The first page of Nightwing #30 helpfully contains a credits list that informs the reader that there are three parts to the story. Each part has been illustrated by different artists, with a script by Tim Seeley and Tom King tying the overall book together. This is the concluding issue of the Nightwing ongoing, and as you may or may not have heard, Dick Grayson’s adventures will continue in an all-new series called Grayson, launching in July. Nightwing #30 effectively acts as a bridge, catching the reader up on the events of Forever Evil, and laying out Dick’s new direction moving forward.
[Major SPOILER ALERT for everything from this point on!]
PART ONE – art by Javier Garrón
You’ll be forgiven for wondering, from the first page, if you accidentally picked up another comic by mistake. Or if there was a bizarre printing error that put the Nightwing cover on a completely different comic. The second page does give us a Gotham link — Dr Leslie Thompkins — but be warned that the first seven pages of this comic at first appear to have very little to do with Nightwing or Dick Grayson. More often than not, comics do often cover seemingly unrelated characters and topics, but that is whole lotta page count right there.
In these pages, we are introduced to a creepy cult of depopulationist assassins as they attack a humanitarian aid camp in Congo where Thompkins is a medical volunteer. Fortunately, she is saved. Her rescuers proceed to interview her, and she talks to them about Bruce Wayne. As she relates this to the man himself, she laments that she might just have told them about Batman, too. Or maybe not. All she really remembers is the image of an eye “nestled in a a spider’s web” and it’s with that little prologue that we are given our first glimpse here (beyond Batman Inc, anyway) of Spyral.
PART TWO – art by Jorge Lucas
Spyral is an espionage group that uses disturbing methods to carry out disturbing activities, as Batman explains to Nightwing in a scene that has them beating the crap out of each other with masks on, but no shirts.
Anyone who hates the “Bruce acts like an asshole to Dick/his kids” trope will want to skip this part. For Bruce to taunt Dick about how he allowed the Crime Syndicate to capture, torture and strap him into the Murder Machine seems cold, even for the goddamn Batman. And if he’s just using it to test Dick, or to provoke a reaction… I’m not sure that’s an improvement. I get that Bruce is playing the ‘bad cop’ here, sort of, as he needs to convince Dick just why he’s best placed now to take on Spyral and why he has to play dead.
But these two characters only just, finally, reconciled from the events of Death of the Family. It took a year and a half and Geoff Johns going to extreme lengths via Forever Evil. Following that up with pages and pages of Batman talking at his protégé about why this must be done, why they have to let the family think he is dead, of Dick emotionally explaining why he can’t put them through that, neither of them actually listening to the other even as they pummel each other to pulp – it’s a rough read. And it feels like a step backward in this important relationship; one that may take another two years to progress from, if at all.
At any rate, Jorge Lucas’ gritty lines and dark colours infuse the brutal fight with an almost grisly, hard-edged vibe that perfectly suits the dialogue and tone of this scene. One of the last panels shows a framed photo of Bruce and Dick back in happier times, being jilted askew, and it is certainly an appropriate metaphor for the original Dynamic Duo’s relationship as it stands right now.
PART THREE – art by Mikel Janin (pencils), Guillermo Ortego (inks) and Jeremy Cox (colours)
Don’t get me wrong, Nightwing #30 had some very, very good bits. First of all: Mikel Janin’s pencils. Anyone who has read Justice League Dark will know that his work is fantastic , and happily, he was allowed to branch out here: he isn’t just great at illustrating fantastical supernatural creepiness but also intense city-hopping spy action a la the best of James Bond and Mission: Impossible.
All of this as Dick is shown methodically taking down assassins of The Fist of Cain, that depopulationist cult tormenting Leslie Thompkins and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the early pages of this issue. Those first seven pages make more sense now, though whether it could have been shorter remains up for debate. I am also uncertain about the idea of Dick roaming around the world in just a hoodie mere months after his face was broadcast to the world in Forever Evil #1.
But hey, Dick does punch out a beefy eye-patch dude on a zeppelin miles above Russia, so there’s that. This might have been my second favourite part of this issue: from the intricate details on the airship to St. Peterburg as seen from high up in the blue sky and down below, up close, the inks by Guillermo Ortego and colours by Jeremy Cox partner up impeccably with Janin’s pencils, and the result is art that is energetic and easy on the eyes.
And my favourite part? Definitely the last page, where we get a proper look at – Helena Bertinelli!
Knowledgeable readers might be aware that Helena will be Dick’s Spyral partner in Grayson. She is on the cover and solicit for Grayson #2, and her role in the series was already outed by Seeley and King in an interview with Newsarama.
Nightwing #30 does not actually name as Helena as being, well, Helena, but in that last page, she does wear a black top with a white cross embedded in the design. Coincidence? I think not. She is portrayed here as a woman of colour, which a positive step towards greater diversity in the Bat-books and DC Comics as a whole. I just hope some of Helena’s old history and background will be used to shape this New 52 reboot.
The combination of Helena’s new look, Mikel Janin’s art, and fun scenes like that aforementioned zeppelin takedown, is potent enough to have me cautiously looking forward to Grayson #1. There are also some very interesting ideas to play with regarding Spyral; the highly mysterious spy group that uses scary mind-erosion tactics, and which has even Batman freaked out. Overall, despite my reservations about putting Dick at odds with Bruce and sundering him from his family, I can’t wait to see where the Grayson ride takes him – and us. Nightwing #30 has convinced me that the first and best Robin’s brand new direction could indeed turn out bold and exciting.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
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