They’ll Swallow Your Soul: Reviewing ‘Nightwing’ #101
by Scott Redmond
It’s Titans Together once more as the new era for Blüdhaven and ‘Nightwing’ #101 begins with a bang, tying back to what has come before while also tapping into the same emotional and character energy that has made this run such a success already. Dick Grayson is a bit part of the heart of the DC Universe and this series continues to rest upon that fact as we get some pure great heroics as well as just great comic book fun.
It’s a whole new day for Blüdhaven as the Titans are together once more as the premiere DC Universe superteam. With the Justice League currently on hiatus, the team of former teenage superheroes is on call to bring bright light and justice to the shadowy Blüdhaven and the world, and their first threat comes from Hell itself.
While I knew that the character and her story would come back into play at some point, truthfully I didn’t expect that Tom Taylor would follow up on Olivia Desmond, the daughter of the recently deceased Roland Desmond/Blockbuster who sold her soul to Neron, so soon. With Grayson having turned to Raven to help shield her from the demons and Raven and the Titans being in Blüdhaven, probably should have given a clue but that wouldn’t have meant it would be explored for sure.
Placing the Titans not only in Blüdhaven but also making them the premiere DC team right now is a pretty huge thing. It fundamentally changes the Nightwing series from a solo solo book with a dedicated supporting cast to a solo book with a very huge wide important supporting cast. I’m in favor of starting them here with something “small” in the sense of scale, but also very important because the life and soul of a child are on the line, and stopping demons from getting a soul is pretty textbook heroic stuff. To many eyes, this might seem quite too small after all the talk of Titans being the new Justice League, but to me, the recent revelation that they are also getting their own series (also written by Taylor, which I’ll also be reviewing) makes it work.
Over in Titans, we can get the huge Justice League-like stuff of them being the wide heroes, while over in Nightwing we can focus on his continued quest to help make Blüdhaven a better, cleaner city with the help of his childhood best friends. Far too often we get heroes being stuck either in the big bombastic event level save the world mega arcs or they only deal with street-level regular heroic stuff when personally I’m a fan of seeing both far more often. Seeing Superman stop an invading alien force is just as cool as seeing him swooping in to help rescue a cat out of a tree for a child who fears for their feline companion. Also, I would bet that once Titans launches the team’s presence will remain in this series but it’ll be more like the previous arcs where more focus is on Nightwing and his moments with his friends being there to support him as needed.
Neron and demons of Hell work because Neron is just one of those inherently 90s-era characters that still works today, and demons/Hell are always a great foil for heroes. Especially since if we’re going to see Nightwing’s best friends who all have powers and abilities beyond his own mostly average human abilities, the foes, and threats they must face have to be something that Nightwing couldn’t tackle alone, otherwise, it’s basically overkill. Though having the Titans roll up and stomp down a simple crime that used to make Nightwing at least break a little sweat would be hilarious.
Overall I really like how Dick is balanced here as we get shades of the reasons why the Justice League turned to him, being that leader and inspiration they have always known him to be, but also still a human being. The cliffhanger likely might piss off some folks because it stands against that idea as he’s taken down by a foe unexpectedly but that happens to even the “iconic” heroes when they don’t know something/someone is actually a threat. It keeps Grayson grounded despite his elevation, which sticks to who the character is. No matter the tier that Dick Grayson might be on at any given point, he’s part of the very human heart of the DC Universe and that still resonates here.
Travis Moore joins in this arc to take over the artistic duties and it’s such a perfect match for the story being told. We’re dealing with a Hell-centric superhero story full of fantastical flashy colorful things as I noted, and Moore’s artwork screams that sort of energy. Moore’s style is very detailed and gorgeous that nails every bit of emotive energy that is needed on any given page. It’s undoubtedly not easy to be able to simultaneously nail a more serious grounded type of energy in the artwork while also adding in some silly over-the-top style elements, but Moore pulls it off superbly.
Just staring at some of the early pages that reveal Olivia and Raven/Beast Boy, the lush feeling that comes off the background forest makes it feel like I could reach out and actually touch the forest through the screen of my tablet. One of the things I really like is how some of the background elements have a different feeling than the character, a sharper almost life-like sort of appearance, which makes the superheroes, demons, etc pop and stands out even more as they should with their supernatural origins.
Pairing any artwork with Adriano Lucas on colors means we’re in for a colorful flashy treat, and that’s the case still here. One of the main bits of carry-over continuity beyond the writing is the colors of Lucas and the letters of Wes Abbott, as the two are on most of the issues as the art gets shuffled around a bit in various arcs, before coming back to Bruno Redondo. In the previous big 100th issue Lucas’s colors were applied to the artwork of so many returning Nightwing artists and no matter what the style the colors morphed to match the energy and style while still retaining Lucas’ signature distinctiveness.
Those colors are a solid mix of very vibrant popping ones, such as the stunning green of Beast Boy, and those that are a bit more toned down to mirror more realistic tones for the surroundings and some of the non-super elements in play. Yet there are plenty of shadowy, darker tones weaved into the whole affair to give more weight and depth and speak to the heavier aspects of the story and world the characters inhabit.
As mentioned above, Abbott has been along for the vast majority of this run helping bring steady emotive accurate voices to the pages among other things with stupendous lettering work. Each time there is a continuous baseline sort of tone on display for voices, never wavering between issues, that allows us to able to easier spot the moments where a character’s volume or tone changes because of an emotional response of some kind. Plenty of bold words or larger fonts or even changes to the styles of bubbles allow the characters’ voices and personalities to shine through any words on the page.
One’s heart can’t help but melt with the adorable ‘Arf’ SFX that signal the arrival of Bitewing/Haley, the true star of this series if we’re all honest without ourselves. And there are plenty of big bold awesome SFX to bring that comic book glee to high levels, all while making sure we the audience very much hear what is happening in the world we’re witnessing.
Quite a few issues ago there was a crossover where Nightwing began to work with Jonathan Kent Superman, and then in the recent annual issue, we got a story of Nightwing training the younger Superman. That story continues here thanks to the work of C.S. Pacat, Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira, Lucas, and Abbott.
It’s an interesting duo, and Pacat picks up the voices and energy of these characters so perfectly. Grayson is the perfect mentor for Jonathan, especially with his own connections to Superman the elder. It’s a really nice touch that we get to see Nightwing save a young trapeze artist and his mother after their line is sabotaged before they discover a bomb in the circus tent. It of course speaks to his own roots but also how far he’s come as a character. But also the idea that someone lured him in is very intriguing and provides the overall storyline for these backups as we move forward.
Pansica has a very dynamic but also somewhat gritty and rough style of artwork that fits the characters but also is perfect for the tone of this story. It’s more intense and heavier than even some of the main story bits, and Pansica taps into that as we move through the pages with such a solid paneling style that really makes the moments even larger and dynamic as we gaze upon them. Added to that are the inks from Ferreira which bring even more depth and weight to it all and give it that extra little push.
Nightwing #101 is now available from DC Comics.