Nightwing #97 is a well executed issue that slows down the series after its bombastic climax in ”The Battle for Blüdhaven’s Heart”. The stakes are well defined, there’s simmering tension as crooked cops remain a present threat, and all the while Heartless remains hidden on the fringes. However, there’s a growing sense of safety and boredom creeping into Tom Taylor’s scripts as he tends to rinse and repeat the same beats over and over. Without a truly shocking development, the series threatens to stagnate and become complacent in its competency.
The fallout of Blockbuster’s death is well handled and it’s a startling image to see his dead body in the morgue with a giant hole in its chest. There’s a true grittiness to this image, which is something the series could do more with to counterbalance Nightwing’s intense optimism. Adriano Lucas’ colors expertly capture the morgue’s clinical atmosphere with cool greens and blues, and makes Blockbuster’s chest wound appropriately grotesque with the deep red of its dried blood. There’s a great splash page where Nightwing is framed within the giant hole in Blockbuster’s chest as he talks about the “power vacuum” now at hand. It’s a great image, but I don’t really buy into Nightwing’s argument that Blockbuster being killed instead of being brought to justice will result in “someone else [thinking] they can fill the void”. If anything, death is more likely to scare off any would-be gangster taking over, which is backed up by the following page where Maroni laughs off Commissioner Sawyer’s threats, thinking he’ll be busted out of jail in no time. There’s even a moment where Renee Montoya arrives and bemoans Gotham City’s tendency to keep its villains alive, primarily Joker. It’s a nice sentiment for Dick to want true justice, but it feels hamfisted to make the splash page’s imagery work with the “Power Vacuum” title.
Redondo and Geraldo Borges team up on art duties this time around. Redondo handles the opening and ending pages while Borges handles the middle. While I generally like Borges’ art, the transition to his pages is noticeable and took me off guard for a moment. This isn’t only because of Borges’ rougher style, but because Taylor’s script shifts gears abruptly after Dick, Barbara, and Maroni set off for safety within the Gotham Woods. It’s no surprise that Maroni’s prison transport is ambushed, but Borges renders the sequence well, particularly with a page dedicated to vehicular mayhem. There’s a page where a giant truck smashes through cars, but Borges wisely places a man on a motorcycle dead center. This heightens the fear factor by showing exactly how large and destructive the scene is with a completely defenseless person in the mix. Wes Abbott’s lettered sound effects also do a great job with matching the action. The initial crash has thinner fonts to imply the shredding of metal, but when the prison van flips the accompanying “KROOM” is bolder to sell the power of the momentum and impact. Taylor’s script also spices up a traditional ambush scene by having one of the cops try to execute Maroni, only to be stopped by the arrival of Dick and Barbara. I’m glad the presence of crooked cops hasn’t disappeared with Blockbuster’s death as it adds another layer of tension to any given scene.
The odd shift occurs right after when Dick and Barbara take Maroni into the conveniently close by Gotham Woods. Taylor’s script does its best Predator impression as Dick single-handedly takes out several goons across two pages. It’s a weird shift from the urban environment Dick mostly fights in, and Borges’ art makes this shift all the more noticeable. Nonetheless, Borges’ weighty figure work lends a greater deal of savagery to the action, which fits the setting. The fight’s quickness does make it feel like an afterthought, serving more as a somewhat awkward transition to the trio finding one of Bruce’s hidden safe-houses. Now safely tucked away, Dick and Barbara get some alone time after he comedically knocks out Maroni with a tranquilizer hidden in his escrima stick. Taylor’s script even flirts with an actual dose of sensuality as Maroni notes that the hideout has thin ceilings when Dick checks in on him the next morning. These last few pages don’t exactly crescendo into a thrilling cliffhanger, but the final page does leave readers on an intriguing note. This is an issue dealing with fallout so I don’t mind giving Taylor time to reset the table, but hopefully Heartless makes his next play sooner rather than later.
- You’re eager to see the fallout of Blockbuster’s death on Blüdhaven.
- The split art duties between Bruno Redondo and Geraldo Borges appeals to you.
- The series’ usual charms haven’t grown thin.
Nightwing #97 is an effective, if somewhat unassuming transition issue as The Battle for Blüdhaven’s Heart leaves a new status quo. The art is tight, the action well rendered, but there is a nagging feeling that Tom Taylor’s scripts are growing repetitive. There is an ease of craft on display and it’s nice to have a book as consistent in quality as Nightwing, but the issue’s cliffhanger is equal parts exciting and worrying as Taylor searches for his next big hook.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.