…Batgirl gives Nightwing her answer. And they have a long talk with each other about what that means.
A downside to the decompression that occurs with modern comics is the lack of long-term growth and change that results from the passage of time. The fact that serialized superhero comics are either about maintaining a status quo, or destroying it completely compounds the issue, as there is a lack of incremental growth or change. It’s antithetical to the advantage that serialized storytelling can provide, as audiences can check in and watch relationships grow, plots take their time, and status quos get chipped away over the course of a season (or arc for comics). Luckily enough, a book like Nightwing has that long-term framework in mind and makes use of the boon of the longer story arc to deepen the various relationships at the core of the title.
Nightwing #97 – written by Tom Taylor, with art from Bruno Redondo, inks by Caio Filipe, with additional pencils and inks from Geraldo Borges, colors by Adriano Lucas, and letters by Wes Abbott – begins a new arc following Blockbuster’s death at the hands of Heartless. The issue keeps the pacing moving as Boss Maroni comes into the crosshairs now that his protection from Blockbuster is over. Maggie Sawyer and Dan Turpin continue their cleaning of Bludhaven, using the evidence gathered by Blockbuster to nail the mobster. The latter half of the book turns into a fun superhero romance mixed with some Midnight Run elements, as Dick and Barbara hole up in a Batman safehouse with Maroni.
Taylor doesn’t let up on the pacing of the issue, starting a new arc by continuing the larger, ongoing story. That pacing choice feels like a result of the writer’s bibliography, usually writing miniseries or Elseworld stories that tell a self-contained story. Here, each arc has felt less like the typical writing for the trade structure, and more akin to the method of one large, nonstop story. Towards the middle of the last arc, it did cause some dragging, but with this issue, the series has caught its breath and is ready for another lap. Now that Taylor has set up the pieces for a seeming confrontation between Nightwing and Heartless – and Dick and his past – he can focus on centering on the most vital element of this run; the rekindled relationship between Dick and Barbara.
Taylor’s inclusion of the extended bat family, along with the Titans and the recent addition of Sawyer and Turpin to the book’s supporting cast also gave the series a shot in the arm that was needed, but with this issue, the focus back on Dick and his relationship to Barbara is also a refreshing decision. Taylor is excellent at writing team books and ensembles, but he knows what the core of this run is, and ensures that the reformed romance between heroes is front and center. It’s put into the limelight when the two get steamy in Batman’s secret hideout, and Maroni is knocked out for the evening. Redondo renders the scene expertly, showing the discarded clothes of the vigilante duo as they take the excitement to the bedroom, which the audience doesn’t see. It’s an excellent threading of the relationship shown on the page, giving the tender moments attention, while letting the various variant covers get hot and bothered.
(Covers by Jorge Jiménez , Nicola Scott, and Jamal Campbell)
When Redondo’s not fogging up fan’s glasses and iPad screens, he’s doing some of the best grids in modern comics. The layout is used throughout the issue and run, but they never feel overplayed or overwhelming on the page. This issue features an inspired bit of blocking and composition in a six-panel grid on the opening page, essentially rendering what could be a single, wide shot of Sawyer and Turpin interrogating Maroni. Instead, Redondo breaks up the beat into three panels, making each of the characters the subject of their panel, giving a particular emphasis on each. It’s an example on the micro-level of Redondo’s strong storytelling sensibilities utilized to maximize efficiency. He’s able to find the most dynamic way of conveying a straightforward moment while minimizing the number of panels needed. Another artist would potentially use 2-3 panels for each character to provide an action, reaction panel set-up, using page real estate in an unneeded way.
That styling comes into play throughout the issue but is used no better than when Nightwing brings out his escrima sticks to knock out Maroni. Redondo illustrates the sequence in a quick four panels, taking up less than a full page, but does so with a deftness that makes it one of the best bits in a packed issue. The progression plays like the drawings of directions for an oxygen mask in an airplane, simple and concise, illustrating the way a simple tool works.
But instead of a device that keeps a person from passing out, the escrima stick does the opposite. Redondo’s panels and linework inside of them simplify, as though they drop a dimension, and when paired with Abbott’s effective but plain SFX’s, show the mechanism for triggering the tranquilizer dart and the small release of said dart. In an instant, it’s over, but the action is a reminder that Redondo is always working towards the best use of visual language possible, as right after using this very stripped-down style, he returns to more detailed linework as Dick and Barbara start to get intimate.
Nightwing #97 is a promising start to a new arc that continues the run’s larger story, refocusing thanks to the removal of one antagonist. It also allows for Taylor’s script to pair down to the core relationship between Dick and Barbara and work on fleshing out the Bludhaven supporting cast before inevitably bringing the extended Titans and batfamily back into play. Redondo, Filipe, and Borges are up to the task in the issue as well, channeling everything that’s worked about their art over the last set of issues and cranking it to 11.
The art shifts subtly but thrives thanks to the cohesive force of Lucas’s palette and Abbott’s streamlined lettering. It doesn’t take much to catch up, so it’s a high recommendation to jump on this book now. With the book approaching a landmark issue, and Nightwing taking the spotlight in titles across DC’s plans post-Dark Crisis, it’s clear the hero is one to watch in the coming months, thanks in part to the high caliber set by this series.
Nightwing #97: Hot and Heavy
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Art - 9/109/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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