Overview: The greatest motorcycle race in the cosmos is underway and an assassin appears to try and silence Nightwing permanently.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Nightwing arrives at the Isle of Harm with the intention of winning the greatest motorcycle race in the cosmos. For one weekend, all activity on the island is geared toward the race. Nightwing is being forced to participate by Wyrm who holds Vicki and Willem captive. The prize for winning the race is the chance to stand at a cosmic pathway altar and ask a single question. Nightwing has to win the race and install a chip in the altar to hack it for Wyrm.
Before the race, Nightwing stops off at a bar to enter himself in the race. He pledges himself by having a drink from a chalice made from the skull of the druid who paved all the paths on the island. While Nightwing is inside the bar, the Flamingo walks by on the street and sees all the bikes parked outside the bar. He decides to tip Nightwing’s bike into all the other bikes and knock them over. Back inside the bar, an inaudible bullet fired by the Silencer narrowly misses Nightwing’s head and takes out the person standing behind him. Nightwing does not see who fired at him, but a massive bar fight ensues and Nightwing manages to get outside along with some other patrons. They notice that his bike knocked over their bikes and try to fight him but he escapes.
The race is about to start and all the contestants are at the starting line. While all the contestants have different reasons for entering, this race has no rules of physics or morals. The race is fast-paced and deadly early on as Professor Pyg and his dollotrons make an unsuccessful attempt to attack Nightwing. The contestants begin to enter a perilous section of the track called the Lost Tunnels when the Silencer makes another attempt to shoot Nightwing. She continues to pursue as they enter the tunnels and are transported to what appears to be another dimension.
Analysis: I’ve been pretty critical of Percy’s run on Nightwing thus far, but I have to say this issue was great! He’s not trying to work the story into fitting into awkward tech related analogies and puns, but instead just tells a phenomenal, action packed story. I know some people may not be a fan of the general concept of this race and prize because of the issues it presents in a shared universe, but I love it. The idea that there is an island where daredevils, thrill seekers and adventurers all come to participate in a race is enough to get the blood pumping in anticipation. The nature of the prize, the legend behind the creation of the pathways and the mystical nature of the island itself all just put it over the top for me. Seriously, how cool is it to see Nightwing chug a mystery drink as an ominous pledge and then participate in a motorcycle race?! There was also a really nice “Dick Grayson moment” at the starting line here he genuinely hoped everyone could find the answers they are seeking even if they didn’t win the race. This issue is just loads of fun from beginning to end. My only critiques are that the issue was a bit too short, the Flamingo part was kind of random and the Silencer only appeared in a few panels. I understand this is the just the first issue of the story and both the Flamingo and Silencer will probably get more time on the page moving forward, but it was just a bit odd that they featured so little in the issue.
Evaluating art is always a subjective thing, where beauty is often in the eye of the beholder. I’m no art expert, but with comic book art, I always like to ask myself how it made me feel and how much it immersed me in the story and I think the whole art team did a spectacular job in this issue. I could feel the raw, kinetic energy and aggression in the race. The decision to use double-page spreads for the race was a great decision because it makes all the action seem larger than life. I could feel the vibe of the island that is playing host to tons of competitive individuals from all over the universe fighting for the prize of a lifetime. When Nightwing is in the bar, I felt like I was right there with him experiencing the tension of making a pledge to such a dangerous game. Nahuelpan’s beautiful art sets the tone for this story, Filardi’s colors complement the art perfectly and Mangual’s letters give us the roadmap to reading through this issue properly while giving the action scenes another dimension. A job well done all around.
Final Thoughts: A superbly crafted issue with a very intriguing premise that delivers action that will have you on the edge of your seat.