A Really Big Hole: Reviewing ‘Nightwing’ #97
by Scott Redmond
‘Nightwing’ enters a new phase as the series ramps up towards a pretty big 100th issue, exploring what happens to people and a city when a massively powerful force is suddenly extinguished. This issue perfectly balances a smaller story, with lots of emotional weight & significant bits of action, alongside the overarching bigger story happening around the characters.
Nightwing and Blockbuster’s long battle came to a powerful and climactic end, but that ending proved to be far more final for one of them than the other. Toppling a huge, both physically and crime boss figure like Blockbuster is the type of move that creates quite a vacuum in the criminal underworld. Things aren’t getting any easier for Blüdhaven or its costumed defender.
Right off the bat (yeah I did it), I’m glad that Blockbuster’s death at the hands of Heartless was addressed right away and wasn’t something that had to be investigated or dragged out as a mystery. Tom Taylor got right to the point because it’s not the death itself that is the biggest plot point but rather how the world reacts to this death. Putting Nightwing in the unenviable position where he must protect someone like Maroni opens the story to some good dramatic potential.
Also, the whole should Batman kill Joker discourse is one of those things that gets tiresome when it makes the rounds on social media but Taylor used part of that topic in quite an interesting way. Rather than focusing on the discourse, Joker’s continued existence is instead used as a reason for why Gotham would be safer for someone like Maroni than Blüdhaven where those willing to turn on other criminals have been executed. Some even right there in the police department itself. I bet none of us would have ever thought the corrupt dark Gotham would be ‘safer’ in any respect, but here we are.
After the action-packed hardness of the previous issue, one where there is some action but a lot of it is the heroes bouncing off one of their antagonists (I chuckled at the thin walls and internet/superheroes having sex conversations) is a good lighter follow-up. Well, it was at least till the revelation at the very end. To say that the character we met here was disliked by a large portion of the audience that is online is probably being charitable. I feel I know the reason they have suddenly appeared here and the how of it, but I’m intrigued to see how this curveball plays out. With one reveal Taylor had me chuckling and groaning at the same time, which is fantastic.
We get a duo of artists here in the form of regular series artist Bruno Redondo and Geraldo Borges who has recently stepped in for quite a few issues of the series. Artist jams are always an interesting thing, as they can be really great to see when styles really match or they are done strategically and other times they can be somewhat distracting (through no fault of the artist themselves) because the styles clash just a bit. This issue is definitely in the great category because the issue is perfectly structured for such an event, allowing both artists to focus on different situations.
Redondo has created such a great look for Blüdhaven and brings that smooth slick gorgeous styling to a lot of the conversational and emotional pages of the issue. Making sure all the facial work is on point, allowing us to see every emotion, while also creating some eye-catching visuals. Putting the proverbial point-of-view camera into the hole in Blockbuster’s chest so we look up at Nightwing is inspired and will most definitely be something that sticks with me well after this issue. He just has such a kinetic flowing style that makes this shiny but dark city and everything within it sing.
Assisted once more by the ink stylings of Caio Filipe which adds even more weight and depth to the artwork. It’s pretty seamless how Filipe’s inks have just merged with the work Rendono is doing, where it doesn’t even seem like there has been a change to the work from previous issues despite there being a change.
On the other side, Borges gets to tackle all the action-packed scenes as the heroes save Maroni and the cops and race off to their safe house. There are similarities in the styles and what they bring to the page, but Borges also comes with a somewhat more rough-and-tumble style that befits this section of the story where there are hard hits and chase scenes and lives are on the line. There is a hard weight to these panels/pages, you feel it on one of the pages when the truck is speeding up to slam into another, making the action really pop on the page as it should.
Bridging the two sections is the coloring work of Adriano Lucas, coming in with the same colorful stylings on both sets of pages but with little differences. Across them all there is brightness and that is mixed with moments that are very grounded in coloring, next to panels that are just splashed with colorful filters or backgrounds. Staring at subsequent pages between where the art switches, Lucas’ colors are the same but a bit slicker on one side and a bit rougher on the other picking up the energy from each respective artist. Also, I just love good evening/dusk or night scenes where it truly actually feels like it’s night or evening out, the darkness and amounts of light feel real.
As this is a big talking and action issue, there is tons of lettering space for Wes Abbott to do his thing. Dialogue that is brimming with energy and personality, with little intricacies baked in to make sure volume and tone or just speaking style are apparent between characters and moments. Bubbles that are wobbly when someone is hurt, or fonts that are smaller for a softer spoken person versus someone with bigger fonts because they are bombastic, it all just helps to make it so that we can ‘hear’ the story properly as we read.
Do you like big loud colorful in your face SFX in your comic books? Well, per usual, Nightwing has a whole ton of that. Kicks and punches and trucks crunching into other trucks and tons of motorcycle screeching and escrima sticks bashing in faces. A real buffet of great fun living in the moment SFX, just the way I like it.
Nightwing #97 is now available from DC Comics.