issue. Poses are dynamic, facial expressions are nuanced, and the action packs a punch with its much cleaner choreography this time around. There’s only a couple pages of action and while they’re not sequential, Rodriguez’s expressive action poses do enough to lend a sense of movement and weight, particularly on a panel where Dick and Barbara both kick a couple of Magistrate guards back to back. Wes Abbott’s letters also deliver some nice “WHAPS” and “WUNKS” and do a lot to enhance these beats.

Credit: Robbi Rodriguez, Adriano Lucas, Wes Abbott

The requisite banter between Dick and Barbara is charming and that’s the true strength of this month’s issue. Fans of them being a couple will enjoy seeing them work together as a team while navigating the romantic tension between them. There’s a shock value sequence that I found unnecessary, but it is quickly wiped away and leads to a tender moment between Dick and Barbara. Taylor’s scripts do a good job of milking these fan-service moments and even if I see through the emotional manipulations at play here, I can’t help but get won over from time to time.

Credit: Robbi Rodriguez, Adriano Lucas, Wes Abbott

However, the final moments remind me of why I don’t like tie-in issues to a larger event. The issue ends on a pretty big cliffhanger, which is immediately followed up by an editor’s note to check out the an issue of Batman to figure out what happens next. So not only does Taylor’s main narrative get interrupted with an event, but plot points within his own tie-in issues require outside reading. I’ll reserve full judgement until next month’s issue, but this type of storytelling is frustrating for those who just want to stick with one character’s series. There’s enough Dick and Barbara character development here to entice long time readers, but everything else will be forgotten once the main story picks back up again.

Recommended if…

  • Dick and Barbara’s relationship is a key dynamic you want explored.
  • Fear State and all its tie-ins are of interest to you.
  • You don’t mind spending four dollars to get a few pages that will likely be important to the main series.

Overall

Nightwing #85 is not a bad comic book, but it’s largely inconsequential for most readers of the main Nightwing series. Dick and Barbara’s relationship is the main selling point here, but for anyone who doesn’t care to read every single romantic interaction between them, this is a skippable issue unless Fear State is important to you.

Score: 6/10


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