Nightwing #53 Review

Plot: Scott Lobdell
Script: Fabian Nicieza
Art: Travis Moore & Patch Zircher
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain

Ric Grayson teams up with the hero of Blüdhaven… Nightwing. Grayson meets the first of the new Nightwings while trying to save his cabby friend Burl, but this Nightwing isn’t up for sidekicks (unless they too are wearing a Nightwing uniform). Meanwhile, it seems that Scarecrow is ramping up to show the Blüd what fear truly is.

I need to be honest for a second. I love Nightwing as a character and always have. Aside from Wally West, Dick Grayson is my favorite character in DC. Over the past month or so, thanks to this title and Titans (DC Universe), I haven’t been a huge Grayson fan. He’s been kind of unlikeable in a lot of different mediums, and it’s really bummed me out. We did get the Grayson I love in the two issues of Batman leading up to him being shot, but aside from that, bummer city. Nightwing #53 had Ric bring out more of what makes Dick Grayson such a fun character to read/watch.

Seeing Ric team up with Nightwing is pretty weird at first, but in a good way.  Detective Alphonse Sapienza is written extremely well. Here is a guy that stumbles across some vigilante costumes, and all he wants is to do some good without the constraints of his job. Yes, he’s had training, and yes, he’s been around A LOT of crime, but he’s still just a guy. He didn’t train with assassins, he wasn’t an acrobat, he didn’t die and come back all murder, he’s just a guy looking to help the city he loves. He makes mistakes and is in way over his head. I was ready to dislike the new Nightwings simply because they are not Dick, but Detective Sapienza almost steals the issue. Seeing him crash through the skylight (as superheroes tend to do) and fall right on his butt draws you into the character and made me think, “Yep, that would be me if I found a Nightwing suit. Doing what I see in movies and falling right on my butt trying to look cool.”

Fabian Nicieza’s script for Ric is great (not like anyone is shocked about that). In the previous issues we’ve seen Ric’s Grayson muscle memory kick into high gear when he absolutely needs it to, but it has also scared the crap out of Ric to have these Jason Bourne moments. Ric uses some of that mysterious muscle memory when he gets in a bind, but it’s way more playful than before. The biggest aspect of Dick Grayson comes out of Ric by his need to rescue Burl. Dick Grayson stops at nothing to help the ones he cares about (bad ideas be damned). He knows that he should leave it to this new Nightwing, but still he can’t help himself. Dick Grayson’s connection with the people around him is what makes him such a great character. Even later on when he is having breakfast with Bea, you see more Dick than Ric. Ric has been pretty closed off to everyone, including his bar family. Makes sense, he’s not even sure who he is so how can he let anyone else know? But in this issue, that connection to those around him is coming through really strong.

While most of this issue is Ric becoming more like Dick, we do still get some Scarecrow. Dr. Gruidae (clever name. Totally Googled it. You failed me David Attenborough) has moved from one on one sessions with clients/victims to group therapy, and that is just terrifying. It feels like his end game is going to be massive, so much so that he is adding people to his “focus testing”. I may be making that up, but if I’m not, then it may take more than a group of Nightwings to stop him.

Travis Moore & Patch Zircher’s artwork really pops off the page. The best parts for me were Detective Sapienza’s fight with the gang and the Scarecrow panels. Seeing the slight humiliation in Sapienza when he crashes down is a big part of what makes him relatable. Once he does get going, it’s like watching Dick Grayson fight as Nightwing, only less acrobatics and more guns (Zack Snyder presents Nightwing?). There is a lot of chaos in these panels and the tension is palpable, but it is then juxtaposed with a much more calm conversation between Bea and Ric both in the bar and in the park. The artwork emphasizes the rollercoaster of tone that this issue brings. Once you’ve settled into the calm, here comes Scarecrow!

Tamra Bonvillain’s color work is really what makes the final pages so exciting. Moore & Zircher’s artwork is great, don’t get me wrong, but the anticipation of Scarecrow’s power is a slow build emphasized by the color selection. Bonvillian slowly introduces green into each panel before revealing what Dr. Gruidae’s power has done. It made for an exciting end that makes you hate that #54 is 2 weeks away.

Small Nit-Picky Things

There were two things in this issue that did kind of take me out of the issue a little bit. One within the script and one with the artwork itself. As Grayson enters the bar, he runs into a bummed out Tiny who has fallen off the wagon the night before his meeting. Ric gives Tiny some reassurance that he isn’t the loser he believes himself to be, and Tiny is suddenly all rainbows and unicorns again. As an addict and someone who knows many people who have dealt with addiction, I had to laugh just a little bit at this scene. If someone is struggling, help them by being there for them. Give them an ear that they know is actually listening and cares. You should also be prepared to feel like you are talking to a brick wall. They will continue to beat themselves up for a bit. They will tell you that you are wrong and they are that much of a loser, but your words and willingness to listen are helpful and appreciated, it just won’t feel like it. Now, if a person who is struggling is instantly okay after a brief reassurance in passing, you may want to watch them because they are probably a bit of a sociopath. This seen just felt a little unrealistic to me and was only for the purpose lightly setting up what comes later. Again, I had to laugh a bit.

The small nit-pick I had with the art comes from the gang members that our new Nightwing takes on. The gang tattoos do not look like tattoos, they look like a 14 year olds first chest hairs, or Steve Carrel in 40 Year Old Virgin. It’s really not until the fight is in full swing and you get a closer look at the tattoos, that it becomes clear that they are gang tats. I couldn’t take the gang members seriously. They are getting into some real nefarious stuff, but I all I want to do is give them a pat on the back and let them know, “It will be ok, puberty eventually ends.”

I really enjoyed this issue. I had strategized to read some light hearted comics that I need to catch up on to help bounce back from the heaviness that I thought would come from this issue, but it was unnecessary. This issue is a lot of fun to read! Ric is becoming more likable, we get our first look at a new Nightwing, the artwork pops, and Scarecrow terrifies. These next two weeks will be hard while we wait for #54 to hit stands.

8/10