Nightwing #96 delivers a crowd pleasing, action packed finale to Tom Taylor’s “Battle for Blüdhaven’s Heart” storyline. The action is exciting, the character moments endearing, and the future of the series is brighter than ever. A few plot points feel rushed, particularly given the slow pace of Taylor’s run so far, but it’s hard to deny the spectacle Taylor and Bruno Redondo put on display.
Little time is wasted before Taylor focuses on the long gestating showdown between Blockbuster and Nightwing. A burning building is a great place for a final fight, but there are a few compositions Redondo utilizes that I don’t find well executed. The first panel of this standoff is a medium shot where the angle puts both Blockbuster and Nightwing’s faces within Dick’s fallen mask, as if each of their heads are a pupil. It’s a fun idea, but it makes this first panel strangely claustrophobic, not because of the fire and smoke, but because half the panel is covered by a large black domino mask. The perspective also makes it look like Blockbuster and Nightwing are not standing across from each other, but almost side by side. This throws off the dynamic of the scene right from the start. The next page has two smaller horizontal panels with a larger square panel at the bottom half. The layout has these first two panels focus on each of the character’s eyes, with Dick’s hands putting his mask back on and Blockbuster’s hand to his ear, holding a cellphone. The large panel underneath is a close up of Dick’s chest, his hands clenched into fists dead center. What I’m getting at is that there are a lot of hands on this page and it frankly looks odd. Additionally, without Blockbuster’s panel it would look like a front shot of Dick’s entire upper body, but then it looks like Dick has hands growing out his shoulders. Redondo is trying too many techniques when he should be letting the script and circumstance do the heavy lifting. Adriano Lucas’ colors are also too saturated and makes these first few pages a surprising eyesore.
The storytelling improves vastly after these first two questionable pages, with clearer compositions and a truly great two page spread, filled with three rows of four square panels. This page delivers some great sequential action as Dick uses his agility against Blockbuster. Each panel delivers a great deal of weight and motion on their own, but as a whole, the action tracks extremely well with a fun back and forth between the two. My favorite moment is a three panel sequence where first Blockbuster throws Dick off-panel, then has a grapple shot onto his chest, and finally ends with Dick delivering a flying kick right back into him. The rest of the fight takes on a more traditional visual style with the choreography relying more on snapshots of action. There is a funny gag where Dick knocks Blockbuster’s tooth out by slamming a (very thin) copy of Moby Dick against his face. This final showdown delivers, even if sometimes Redondo gets in his own way by attempting to have his cake and eat it too with certain techniques.
Wes Abbott’s letters have a lot of fun not just with sound effects, but with an original take on how to censor profanity. With Blockbuster up against the ropes, some of his underlings decide to sever ties and ditch him. Electrocutioner and Brutale drive off into the sunset, with Electrocutioner’s profanity laced insults covered by a DC Comics themed “Approved by the authority of the Comics Code Authority” stamp, instead of the usual asterisks and dollar signs. It’s a funny visual gag that does a good job of keeping the atmosphere light. Less effective is a sudden reveal of Blockbuster owning a private prison that Electrocutioner nearly died in due to its poor conditions. It feels like an incredibly convenient plot point to undercut Blockbuster and render him alone. Nonetheless, Taylor’s script does a good job of having the citizens of Blüdhaven come together to put out the fires set by Blockbuster in a very literal visualization of the city turning on him. Would a few dozen buckets of water actually be enough to stop a raging fire? Probably not, but it’s an endearing visual.
With the Blockbuster storyline seemingly wrapped up, the other notable plotline at play is the relationship between Dick and Barbara. Their scene together is well drawn and romantic as rain (or spilling fire hose water?) pours down on them. I don’t think there’s any surprises in store for readers here, but Taylor has done a good job of developing their relationship and there’s no major misfire within these pages.
- This is the last issue of a long running storyline, you know if you’re getting this.
- Seeing more development of Dick and Barbara’s relationship is important.
- Bruno Redondo’s fiery showdown between Nightwing and Blockbuster is enough.
Nightwing #96 is an exciting, if unsurprising, finale for Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s “Battle for Blüdhaven’s Heart”. The action is gripping, the art effective, and the romantic angle with Dick and Barbara is heartfelt. While the simplistic plotting begs the question if the overall storyline was too slowly paced, it’s hard to imagine fans of the series being disappointed with how everything plays out. Taylor and Redondo are in a good spot to continue forward with the series, I only hope that the plotting can maintain this quicker pace while delivering truly surprising twists.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.