The Family Ties That Bind: Reviewing ‘Nightwing’ #99
by Scott Redmond
‘Nightwing’ continues to explore the fallout from the status quo-shaking defeat of Blockbuster while building up pieces leading right into the 100th issue and beyond. A story that could have gone to places already well explored took the perfect swerve to take something expected and turn it on it’s head.
They say that nature abhors a vacuum which seems especially true with organized crime in a city such as Blüdhaven. Blockbuster was defeated by Nightwing then murdered by Heartless, and thanks to the turning of one Salvatore Maroni the entirety of the Blockbuster network (paid-off folks in law enforcement and politics) has crumbled.
What a perfect, not perfect, time for Tony Zucco, the legal father of Grayson’s sister Mayor Melinda Zucco and killer of Grayson’s parents, to return.
At a glance, one might think that the first three issues of this arc are so wildly unrelated with the first focused on getting Maroni out of town and then the Nite-Mite issue and now this one, but looking at it closer there is a thread. In a way, Tom Taylor is showcasing how something like the fall of Blockbuster, who was propping up and controlling much of the city systems, is going to be a chaotic messy thing. Various entities are going to naturally rise and want to fill that spot and will do whatever it takes to do so.
I actually like that all the stuff to do with Maroni actually giving info and all that was skipped over, the fallout of his giving all the secrets is far more intriguing to witness.
Characters like Nightwing and Batman with their tragic backstories have ended up coming across or against the men who caused that tragedy many times. It’s an emotional well that can be tapped but must be tapped in an interesting way the more times it’s tapped into. I think that is accomplished here because while we see what Grayson must go through with Zucco and the restraint he shows, it’s more about Melinda here in the end. Thanks to the fall of Blockbuster & Zucco being back in prison, she is able to finally be free of his name as she reclaims the name of her true father John Grayson as well as that of her mother Meili Lin to become Mayor Melinda Grayson-Lin.
Focusing the Zucco elements through Melinda mostly is a solid way to approach it and speaks to how Dick wasn’t the only one harmed by that man. This is his series but the strong supporting cast, which includes his half-sister, have their own paths and agencies, and issues that must have room to be explored. It’s not all a happy ending though as we see that besides Heartless, there are other forces still gathering in Blüdhaven, as the power vacuum grows, just in time for the upcoming 100th issue of the series. What timing!
After taking an issue off, Bruno Redondo and Geraldo Borges are back to tag-teaming on the artwork for this issue. Just like in issue #97, their styles are a good compliment especially since they handle entirely different scenes. The majority of this issue falls to Redondo with the signature style that has made so much of this run just stand far and above because the vision that he executes makes Blüdhaven such an intriguing place. Sure Redondo’s work is smooth with great depth and attention to detail, but I think the thing that really makes it all flow so well is the paneling and structure that is employed.
Each panel upon a page carries a heavy load easily, making sure that we get a great view from every angle including close-ups to nail the emotional moments/show off facial and body language but also the wider shots for those great details or kinetic moments. Even in brief shots of a character moving, even if it’s just their legs, we get a sense of movement, expanded when the bigger and wider panels are employed. It never gets old to see one of Redondo’s double-page spread-style motion pages where we see the characters all over the place because they are such a comic book type of thing but are also just so damn good. There is urgency and ordered chaos to those pages, and much of the work Redondo does, that is overwhelming in one sense but so easy to follow.
Borges has that same sort of approach with paneling and detail, but his artwork comes with a bit of rougher edges that ups the tension or harder feelings in a scene. In the previous issue that they worked on it was Borges that handled much of the action, but here his pages have a moment of action but are more about creating a tense situation that could explode at any moment as folks tersely discuss the situation. It’s this rough-and-tumble sort of approach that works for the action scenes but it also brings so much to the quieter more emotional panels, as we see here, where things actually feel a bit smoother than the more tense pages.
Inks from Caio Filipe add a bit extra to the depth and weight that Borges and Redondo’s artwork already have while seamlessly blending in with their work. It on the surface looks just like what we’ve seen in previous issues with their work without the inks, but at the same time if you really look there is just a pop of difference that brings some things out a bit more. That seamless integration is the key to coming in to do work like this, making a contribution that enhances rather than detracts.
Speaking of enhancing, the work that Adriano Lucas delivers with colors just never ceases to amaze me. Between the two artists, the colors are of similar quality but also completely different to match the style and the tone of those pages. With Redondo, there are those big vibrant pops of colors in many of the pages from the pinks to greens to blues (I just love the way that Lucas delivers the colorful skylines of Bludhaven) with that dense slickness we love to see. Some of that appears in Borges’s pages too, namely, the Melinda and Dick page, but on the others, the colors are far more grounded and real to the time of day and space with lots of dark heaviness to fit the tense nature of the scene and space.
We see some of that grounded toned-down coloring in the other panels too, like within The Hold, as they stand as a compliment or opposite of the more vivid colors that might pop up. All along there is a signature quality that tells you it’s Lucas’ work, but it easily shifts and morphs as needed.
Morphing in order to fit the space, style, or tone is exactly what the lettering work of Wes Abbott does time and time again. Just like how the super characters featured here dance and glide around the pages, so do the bits of dialogue, caption boxes, and even the SFX. They are just where they need to be at any given point making sure to compliment or surround the figures or spot of focus without crowding or taking that focus away. The eyes naturally follow the path that is set with the bubbles and boxes, down the page, and even the wordier bubbles feel light and never crowded.
Plenty of little changes are dropped into place that allows the reader to know exactly how the dialogue should sound, softer or louder, giving it all even more life. While so many undersell it, there is most definitely a true art to lettering work that speaks for itself when one finds it on a page, especially from someone like Abbott.
Nightwing #99 is now available from DC Comics.