Story: Benjamin Percy
Art: Chris Mooneyham (pgs 1-6, 11-20) & Lalit Kumar Sharma (pgs 7-1)
Color: Nick Filardi
Grayson’s brain is 100% downloaded, and all of his secrets are now on a semi-sentient Trojan-Spider flash drive that only answers to Wyrm (and the mastermind behind it all). Dick Grayson is a treasure trove of extremely well guarded secrets, and the thought of what someone can do with those secrets is a little terrifying. In Nightwing #46, Grayson (with Bab’s help) must do whatever it takes to keep his secrets his own and keep his city from turning into prison disguised as a technological utopia.
If I am being completely honest, even as I sit down to write this review, I’m not 100% sure how I feel about this issue. Part of me very much enjoyed it for what it was: part of a larger story. Another part of me just felt a little disappointed and underwhelmed. This issue has a few high points and a few low points. It has memorable visuals, but at the same time, the artwork feels inconsistent and disjointed. The story is one that isn’t hard to see becoming a version of reality, but it also felt force feed at times, making it easy to take yourself out of the book completely.
As I said, I’m not sure where I stand when it comes to Nightwing #46, nor am I sure what I would score it out of 10 as I type these words. To sift through it all, I need to revert back to a game we’d play in my high school drama class after seeing any show; 3 Good/3 Bad.
Bad: Grayson’s inner monologue
Here’s the thing, I love a good inner monologue. It quickly gets you back up to speed (which, for a monthly title, is necessary at times), tells you a lot about where the character is both mentally and emotionally, and gives you a lens from which to see the story through. The problem I had while reading #46 though, was that I felt like I was getting all the exposition shoveled down my throat. The recap part of the monologue did go on a bit too long for me. At a certain point, I felt myself having my own inner monologue that was a lot of, “I know! I was there! Let’s move this forward”, and eye rolls. Even as the story progressed, I felt as if I was being walked through every detail through words, instead of giving me just enough to let my mind explore the possibilities of what could come next. I want to be surprised. I want to feel the excitement as Dick reveals an underground lair. I want to be amazed by the “reveals”. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to be a bit predictable when the reader is walked through everything. It just didn’t give me a chance to be in the story.
Good: The Story
The story itself still worked and kept me engaged. As I said in my review of #45, with the way technology has progressed in my lifetime, I can see a smart-city being a thing. I can see people not questioning a random gift that makes their whole life a little easier with nothing more than a thought. Secrets are the most valuable form of currency to mankind, but our secrets haven’t been secrets for a long time, nor have they been our secrets. We share everything online somewhere. Whether we mean to or not, our entire lives are out there for public consumption. Even so, we like to pretend that no one truly knows all. When we are proven wrong, it can have a lot of repercussions, and this issue doesn’t shy away from that at all. This issue (and arc as a whole) does a great job of depicting the wide range of reactions that someone could have to knowing their life is as public as the 10 o’clock news.
Bad: The Artwork
Part of the reason I love comic books as a medium isn’t just because that up until 2008, it was one of the few ways I could get my superhero fix. Comics are as much about the story an artist and their colorist tell through their imagery as they about the words on the page. For me, the artwork seemed to fall a little short on the story telling aspect. I love going through a book and seeing the story an artist trying to tell, and how that story adds to the story the writer is telling, but the artwork in this issue made it all seem very surface to me. There were a few moments where the panels stuck out to me for incredible reasons and kept me tethered to the story, but the inconsistencies stuck out a little more to me in this issue. The changing of artist part way through the issue could have added to that, but Mooneyham’s and Sharma’s artwork weren’t different enough for it to stick out all that much. Little things did though. For instance, Grayson is holding the Trojan spider in his hand and running. The problem is, sometimes it was in his left hand, sometimes it was in his right hand, and sometimes, his hands were wide open. Where did the spider go while your hands are no longer grasping it?!
It also felt like Wyrm was a bit of a letdown. Every house in the Blüd has a VR. In fact, the whole city is a VR. Wyrm speaks of all the ways he could torture Grayson (like having him watch his parents die over and over), but we get no visuals to make those words hit harder. At a certain point, you want a book to show, not tell. Even when they are on the street, Wyrm appears to be confined to the street lights but can make a tidal wave of worms that looks like a pitch for Tremors 7 (or whatever one they are one). It just felt like the Wyrm avatar could have been so much more in this issue. He crawled out of the TV like a millennial version of The Ring, what else can he do?
Good: The Artwork
There are still a lot of great moments in this issue that stick out. For instance, seeing Babs and Grayson swing through the streets of Blüdhaven is incredible. This issue is pretty much, “Here comes Babs to the rescue”, and that panel sets the tone early. It’s also a comforting feeling to see the two together. The part of this issue that sticks out the most though is the imagery shown while the judge watches the news. His life is unraveling and the news uses it for viewers. His wife has moved out and everyone wants to know why. If he was a normal person, no one would care why, but he is a public figure, so everyone cares. Even if it’s because they want to see someone on top fall. It’s human nature to want to see that. Mooneyham depicts the pain that Judge Matterhorn feels in a really compelling way. The desperation oozes off each panel. You even begin to sympathize with him a bit. But the opt out is inevitable, and powerful.
Bad: The Reveals
Here’s the issue with the reveals. They weren’t reveals. If you’ve read any of this arc so far, it should have been obvious who was at the head of all of this. Who is the new character, who also happens to be technologically altered? Why does he have an obsession with Grayson? Why is he training with him and not someone else? A part of me still holds out hope that Willem is being controlled by someone higher up the food chain. He has to be, right? It can’t be that easy, can it?
Then we get to the Terminals. For me, the final pages held no weight at all. The cover shows a hoard of Terminals, so when we see a few at the end, I’m left with a feeling of, “Ok… well now what?” I expected to see these much earlier in the issue and for there to be a more compelling cliff hanger, but unfortunately (on both counts), that wasn’t the case. It was just kind of a, “Oh… that’s the end? O…k…”
Good: Babs and Grayson
These two are great together, and when they are written correctly, the banter bring a layer of joy to the issue. These are superheroes. They see the worst that humanity (among other things) has to give. There has to be some levity. The humor and chemistry between Babs and Grayson is what keeps me coming back for more. I mean, it’s Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon. Did I even really need to put down why this is good? No? Ok. Moving on then.
Nightwing #46 wasn’t my favorite issue. It also wasn’t a bad issue. It was just an issue. Part of the problem may be that it is hitting stands the same day as some incredible DC titles (as well as all the other publishers), one of which is the long awaited (and already spoiled. Seriously DC? Why?) Batman #50: The Wedding. But even if the Bat/Cat wedding wasn’t on shelves today, I think this issue of Nightwing would still rank towards the bottom of its own publisher’s titles. That pains me to say, because I love this series, and have since Nightwing #0.
What I am holding on to, is that Benjamin Percy still hasn’t fully answered the “Why?” behind each character. This is not something Percy does. He is very good at exploring the why, and I hope that #47 will explore that. This is still just a portion of a larger story, and should be read as such. All we know is how we got here, not where we are going. There are still a lot of open ended things and the possibilities are numerous. This keeps me excited for the next issue of The Bleeding Edge arc.