Overview: Nightwing escapes from his watery deathtrap and chases after the Judge, who targets another Bludhaven casino.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): The story picks up from the last issue with Nightwing under water, chained to a chair in a flooded housing project. A giant squid approaches Nightwing, and after headbutting the creature into attacking him, the Squid crushes the chair Nightwing is chained to and Nightwing escapes.
Nightwing returns home and stands up one of his cross-training clients as he prepares to track down the Judge. Nightwing then tracks down Lucy Weatherton at one of the bodega’s she still owns and confronts her about working with the Judge. Lucy tells Nightwing that he is at the Silver Spring Casino, not the Yebo Best Online Casino.
Meanwhile, the Judge is riding in a limo, telling a story about a man who killed his whole family over the death of his son, who was only five years old. The Judge stops at a store to buy a limo full of purple teddy bear backpacks and puts one on his back. As the Judge gets to the casino, Nightwing arrives on a motorcycle and fights the League of Limousine Assassins in the casino lobby as the Judge makes it to the casino elevator. As Nightwing continues to fight his way through the casino, the Judge meets in the penthouse with the casino’s owner, Justin Holderman. Holderman speaks about wanting to unburden his heart and the Judge passes Holderman his backpack. Holderman proceeds to confess to being responsible for the death of the five-year-old child that lead a man to murder his whole family.
Nightwing makes it to the Penthouse just after the Judge leaves, only to find Holderman holding a bomb that’s about to detonate. The issue ends with the penthouse exploding.
Analysis: Ok. Lets just acknowledge the giant squid in the room. The “hero trapped underwater while his oxygen runs out” is by far not an original concept and it has to be difficult for a writer to put a new or unique spin on things, and I’ll say this, headbutting a squid does get points for originality. That being said, it is also just bananas. I’m all for a good dose of crazy in a story. Mutant Shark people, sure. A mystery solving, deerstalker hat wearing Chimp, the more the merrier. But having the story resolve in this way, feels absurd in a way that doesn’t match the rest of the story and sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s almost a not so subtle nod to the 1966 Batman television show, where Batman and Robin would routinely find themselves in silly situations like about to be eaten by a giant clam. And speaking of mutant shark people, wouldn’t Guppy coming to Nightwing’s rescue make a lot more sense in the context of this particular story?
The rest of this issue is pretty much in keeping with the rest of this story arc. The Judge targets another casino and puts a plan into action with Nightwing chasing frantically after him. The issue tries to show how desperate Nightwing is to stop the Judge and how Nightwing is damaging his new life as Dick Grayson in Bludhaven as a personal trainer in the process. While earlier in the story, I liked the desperate tone that the story took, with Nightwing trying to prevent a history we didn’t yet know from repeating itself. Now that we know the backstory, Nightwing’s reaction doesn’t really seem to be warranted. I have trouble buying into Nightwing feeling so automatically responsible for the Judge’s actions. If Dick had at some point been taken control of by the Judge and forced to do something terrible for instance, I could understand his attitude towards the Judge, but as it stands it doesn’t really feel earned. The Judge killed some people and got away. Its bad, but it doesn’t really seem to connect with how deeply personal this all seems for Dick.
The big issue I have with this issue is that it’s just more of the same. We’ve already seen Nightwing chasing after the Judge but be just a little too late and there’s nothing really new being presented in this issue. Nightwing is far too reactionary and it would have made for a better story if having survived the death trap at the beginning of the story, Nightwing had a more proactive response then just barreling after the Judge on a motorcycle and I would have rather seen the Judge arrive at the penthouse to find Nightwing one step ahead of him for a change. This story arc wraps up with the next issue, and I can’t help but notice how much ground the story is going to have to cover to bring this story to any sort of satisfying conclusion.
Bernard Chang’s art continues to impress. I may not have been a big fan of the idea, but he sure does draw the hell out of that squid. Chang’s style is well suited to this sort of street-level crime story and I hope that he does more books like this in the future.
Final Thoughts: This story arc came out swinging and while I’ve enjoyed the story as a whole, I find it’s starting to lose steam. It will be interesting to see how this all wraps up next issue.