Picking up from the events of the previous issue, Detective Svobodai is at the graffiti-strewn crime scene of a Bludhaven murder. Nightwing turns up on the scene, and discovers that the victim was a big-time lawyer, surrounded by allegations of corruption and ties to organized crime. The detective tells Nightwing what he already knows – the lead suspect is Shawn Tsung aka the Defacer, who the detective calls “a super-villain”, a pretty dubious term for whatever kind of petty criminal the Defacer was back in Gotham. Nightwing makes a speech about how he believes Detective Svobodai wants everything to be black and white, when really upon closer inspection, the layers aren’t so clear-cut. It seems Nightwing has replaced his endless circus themed allegories to the black-and-white/not so black-and-white mission speeches – for a serial dater, he sure does commit to a metaphoric theme.
Leaving the scene, Nightwing jumps across town to Mr. Nice’s house, in an effort to prove Shawn and Gorilla Grimm as innocent. Mr. Nice is quite revealing, explaining how he came to be associated with the Run-Offs, the support group for former wannabe Gotham bad guys and gals that Batman took down. Basically in Mr. Nice’s case he got lucky in beating a negligent homicide rap when driving that took his girlfriend’s life. The guilt pushed him to the youth center and helping these damaged people. Nightwing commits his services to the Run-Offs and asks Mr. Nice to get them together – he trusts them, he knows that Shawn is looking to him to prove her innocence, to show that she can’t just be judged on the mistakes of her past.
Cut to next day and the youth center where Dick Grayson is helping teens affected by violence, in comes Cherry Annabel, from the Convention and Tourism Bureau. She’s not quite as starry eyed as Dick Grayson and reminds him that perception is everything – people need to feel safe, hence why Nightwing is on a billboard ad on the Strip. I have to pause the recap and give credit to the creative team on Nightwing – they’ve changed the direction of the title and are working fast and hard to bring us all up to speed on what Bludhaven will be as an arc – there’s a growing depth to the issues that is mostly just good storytelling craft, making us feel for characters that have only just shown up. There’s something genuinely affecting about the Run-Offs when they meet up with Nightwing and tell their tale about the conspiracy involving the approach to Grimm by the Second Hand, arms dealers who handle the black market trade in alien weapons, “the kind used to fight superheroes”.
Following a lead from Randy, one of the Run-Offs, the gang go to Marcus Casino, where Carter Forsyth, a real estate magnate, is located, and it appears he could be taking care of his former business partners in the murders for which Gorilla Grimm and Shawn are suspects. But when they arrive, on top of finding Forsyth about to run away with plans and documents, they also run straight into the surprise appearance of The Orca aka Grace Balin, a former villain in Gotham and a former Ru-Off member. She left them. She’s the “Run Off’s” run off, a former environmental saboteur, now just hired muscle. A close battle ensues and Nightwing and members of the Run-Offs take their lumps from the Orca before a surprise win is pulled at the last moment.
This issue of Nightwing is definitely an example of good serialized storytelling. In trade, the sum will be bigger than the whole of its parts. There’s a welcome brightness to much of the work – this is a title that doesn’t want to be “dark and gritty” even when some of the fighting takes place at night. Instead, this title positions Dick Grayson as looking forward into a clear bright space, with just the occasional glance backward.
Editor’s Note: David Finn is the author of The Asanti Series. Both Demorn: Blade of Exile and Demorn: City of Innocents are currently available on Amazon here.