Nightwing #101 is a ho-hum read that revisits a story thread that would have been better left dangling. In a series that is in the midst of an identity crisis, bringing demons, Lord Neron, and all sorts of supernatural imagery isn’t the best way to convince readers that there’s a coherent vision for the future.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Nite-Mite issue, despite it being a relatively enjoyable diversion, and to see the plotline return doesn’t start things off on the right foot. Taylor’s Nightwing has struggled to maintain a consistent point of view as it hops around from gang warfare, nautical themed mysteries, the return of the Titans, and now this Underworld oriented story arc. After “The Battle for Bludhaven’s Heart” wrapped up, I’ve found the series to be unwieldy despite a lack of narrative momentum. There’s nothing wrong with Taylor scripting a diverse set of storylines, but the fun factor needs to be way higher if a coherent long form narrative is being sacrificed in favor of this. Long story short, Lord Neron wants Blockbuster’s daughter’s soul, which Nightwing and Raven prevented a few issues back. Since Neron is afraid of visibly going to battle with Raven, Trigon’s daughter, he enlists the service of the King of Vlatava, also known as “Grinning Man”. Grinning Man is a serviceable villain here with his everlasting smile giving his scenes a suitable creep factor. Nonetheless, the switch up in environments is jarring to say the least. We are long gone from the streets of Bludhaven here and the fantasy themed setting can be a hard pill to swallow when I’m grasping for a semblance of consistency. There’s little to hold onto in Taylor’s Nightwing as of late since he whisks us to various settings, with various plotlines but little connective tissue.
Travis Moore is on art duties this time around and is a more than capable fill-in for Bruno Redondo. Moore’s work on previous Nightwing issues was great and that remains true here even if the Hell setting doesn’t play to their strengths. Moore’s work is pristine and crisp, with Adriano Lucas’ colors enhancing the clean, almost plastic looking aesthetic. While this suits Nightwing in his Bludhaven setting, Moore’s visuals aren’t as well suited to the grit and grime of the comic’s underworld characters. Neron looks like a bulky, plastic soldier and his demonic minions lack a sense of gruesomeness to really sell the danger. It keeps the atmosphere slight, which is befitting of Taylor’s overall tone for the series, but that makes me question this pivot to fantasy to begin with. Wes Abbott’s letters do a good job of adding some character to Neron, as his speech bubbles are crooked and green, while his minions follow a similar look.
The main draw is the newfound importance of the Titans as this arc seems to operate as a reintroduction for their own series coming out soon. Taylor does a good job making Dick’s relationship with his friends feel genuine and charming to watch unfold. The stakes are low as Dick visits Blockbuster’s daughter, Olivia, as she plays with Garth who has transformed into a unicorn for her entertainment. It’s very sweet to see Garth and Raven take care of Olivia and play pretend with her and Moore’s work excels at rendering these pleasant moments. Taylor’s dialogue is a touch too self-referential as he regurgitates lukewarm jokes from past issues, but the atmosphere carries the scene well enough. A better moment comes when Dick and Raven telepathically talk to spare Olivia hearing news of a body being found in the ruins of the former Titans Tower. However, it takes half the issue to establish the current problem at hand, leaving a good chunk of the issue for rudimentary setup and pleasantries.
Once the group reaches Titans Tower, Starfire appears, desperate to find whatever body was found in the ruins as she was the headmistress of the now destroyed school inside. It’s a great character moment as she wastes no time to plunge into the depths of the ruins to find the body of the king of Vlatava. Another variable is added in the form of Amanda Waller who appears on scene and demands Nightwing cooperate with an investigator from the Vlatavan embassy. Waller’s appearance doesn’t add much to the issue and I hope her role remains downplayed as there’s already more than enough characters for Taylor’s scripts to juggle. The subsequent cliffhanger is fine, though immediately obvious once you realize the Vlatavan investigator is smiling in every panel. What drains the issue of any true drama is the safeness of both the script and visuals. Moore’s work is extremely solid, but Nightwing’s moment with the Vlatavan investigator could have been a great moment of tension as the reader slowly realizes something is wrong. Compositions remain largely flat, accompanied by workmanlike page layouts that do little to elevate the inherent tension of the scene. There’s no major missteps on both the writing and art side, but there’s little done to elevate any scene with either clever dialogue or interesting visuals.
Additionally, there’s a backup story written by C.S. Pacat with art by Eduardo Pansica that follows Nightwing’s continued training of Jon Kent. Pansica’s art is solid, with dynamic compositions that make the action pop off the page and panel layouts that elegantly lead the eye through the chaos. However, Pacat’s script is simplistic, which isn’t a surprise given the short page count of a back up story. It’s nice to see Dick and Jon bond, but once again Nightwing finds himself back at a circus narrating about falling through the air and trying to not let “someone else down”. I’ve heard it all before from Taylor’s scripts so the narration feels redundant at best. Overall, it’s a solid back up story but it does little to move the needle in either direction for the issue as a whole.
- Travis Moore is a suitable replacement for Bruno Redondo.
- Revisiting the storyline from the Nite-Mite issue appeals to you.
- The Titans hanging out is all you need out of this arc.
Nightwing #101 plays it safe by delivering a decent set up to what could be a nice arc that examines Nightwing and his relationship to the Titans. Nonetheless, while the narrative is solid, there’s little surprise in store and the competent art does little to spice things up. Tom Taylor’s Nightwing is always a pleasant read, but longtime readers may be growing weary of the slightness of it all.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.