This month’s Nightwing feels a lot like a film, and in that sense will probably function as a coping mechanism for the fans that are determined that Nightwing will appear in Man of Steel 2, the Justice League movie and so forth. Upcoming DC movie discussions and speculations aside (it just has to be called World’s Finest, Batman vs Superman is so clunky…), this issue succeeds in terms of both substance and style, giving us a spread of character moments and dialogue across our familiar characters, such as Nightwing and the Mad Hatter, our less familiar, namely Marionette & Dick’s friend Michael, and those that represent the Aunt May dynamic of normal life against superhero life, albeit without any of the love, appeal or interest we have for Aunt May. Yes, roommate Joey, I am talking about you. Just please don’t make her a love interest, Kyle Higgins. Please. Conversely, as you may have read in my review of Nightwing #26, Dick has had problems with his window being shut by Joey, preventing him from sneaking in after being Nightwing, and this is something that is again used here. However, I now withdraw how dull a moment I thought this was in #26, as I can now see that it was the first part of a running joke. Clearly I need to trust Higgins more.
The book isn’t all everyday life problems, thankfully, and this issue contains several very sleek moments of design and artwork which caught my eye throughout. For example, in this issue’s first page, the Mad Hatter gestures to Marionette and Dick in turn, stating “We’re going to save her […] and we’re going to kill him”, the two lines separated into two panels, the gutter of which aligning with the Hatter’s spine and back-of-head. Another example of these strong visual moments is the spread of nine imperfectly-aligned panels of backstory we are given about Mali’s traumatic past with the Mad Hatter. Spoiler: she was one of his Alices (if you aren’t that familiar with the Mad Hatter’s “Alices”, you ought to be, he’s a very interestingly obsessive character), and her backstory, while being typical of a victim of the Hatter’s, is just as tragic and empathetic as the first time I read it (the 2010 book Joker’s Asylum II) thanks to the contrast of green, purple and orange embodying Mali’s youth with the greys of the torment Mali was put through.
Oh and finally, I really enjoyed the cover of this issue, both for the strong artwork and the simple foreshadowing of us realising that Mali plays Dick like a pawn, managing to make the Dark Knight Detective’s original protégée be ruled by his emotions rather than logic and calculation. Dick even states before helping Mali: “When she asks why I want to help, I tell the truth. I feel bad for her.” This is one of the quintessential reasons for why I like Dick Grayson, because he is essentially a Batman with a far larger heart, which leads to all of his joke-making and vulnerability in terms of his personal relationships.
A strong issue, but not without its flaws
Reviewed by Josh Clayton