Knight Terrors: Nightwing #2
Nightwing’s worst nightmare is to wake up one day realizing he murdered someone he loves and doesn’t even remember how or why he did it…and that’s exactly the Knightmareverse in which Insomnia has placed him while memories of who Nightwing killed and how he did it start flashing back vividly in his head. To make matters worse, he’ll have to work with his cellmates, Two-Face and Scarecrow, to get out of this one alive…
The uncanny valley is defined as the “theorized relation between the human likeness of an object and a viewer’s affinity toward it.” The concept is usually used to describe when computer-generated images try to approximate human visuals and affect how they are received depending on how close they are to reality. With video games and heavy CGI, the term highlights an off-putting feeling when viewing close-to-human-looking models. The concept is the perfect description for many of the entries in DC’s current event, Knight Terrors, as the heroes grapple with their worst nightmares in a realm combating sense and logic.
Knight Terrors: Nightwing #2 – written by Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad with art by Daniele Di Nicuolo, colors from Adriano Lucas, and letters by Wes Abbott – continues the titular hero’s Arkham Asylum set nightmare. Dick is forced to team up with Jonathan Crane, aka the Scarecrow, to try and map out the ever-shifting geography of the madhouse while attempting to save a robotic Barbara Gordon. As the duo searches through the asylum and retrace Crane’s steps, they realize the logic of the map doesn’t make sense and realize more of the Batfamily is trapped in various cells.
While wandering the halls of Arkham, Nightwing learns his reason for incarceration: that he killed Batman. The asylum is then shown to be filled with twisted versions of Gotham characters, including a Killer Croc with a purse for a head, barbarian orderly Harley Quinn, and baby-faced Solomon Grundy.
A food fight turned prison riot provides a distraction so Nightwing can continue searching for a way out of the nightmare. He has to face his deepest fear, tied with replacing/failing Batman, while Scarecrow realizes the nightmare is a rogue computer program. Crane sacrifices himself to allow Dick and Barbara to escape, finding solace in the nightmare due to his years of fear of toxins.
Cloonan and Conrad infuse a strong voice for Nightwing, using the appearance of Barbara to inject a ticking clock into the back half of this story. If the first issue was all about the confusion and otherworldliness of the nightmare, then this one is the logic solidifying even as the world around Nightwing fills with distorted versions of the various characters. It’s an excellent structure that makes the most out of the two-issue concept of Knight Terrors and plays with the writing duo’s strength at telling short, concise, but personal stories.
The art builds on that shift and plays up the unnatural elements to contrast the narrative, letting Di Nicuolo design new nightmares on every page. Baby-faced Grundy is the literal definition of the uncanny, making sense on paper; the gap between reality and distortion is evident in the design. Everything from Crane’s round, reflective glasses that fall between anime lens flares and sinister grins to Nightwing’s lanky, fluid body gives the book’s art an eerie yet beautiful look.
Alongside the character work and design, the action uses that shaky foundation of reality to emphasize the hyperkinetic action that feels like a staple of a Nightwing fight sequence. There’s a bit more of an edge to the hero’s fighting style, and the expressions and body language feel like a tense flight or fight response. Nightwing is on edge, and while he can battle through the villains, Di Nicuolo’s art clarifies that he will be haunted going forward.
Much of this world’s twisted, off feeling comes from the book’s coloring, which comes from series regular Lucas. Many of the same tones or hues are utilized in this issue, but Lucas makes minor adjustments to backgrounds or highlights a brighter color to ensure it’s clear something is wrong. In the appearance and fight with nightmare Zucco, harsh yellows and a soft pink play on the established palette of the book, purposely indicating something is not quite right on the page.
Knight Terror: Nightwing #2 makes the case for a successor to Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo whenever they’re ready to leave the main series, in the form of Cloonan and Conrad. The writers had already proven a strong voice for the various Batgirs, but make clear their understanding of Nightwing is a high-flying act that will shock and amaze.
While paired with Di Nicuolo’s art, the book plays up the hyper-stylized art to tap into the uncanny, making every design feel wrong and right all at the same time. Knight Terrors: Nightwing #2 is a proof of concept that a strong creative team can thrive with the limits of a short tie-in and gives a springboard for Nightwing’s character growth as the character returns to the waking world.
Knight Terrors: Nightwing #2: The Tin Woman, the Scarecrow, And the Cowardly Nightwing
- Writing - 9.5/109.5/10
- Storyline - 9.5/109.5/10
- Art - 9.5/109.5/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10
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