Nightwing #92 finally has the series return its focus to Blüdhaven and Dick Grayson’s Haven project. There’s been a lack of momentum in the series’ larger narrative, but Tom Taylor’s script better manages to tell a contained story while also setting up compelling pieces with Blockbuster who has mostly stayed on the sidelines until now.
The first third of the book delivers a flashback of the early days of Batman, Robin, and Batgirl keeping the peace during “night two of blackouts” in Gotham. While Bruno Redondo’s pencils are as great as ever, Adriano Lucas’ colors (along with the texture given to these pages) create a retro aesthetic with its flatter colors and more restrictive palette. In fact, it looks so good it’s almost frustrating that a comic just doesn’t decide to embrace such an aesthetic beyond utilizing it for a punch of nostalgia. Nonetheless, the entire sequence is a winner as it deftly sets up Dick (and Barbara’s) penchant for leaping into danger whenever they see the “powerless attacked”. The action that’s here isn’t fully sequential, but the compositions are always clear and impactful even if I do miss more thoughtful choreography at times. The true highlight beyond the aesthetics is a dramatic scene between Alfred and Bruce outside Dick’s bedroom at Wayne Manor. Bruce gets ready to admonish Dick for disobeying orders, but Alfred reminds him that Dick did what he thought was right and saved a life in the process. The Wayne family dynamic is rich and often left untapped in favor of new characters lately making this a breath of fresh air. Taylor nails his attempt to display how parental teachings are passed down through generations in two pages. Bruce and Alfred’s conversation is also a visual delight with Wayne Manor’s purple walls broken up by Lucas’ decision to color two key panels with a pale yellow background. This is the good stuff.
The rest of the issue is solid as well, but the extended flashback does hinder its ability to build up momentum with limited remaining pages. Taylor’s script returns his focus to Dick’s initiative in Blüdhaven. I still raise my eyebrows at some aspects of the book’s politics (why is free pizza such a focus of Dick’s social programs?), but its heart is in its right place. More specificity regarding the actual goals of Dick’s big plan would be welcomed, but the fact that Haven was completed essentially off-panel doesn’t give me much hope. Now that it’s built, it appears the focus will now shift to Dick’s efforts to protect Haven and its hazy goals. There are narration boxes that state its purpose to provide something that will go “beyond free food and shelter and transportation”, but the given answer is “sanctuary”. I’m not entirely sure what the difference is between shelter and sanctuary when the book will never delve into the reality of drug addiction and physical abuse (among other issues) that a wayward youth would face out on the streets. Replacement phrases such as “a place free from judgement” don’t quite cut it. Simply put, this is a glossy version of social justice even if its general goals are positive. Lastly, it’s not really clear what Haven actually is physically. From what I can see, it looks like a few food trucks and tents, which is far from what I had in mind when Dick inherited a fortune. For all the bombast of Dick’s original Haven announcement speech, this all feels increasingly mundane.
Better fleshed out are the scenes between Dick, Bruce, Barbara, and Blockbuster when he arrives. I love seeing Bruce in the series as a civilian, as he tries to ride the line between “protecting” Dick and merely wanting to spend time with him. Blockbuster putting himself out there is also refreshing after spending a few issues with henchmen coming after Dick rather than the main man himself. The dialogue is more on the nose than expected with Blockbuster’s veiled threats forgetting the “veiled” part. Redondo draws this scene extremely well, with dynamic poses that inject this conversation with the visual stakes of a fight sequence. I particularly like a low angle panel that puts Blockbuster’s giant fist up close to the reader, with Bruce standing in a power pose on the other side. Lucas also takes advantage of the park setting by filling most of the background in tranquil greens and yellows, which contrast well with the intense confrontation at hand.
A common complaint I’ve had til now in the series is how often Dick finds himself knocked out by his enemies and needing rescuing from his allies. I understand that Taylor’s scripts focus on Dick’s familial and romantic relationships and that he’s not the type to turn down help if it results in more people being saved. However, there are times where he comes off as incompetent or woefully underprepared for certain situations. Here, Taylor gives Dick a great sequence where he takes down a dozen or so goons in one panel as he glide kicks all of them in one swoop. While violence isn’t the only way for Dick to portray his heroism, it’s good to see some good ol’ fashioned crime fighting. Wes Abbott also gets a full panel of just lettered sound effects to have fun with as Dick knocks out Haven’s would be arsonists. Additionally, the central idea of Dick always leaping into danger if he sees the “powerless attacked” comes full circle in this sequence. That’s the type of writing I want to see in the series more. When an issue can deliver a simple theme with a set up and pay off, it allows the book to feel significant even when the central narrative doesn’t have a major plot point occur.
- You’ve been waiting for the series to refocus itself on Dick’s mission in Bludhaven.
- An extended flashback to a classic Batman/Robin/Batgirl scenario appeals to you.
- The lack of detail about “Haven” doesn’t bother you.
Nightwing #92 manages to balance Tom Taylor’s focus on characterization with the series’ overarching narrative better than most recent issues. While the opening flashback delivers a great theme with fantastic art, it does result in Taylor’s script not having much time to spend in the present day storyline. Bruno Redondo’s pencils are as fantastic as ever, and Adriano Lucas makes yet another case for being the true superstar of the series. This issue also marks a good entry point for any new reader to the series.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.