Nightwing #90 features yet another attempt on Dick Grayson’s life, courtesy of Blockbuster and the city officials who are in his pocket. While the narrative definitely spins its wheels with a third issue dedicated to attempts on Dick’s life, this one succeeds in upping the stakes by putting more civilians in harm’s way as ever. Geraldo Borges takes over art duties this time around, and even though his work isn’t as refined as Bruno Redondo’s, its rugged style fits with this chapter’s high-octane action.
Tom Taylor’s script wastes little time getting to the point with its first page setting the stage for a more aggressive assassination attempt against Dick. Before there were sharpshooters and typical goons sent after him, but this time the plan involves blowing up his entire apartment building as he sleeps. This is a more engaging set up than before because Dick’s newfound sister, Melinda Zucco, is in the room as this plan is made and must warn Dick before it’s too late. Melinda’s double life has a lot of potential for increased tension in the series and I hope Taylor’s scripts utilize this inherent dilemma often.
Borges’ art makes a fine case for itself in this opening sequence where Dick races down his building’s stairs, warning everyone to get out before it’s too late. His page layout cleverly bisects the building, allowing readers to easily track Dick’s movement as he jumps down each flight of stairs, dog in hand. Adriano Lucas’s colors also cleverly bathe the sequence in purples and reds, which lets the scene be easily visible without betraying the fact that the scene takes place in the middle of the night. In fact, the entire first half of the book consists of this color palette, keeping the series’ vibrancy intact even with a fill-in artist. While Borges’ figure work and page layouts hardly miss a beat, his facial work can look misshapen (a stylistic choice), which is a major difference from Redondo’s more precise work. There’s a lot of energy to Borges’ work, which is great, but his pencils are rougher than the series normally features. Most readers will find little fault here, but it is a shame Redondo had to focus on the two-part crossover with Jon Kent in his own series rather than this more relevant story arc.
The main appeal of this month’s chapter is the team-up aspect with Wally West in yet another Titans family reunion. This is where Borges’ weaknesses rear their head more often. He’s great at depicting the smokey aftermath of a destroyed building with thick shadows and aggressive inks, but close-up dialogue driven sequences in more domestic settings are not his strong suit. Compositions are flatter and the scene dressing isn’t robust enough to maintain visual appeal and his simplistic facial acting does little to spruce up the close ups we do get. Despite a lack of visual flair, Taylor’s script nails the appeal between Dick and Wally’s friendship. Wally invites Dick to stay with him, Linda, and the kids for the night and whisks him to the living room before he can say no. There’s a great moment where Wally asks Dick “when was the last time you felt safe when you fell asleep” that grounds the stakes in a way that feels organic to the series and superhero books in general. The sheer amount of stress Dick lives with, especially after putting a target on his back, is a good thing to address in this manner.
The remainder of the issue is fairly routine as Barbara finds herself kidnapped in order to lure Dick Grayson out of hiding. It’s a fun reminder that Barbara and Dick haven’t exactly solidified whether they’re boyfriend and girlfriend, but Taylor and Borges (and Redondo) sometimes get in their own way with overly self-referential humor. Barbara claims she’s been “fridged” upon being kidnapped (a literary term birthed by a controversial comic book storyline) while Dick wears a DC Comics t-shirt. There’s multiple instances of this within the series, with even street names being named after famous comic creators, but it’s getting to the point of being too distracting. I know creative teams think these are cute to include, but at this point it only serves to break the fourth wall with no real goal other than to make readers smirk at their ability to recognize brands and names.
The cliffhanger here is solid and the main villain behind the latest attempt on Dick’s life is a nice surprise. However, when all is said and done, this is yet another issue of someone trying to kill Dick Grayson for the third time. It’s not a terrible way to include guest stars, but it is an example of how Dick feels increasingly marginalized in his own series. Friendship abounds within the book, with Wally giving Dick a big hug in the ruins of his apartment building (which has likely ruined the lives of many innocent bystanders), but a more proactive Nightwing is sorely needed before the series grows stale beyond saving.
- The prospect of a reunion between Wally West and Dick Grayson is enough for a purchase.
- You don’t mind yet another issue of Blockbuster trying to assassinate Dick.
- The absence of Bruno Redondo is not a deal breaker.
Nightwing #90 is a solid, if uninspiring, team-up book with Dick Grayson and Wally West as they find a way to go on the offensive after another attempt on Dick’s life. Geraldo Borges’ art makes a good impression, doing more than just filling in for series regular Bruno Redondo. Additionally, Tom Taylor’s script finds a good angle for upping the stakes on Blockbuster’s assassination attempts on Dick, putting more innocent civilians than ever in the crossfire. In a vacuum, this issue delivers a fun balance between action and character building, but the series as a whole feels rudderless, struggling to maintain momentum under the shadow of Dick’s lofty ambitions to rebuild Blüdhaven.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman-News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.