No Privacy in Nightwing #45
Dick Grayson is the hipster’s hipster. Fed up with a society overly reliant on the latest and greatest tech, the boy-turned-man-wonder decides to unplug and go old-school. Even if it’s just for a while. Even so, Dick still can’t escape it in Nightwing #45 when a new tech company called Mirage rolls into town. Arming its citizens with free new VR devices, Mirage puts Blüdhaven on the bleeding edge of technology. A technology that comes with a sinister cost.
The new Nightwing writer, Benjamin Percy, continues to impress with this second issue in the new story arc. Percy’s writing harkens back to the best parts of Twin Peaks and Fight Club in this strange, pieced-together narrative. Building off of the events of the last issue, Nightwing #45 picks up with Dick waking up in bed with Babs. From there, we’re treated to a frantic Nightwing running late for his daily errands. This look at the mundane completely took me by surprise and I found myself momentarily forgetting about the train explosion in the previous issue. As it turns out, it made Dick forget too, until he came across the aftermath already being fixed by the new tech company.
The rest of the issue plays out like Memento. Dick Grayson tries to put the pieces of the past disjointed twenty-four hours together. Nothing makes sense, and the man who has been called “better than Batman” has become an unreliable narrator in a hellish episode of The Twilight Zone. It is phenomenal writing. Percy uses paranoia and gaslighting as a way to keep readers at the same level of knowledge as Nightwing throughout the issue. Sure, we all know Mirage’s VR headset is behind everything. Fear of technology is a cultural touchstone dating back to some of the earliest writings. Combined with our current cultural climate of data misuse and privacy breaches, Nightwing #45 reads like our worst fears realized. It’s this self-awareness that allows Percy to suspend readers’ disbelief long enough to forget that we all watched Black Mirror.
For an issue hyper-focused on the new, the art feels very old-school. I wasn’t too keen on it for the first issue of this arc. Hell, I wasn’t too keen on it for most of this issue either. But, near the end, I realized what Chris Mooneyham was doing. It’s the juxtaposition of the new and the old that helps give the issue a feeling of unease. Something isn’t quite right with the world. The subject matter pushes aggressively up against the visuals of the world. The art pushes right back.
Some of the more interesting visual cues in the book are the glitching overlays of the virtual reality. The first time they pop up, it is a jarring image of artifacting technicolor. They are a question mark for something no one has yet asked. And like Nightwing, we can’t be entirely sure of what we’re seeing.
Nightwing #45 is a great way to set up the rest of this arc. In what I think may turn out to be the most interesting Nightwing story since Rebirth, Percy brings in real life concerns and explores them in a way where we know we can win. We are all Nightwing: a little too fed up with social media, and a little too nervous about all the smart devices in our lives. The issue ends with Wyrm—the “big bad” of the arc—revealing itself to Nightwing. A monster made out of data and electricity. Completely impervious to any physical harm, while being able to inflict devastating blows to the life of our hero. Sound familiar? The good news is, if anyone can find a way to punch data in the face, it’s Nightwing.
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