The last issue of Nightwing introduced a new creative team to the series, as well as a new antagonist named The Judge. I thought that the new team showed a lot of promise, but I wasn’t sold on the The Judge. Does Nightwing #36 keep up the good work, and does it flesh out the new villain in a satisfying way?
As with the last issue, the art here is fantastic. Bernard Chang keeps up a great and consistent level of detail in his line-work, and he’s particularly skilled at rendering characters’ emotions through their facial expressions. Even more impressive are some of his compositional choices; there are a lot of pages here that I don’t think could have possibly been organized any better in terms of fitting their plot contents and leading the reader’s eye.
The strongest page in the issue is a splash page in which Nightwing stands in the middle of a monastery, surrounded by dead victims of the Judge. The ground around Dick is covered in blood, bodies, and broken glass. As if the image weren’t cool enough already, moonlight is also streaming in through a hole in the monastery’s stained glass window, illuminating Nightwing at the image’s center. Speaking of lighting, colorist Marcelo Maiolo continues to amaze. His neon vision of Blüdhaven is one I hope we’ll get to see for a long time.
I’m happy to say that, for the most part, this issue’s writing is stronger than than the last’s. It wasn’t bad last issue, but it didn’t grab my attention to the same degree. Writer Sam Humphries is getting a solid handle on his voice for Nightwing, and I haven’t been this impressed by Dick’s dialogue and thought captions in roughly twenty issues. The Judge is also coming into his own as a more interesting villain. While I still don’t love the character, I am becoming more intrigued by his criminal strategy and running theme of fulfilling victims’ deepest desires…in horrible ways, of course. The character Guppy continues to be a standout as well.
My biggest qualm with this issue pertains to a specific scene in which Dick goes looking for clues as to the Judge’s whereabouts. While doing so, he attacks some criminals we’ve never seen before…for seemingly no reason. The different criminals don’t have designs that would imply inherent association with each other, much less with the Judge. One of the characters in question ended up providing Nightwing with information, but what of the others who Dick punched without cause, and who knew nothing about what was going on? Do we need to make up a term for the superhero equivalent of police brutality? (I suppose just “brutality” works.) I don’t know if, as a reader, I’m supposed to be okay with Nightwing punching any criminal at any time, or if the writing is just taking some context for granted as opposed to actually providing it. Either way, it’s a major blight on an otherwise really strong issue. Here’s hoping such behavior from the titular character doesn’t become a recurring problem.
Overall, Nightwing #36 is another strong showing from the series’ new creative team. Art-wise, the page compositions and neon coloration really make Blüdhaven come alive. Narratively, the Judge is starting to become more interest, Guppy continues to be a promising new cast member, and Humphries’ take on Dick is mostly solid. The issue (and characterization’s) main problem is just the aforementioned scene in which Dick acts less like a superhero and more like an out-of-line cop. As long as that sort of thing doesn’t recur, I’m still feeling excited for what this creative team will bring to the title across their run. Here’s hoping Nightwing continues to be a good as these last two issues have been.