Overview: Ric Grayson starts to move on with his life and Detective Sapienza has mixed results in his first outing as Nightwing.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Nightwing handcuffs Ric to his taxi and tells him to stay put while he goes to find Ric’s friend. Ric breaks free of his handcuff and goes after Nightwing. Nightwing crashes through the roof and lands in the middle of a gang that is holding Ric’s friend hostage. As they turn their guns on Nightwing, Ric makes a louder than intended entrance through the side door. The distraction allows Nightwing to recover and chuck a throwing star into the side of one of the gang members. As Nightwing grabs a gun and fires warning shots into the air, Ric unties his friend and they run to safety. As they are leaving, Ric sees Nightwing engaged in hand to hand combat against the gang.
Ric checks in with his friend at the hospital and heads over to the Prodigal Bar in the evening. He has a serious conversation with the bartender about where he is at in life after the shooting.
Elsewhere, Malcolm Hutch (the deputy fire chief seen in the last issue) is working out while watching the news. As he listens to a report about Nightwing reappearing, there is a weak knock on his door. He opens it to find a heavily wounded Nightwing. Sapienza refuses to go to the hospital and also says it wouldn’t have been so bad if they had all joined him when he asked.
At dawn, Ric and Bea (the bartender at Prodigal Bar) grab a burrito breakfast together on a bench in Halyard Square Park. They chat for hours and there’s a hint that it could develop into something more.
At the Avalon Heights Rehab Center, Tiny (one of Ric’s friends from the bar) attends a substance abuse meeting. Unfortunately, the substance abuse meeting is being led by Dr. Gruidae aka Johnathan Crane. Crane ends the meeting by dosing all of them with fear toxin.
Analysis: After a long string of uninspiring issues, this issue is actually really good. I still dislike the forced status quo of amnesiac Dick Grayson and the unrealistic idea of fake Nightwings running around in the real gear, but I’m going to stop talking about it because it’s here to stay and won’t be changing anytime soon. All that aside, this issue is really well done and it’s more of what I’ve wanted to see from this series since Dick was shot. I’ve mentioned in the past reviews that there are three separate threads to the story that have been thus far relatively unconnected and stagnant. That all changes in this issue. Sapienza’s arc moves forward as we see him go out as Nightwing and deal with the consequences. Scarecrow’s arc moves forward as we see him finally make a move. I will add that it’s still unclear why he murdered the man a few issues ago and what his motives are right now. And finally, we see Dick/Ric actually talk about how he’s feeling.
After a few issues of Dick/Ric vacillating between being a jerk and being a harmless B&E expert, we finally get to see him talk seriously about what his state of mind is right now and why he finds it so hard to connect with his past life. In talking to Bea at the bar, he reveals that he feels he is disappointing people when he can’t remember them. It’s the weight of their expectations that he finds daunting and difficult to deal with when all he wants to do is get to know the person he is right now. Dick/Ric’s budding friendship with Bea works because she doesn’t expect anything from him and is quite content with him just being who he is now. It’s not a perfectly analogous situation, but it reminds me a bit of when Bruce and Julie Madison reconnected when Bruce “died” after Endgame. I also want to point out that Dick/Ric is still helping people even if he has lost his memory. He still went into danger to help his friend and he managed to cheer up Tiny with just one sentence. That’s more like the character we all know and love.
Again, I’m still not sure how all three plot threads are connected, but there was significant movement in this issue and they all seem to be on a collision course. Dick/Ric’s friend Tiny being present at Scarecrow’s doomed substance abuse meeting probably means Dick/Ric will get involved soon. Vicky Vale also makes an appearance in this issue which I find very confusing because the last time we saw her, she was being held prisoner in some kind of magic, digital dimension by Wyrm. I have no idea how she escaped but perhaps this is explained in another series that I’m not caught up on yet.
The art in this issue is fantastic! Moore and Zircher team up to give us a treat with this issue. The only nitpick I have is that Sapienza’s Nightwing costume inexplicably changes from the parking lot to when he crashes through the roof. The kneepads are gone and the boots look completely different. Otherwise, everything is smooth and polished. Bonvillain’s colors compliment the art beautifully, somehow giving the issue a melancholy feel but also paradoxically being full of vibrant color. That’s admittedly a poor explanation, so I will direct you to the wide panel of Nightwing talking to Ric in the parking lot (pages 2-3) or the panels in the bar (page 13) as examples of what I mean. The lettering is handled by AndWorld design, a studio founded by Deron Bennett who is one of the best. I’m not sure if Bennett himself handled the lettering here, but regardless, it is very well done. The page of Nightwing looking down on the gang through the roof is a good example of how the dialogue boxes lead the eye perfectly down the page and don’t obstruct the art.
Final Thoughts: A really well-done issue that makes the most of the current status quo.