(Spoilers ahead) Nightwing #22 is an exercise in slick, compact storytelling. Picking up in the aftermath of the team-up with Wally West and the “time freezing dude bro” of the previous issue, this one finds Nightwing once again entertaining the reader with circus metaphors whilst pirouetting around a gang fight.
Meanwhile, a new character Roland, sporting a mean ponytail, is out of jail after a ten year stretch and he’s looking to make a name for himself as he marches into a new casino that’s opened up on the Strip. We’re introduced to character that is certainly no angel, but he seems to have a bit of a heart, splitting the take from his pick-pocketing of a tourist with a street beggar who he did business with back in the day. As a reader I enjoyed how much information was given in a single page of seven panels – we see Roland has a temper, he injects a drug to calm himself down, and he’s a slightly sympathetic character in a fairly dark way. Such efficient use of storytelling is the mark of a good comic writer.
Cutting back to the gang fight, one side is armed with the advanced alien tech Nightwing has seen recently, supplied by the mysterious seller The Second Hand. Things start getting out of hand fast and then the police arrive, prompting the gang members to disperse through some kind of teleportation tech. This whole alien weapons subplot is a nice addition and reminiscent of things like Intergang back in the Superman comics of the 90s.
Meanwhile in the casino Roland rolls in and busts a card counter, who is brought up to meet the owner of the casino, the mysterious…Tiger Shark, an enigma in a red mask! Tiger Shark doesn’t mess around with those who count cards in his casino, and he also has a Siberian Tiger as a pet, so at least we know he loves animals. It’s a grisly end to the card-counter, and Tiger Shark is revealed as the supplier of the Second Hand’s alien weaponry, as Roland watches sharks eat the remains of the card counter. A contract is given to him. Nightwing.
Cutting back to what Dick Grayson is up to, well our loveable hero is all a tingle at whether he should go for an interview for a regular job the next day. His stunning girlfriend, Shawn Tsang, gently remonstrates with him as Dick says he “wants to be Nightwing, all the time”, the kind of line you can imagine his original netter Batman saying. But Nightwing isn’t Batman, and Dick Grayson isn’t Bruce Wayne, which is one of his charms. And Shawn has a point. Dick Grayson already is Nightwing everywhere, he traverses the globe as he has already done this series. He fights evil that, she says, make her old art crimes look like charity work. There’s a playfulness to this scene, a lightness, in the art and in the dialogue, which the book desperately needs and would be the poorer without.
Cut to Nightwing, later that night, having a beer and getting some bar-side wisdom. Should he go for the interview? Should he not? It feels like a curiously teenage kind of dilemma to be facing, but Dick Grayson has always had a slight case of arrested development I guess. It’s good to see Nightwing grabbing some time with the guys though. I like his supporting cast. And off he glides, heading to Tail’s End, where the heat is on. And there he runs into a rampaging monster, know to him from before, known as Blockbuster. They fight, Nightwing confident of victory, due to Blockbuster not being too smart, but there’s a fly in the ointment. THIS Blockbuster isn’t the same one Nightwing knows – THIS one is Roland Desmond, and he’s here to offer Nightwing a job.
This issue is remarkably efficient in an era of slow decompressed storytelling where even good writer telling good stories have a tendency to stretch arcs out for a couple of issues too long. This one set the scene for what it is to come and keeps the story moving nicely. The art is gorgeous with a stylish lighter touch. Nightwing #22 is one excellent comic book.
Editor’s Note: David Finn is the author of The Asanti Series. Demorn: Blade of Exile, Demorn: City of Innocents and the latest book, Demorn: Soul Fighter are currently available on Amazon here.