Nightwing #99 is a refreshingly simple, clear cut story that adds a welcome, nautical themed mystery to Blüdhaven’s criminal underworld. The core drama comes with the return of Tony Zucco, the man who killed Dick Grayson’s parents, but the real excitement comes from the seeds Tom Taylor plants for both Nightwing and Blüdhaven itself. There’s been a major focus on the downtrodden of Blüdhaven, but now we get a glimpse at an unseen criminal element, uniquely tailored for the city.
After a quick page establishing mass arrests taking place across the country due to Blockbuster’s leaked files, Taylor quickly pivots to the return of Tony Zucco. I’ve been wanting a more prominent role for Melinda Zucco, as the reveal of her being Dick’s sister was a major surprise that didn’t have much of a follow up. Tony’s first panel is appropriately smug, as he struts in, hands gripping his suit lapels, flanked by two mysterious bodyguards. Bruno Redondo does a great job of capturing Tony’s attitude in every panel, with subtle changes in facial expressions aided by more over the top body language poses. Tony and Melinda’s first scene together is excellent across the board, with Taylor’s script expertly raising tension as Melinda attempts to refuse Tony’s offer of partnership, without declaring all out war on him. Melinda asks a lot of questions to avoid a direct confrontation, which allows the script to display her cunning nature as she buys herself time in order to bring Dick in for help.
The major strength of the issue is Dick’s characterization in how he reacts to Tony Zucco’s return. There’s little questioning on Dick’s part as it takes only one page before he narrows his eyes in a nice close up, and asks Melinda where Zucco is staying. This page also cleverly has Dick and Melinda walk through the Blüdhaven park where the whaler statue sits, reminding readers of the city’s nautical ties. One thing Taylor’s series seeks to do is give Blüdhaven a unique flavor from Gotham, and its sea based past is something I’ve been waiting to return. Dick jumps into action even admitting that he “[doesn’t] have a plan yet”, as he storms off to confront his parents’ murderer. There’s sometimes an overwhelming amount of sentimentality in the series, so it’s refreshing to see Taylor relent and have Dick express genuine anger as he hunts down Tony.
The biggest addition comes in the form of “The Hold”, a coastal bank where criminals hide belongings. Tony and his bodyguards (revealed to be Double Dare, a pair of circus performers turned criminal), demand the contents of Sal Maroni’s safe since Tony is the only person left who knows of its existence. The actual design of the hold is cool, with it being a giant ship, accompanied by a giant whale skeleton above it. However, the environment around it is a little less clear, with the ship presumably suspended in mid air over what appears to be a chasm below. It’s a shame that none of the pages really give a good idea of its surroundings, with Redondo content in leaving the surrounding void empty of detail, beyond some rocky ridges. Adriano Lucas does what he can with the location, but finds himself stuck with coloring this void a sickly green/brown to fit the atmosphere, despite a lack of detail. The art throughout is sound, but I find Redondo struggles with really nailing down pages that require a more epic sense of scale. However, he does get to impress with an immaculate two page spread that tracks Dick as he fights Double Dare across the ship as he chases down Tony. If only the surrounding environment wasn’t a giant, green glob of nothing.
The art briefly shifts to Geraldo Borges when Dick confronts Tony, whose pencils are well suited to capture the arrival of the Hold’s owners via a heavily armed boat. It’s a bit of major aesthetic shift from street level, mob based fighting to a mysterious, nautical themed criminal empire. However, there is a sense of genuine wonder and mystery for the first time in a while in the series so I welcome it. Dick ends up doing the right thing, even if it forces him to now rub shoulders with this unknown group of sea-based criminals. The issue wraps up with Heartless making his presence known, but doing very little other than setting up some minor pieces for his upcoming attempt to take over Blüdhaven. The series definitely feels like its treading familiar territory as Dick is soon to face yet another criminal hellbent on taking over Bludhaven’s criminal enterprises, but the addition of the Hold adds a welcome wrinkle to the endeavor.
- You’ve been waiting for Tony Zucco’s return to the series.
- The slightest hint of darkness within Dick Grayson piques your interest.
- You’re looking forward to the upcoming #100 anniversary issue.
Nightwing #99 doesn’t necessarily feel like the lead up to a big anniversary issue, but what’s here is a precise comic that satisfyingly resolves a nagging plot thread. Tony Zucco’s return doesn’t set the series ablaze, but Dick does express a rare, genuine anger and a desire to inflict harm upon his parents’ murderer. As it stands, the introduction of a new, nautical themed criminal enterprise with The Hold is a highlight, right alongside Taylor and Redondo’s steady hands as they capture both Dick’s optimism and darker side.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.