Nightwing #89 spins a rote murder mystery that serves only to distract from the more engaging moments between Dick Grayson and Jon Kent. This issue reads more like a Tom Taylor greatest hits, built for fans of his recent work before fans of Nightwing himself. Bruno Redondo turns in excellent work as per usual, but the series has absolutely zero momentum at this point and heartwarming gestures of love and friendship can only get you so far.
On the positive side, the opening flashback sequence exemplifies all of Taylor and Redondo’s strengths. This far into the run, I am getting increasingly wary of the series’ overabundance of sentimentality but seeing Dick interact with a younger Jon is simply joyous. With Taylor’s main narrative largely stuck in Blüdhaven, seeing Batman and Nightwing out on an adventure, skydiving out of the Batplane and landing on a remote island is refreshing. It doesn’t take long for their mission to reveal itself; they are looking for a young Jon who has gotten lost while flying at night. If anything, the sense of danger and adventure within this short prologue sequence outshines many of the recent obstacles Dick has faced in Blüdhaven. Nightwing and Bruce both dodge Jon’s heat vision as he lashes out in fear, not knowing his friends are here to help him. There’s a sense of life and death stakes, mixed in with Jon’s youthful angst, which creates a multifaceted sequence. Long story short, it’s nice to see some actual tension between allies, even if it’s short-lived. Redondo’s figure work is as clean as ever, between Dick’s Matrix-like backwards dodge, to a heartwarming hug between Clark and Jon, he doesn’t miss a beat. Seeing Jon and Dick together, with Dick serving more as an older brother figure to Jon, is also fun especially considering they are far closer in age now than before given Jon’s recent aging up.
From here the narrative splits its time evenly between Jon and Dick as they both face their own personal struggles. Jon struggles with the responsibility of being Superman, especially when it comes to the harsh reality of not being able to save everyone. In an attempt to soothe his worries, he speaks to an AI construct of his father, which Jon quickly regrets saying “If I can’t have the real thing…I think I’d prefer some solitude”. It’s a solid set up scene, especially for those who haven’t been reading Jon’s solo series. Unfortunately, Jon’s later scenes don’t do much to catch readers up to speed, doing little to establish his relationship with Jay (whose name I had to look up since it’s not mentioned in the opening scene). There’s a few editor’s notes referencing issues to read to get caught up to speed on Jay/Gossamer’s organization named “The Truth”, but I would’ve appreciated a little more backstory to be filled in. To be blunt, I have no clue what’s going on in Jon’s life beyond the mounting pressure to be Superman, and this issue did little to explore other aspects of Jon’s status quo. When Aerie and Wink (who I first encountered in Taylor and Redondo’s Suicide Squad book) arrive, that’s the moment where the issue turned into a Tom Taylor story more than a Nightwing one.
Nonetheless, Redondo’s art pleases the eye even when the script leaves me a little lost. A meeting at The Truth’s boat headquarters is stale, with mostly flat compositions that are energized by Adriano Lucas’ colors. Lucas has always been a star of the book and that remains true here as the colors manage to be vibrant without being gaudy. There’s not a lot of action in this issue, but Redondo seems incapable of drawing a boring looking book. Even the kiss Jon and Jay share as Jon hovers by his fire escape feels effortlessly iconic. The little action the issue has is also handsomely rendered as a former Titan, Risk, is drowned to death after a short chase across Metropolis. It’s this murder that brings Jon and Dick together to investigate. Redondo nails the visual appeal of these two youthful heroes doing rooftop detective work, even if Taylor’s main clue is a convenient energy signature that leads the duo to their main suspect. The murder mystery plot is anemic, but it does give Taylor the excuse to give Jon and Dick an issue to hangout together in. Hopefully next month’s issue (Superman: Son of Kal El #9) manages to craft a more engaging story, but with only one issue left in the crossover, I doubt it will.
Some other random thoughts involve Dick and Barbara’s relationship, which I hope evolves in some manner. It’s a big deal to see Dick and Barbara wake up in bed together, but beyond that, their actual dynamic doesn’t seem to have changed much. There is a great visual gag though when Dick gets up from the bed to reveal a pair of Batman pajama bottoms. But that in many ways exemplifies this romantic pairing; it’s fun and cute, but there’s no real drama yet.
- You’re a big Tom Taylor fan and have been following both his Nightwing and Superman books.
- A rote murder mystery doesn’t deter you from seeing two popular characters work together.
- Spending time away from Blüdhaven appeals to you.
Nightwing #89 is a perfectly fine team-up issue that doesn’t do much to entice readers who aren’t already endeared to Jon Kent. Both characters get about the same amount of pages dedicated to them, but Jon does have more going on in his life despite the issue not doing much to get readers up to speed. Additionally, the murder mystery at the issue’s core is languid with a yawn of a cliffhanger page doing little to spruce things up. For fans of Nightwing, this issue can be skipped, but fans of Tom Taylor’s recent output will likely get more out of it.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman-News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.