Review – Nightwing #51 (DC Comics)

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer(s): Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza
Artist(s): Travis Moore, Garry Brown
Colours: Hi-Fi, Rick Filardi
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Release Date: 17th October 2018

When DC announced the current new direction for Nightwing I was initially stunned. It seemed nothing more than a complete disrespect to the character and what he stood for. Losing Percy as well, and knowing the fate of Red Hood in his own book, I thought I was done with Nightwing and decided to ignore whatever else DC decided to do to my beautiful, long-haired boy.

But here I am ready to eat my words because, like an addict, I just couldn’t stay away from Nightwing #51 when it dropped this week. And to my surprise, from the ashes of an idea I hated, Scott Lobdell, with help from Fabian Nicieza, has taken the hand he’s been given and brought his his best to show that this Nightwing-less story may very well end up capturing the most important parts of any good Nightwing book for a new era.

This issue is most certainly a matter of setup, laying the table to set everything in motion for the real story to begin next issue, but its strength lies in just how exciting these ideas seem.  Taking place directly after then events of #50, issue #51 starts weaving the threads that will follow Dick’s adventures as ‘Ric Grayson’, a man trying to find myself, a city on the brink of all-out war, a policeman not willing to take it sitting down, old friends trying to find what’s left in the pieces of a broken man and old enemies making their move on a defenceless city.

Within an idea that initially seemed like a complete misunderstanding of who Nightwing is and his importance to the Bat-Family, Lobdell seems to want to establish something that will hopefully end up celebrating everything Nightwing was and will be. This examination of a hero at his lowest as he tries to rebuild and grow in new directions opens up a discussion about the importance of the symbol. The importance of what Nightwing means to people, of heroism, and of being true to yourself.  And it may just all come together as a story we’ll remember fondly in years to come.

Whether Lobdell follows through with my hopes in this issue, or carries the premise well enough for a fortnightly book, remains to be seen of course. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but this issue has firmly established itself as a story that I definitely want to see unfold.

In other good news, all-star Nightwing artist Travis Moore returns here, working half of the issue alongside Garry Brown. Moore delivers his always beautiful and painstaking attention to detailed figures and body language. Delivering, as always, one of the finest Dicks in existence (even if it’s now one of the finest Rics in existence). Likewise, Brown brings his A-game with immaculate line-work crafting stylized action, filled with finesse and weight during a brutal encounter that nails the nature of Nightwing.

But alas, while incredibly beautiful on both sides of the coin, the issue suffers from the clash of two distinct art styles. The sudden shift is noticeable halfway through, and it feels so jarring that it detracts from the greatness of both styles as you have to take a moment to adjust and move from the rules of one artist to another.  It’s hard to really feel that negative about it when both artists are so strong, but it’s still worth noting.

Colourists Hi-Fi and Nick Filardi bring the issue together though, with vibrant blues and purples, mood lighting and a strong use of shadows helping to deliver some consistency between the two styles.  Their shared palette also does a great job of expressing a whole other layer of character and emotion to this crime-filled city, and the broken and desperate people who live there and who are in desperate need of a hero.

Consider Nightwing #51 a mission statement for Lobdell’s new direction for the character. While not action-packed or chock full of detail or plot, what we have here are the seeds for a host of new ideas and stories that make me genuinely excited for what’s to come. From what seemed a dull and lifeless idea, Nightwing #51 now brings the promise of a tale that will stay true to the core of this character we all love. And with a great art team to accompany him, I’ll definitely be returning for issue #52 to see if Lobdell can pull it all off.

Rating: 3.5/5


The writer of this piece was: Connor Stephens
Connor Tweets from @diddlesMVP

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