Overview: In Nightwing #85, Nightwing and Batgirl join forces to take down Seer and stop the anti-Oracle.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Nightwing #85 begins as Barbara Gordon dons a new Batgirl costume, determined to take down the Seer, who has taken credit for posing as Oracle and spreading misinformation on the Gotham Knights during the Fear State. Alongside Nightwing, the two rendezvous with Red Robin at “Oracle 2,” a technological base of operations in order to dismantle all of Oracle’s connections to the wider net. Upon entering the building, Batgirl is doused with fear gas and sees Nightwing shot in the head. After regaining her senses, she kisses Dick before Seer returns to taunt the three heroes with footage of the Batgirls (Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain) at the Clocktower before it explodes.
Analysis: Nightwing #85 is a Barbara-centric issue, told entirely from her point of view. She’s consistently been Taylor’s secondary protagonist throughout his run, so the shift to her perspective not only is agreeable, but also ably helps contextualize the larger story of Fear State, where in the pages of Batman (as seen in Batman #115) we’re now keeping tabs on Stephanie and Cassandra. It’s important to note that Babs remarks on Steph and Cass’ occupation in the role, which is now fully acknowledged in continuity. It had been reestablished as an alternate (in our view original) timeline, but after DC Infinite and Dark Knight Metal Multiverse and everything, sufficed to say we’re definitely referring back to the original continuity pre-New 52. Having personally not read the original Batman Eternal that reintroduced Stephanie, that’s more than fine on my end.
This issue’s roughly the same quality as the last, perfectly decent but not as exciting as Taylor’s main work with Bruno Redondo. I enjoyed Robbi Rodriguez’s artwork more, however, as some of the action sequences, flashbacks, and hallucinations made for some pretty experimental illustrations. Kudos also to Adriano Lucas’ colors.
Again I’m reminded of the charge that Taylor’s a fanfic writer in essence, or at least he writes with his fandom on his sleeve. Not so much in recalling the personal history between characters, but in the inelegance of it. Babs’ recounting of her life after getting shot by the Joker to Nightwing out loud was perfunctory and unnecessary, and it continues that major problem I’ve had with the Barbara Gordon character for ten years now. As a walking, running, and jumping Batgirl, there’s this incessant urge to justify her retroactive return to the cape and boots as though it’s not a demotion. Taylor – through Nightwing – does his due diligence in reminding Babs and the readers of all the good she’s done as Oracle, but you can’t help but wallow in the shallowness of Barbara just being Batgirl again while simultaneously moaning about how hard it was to be in a wheelchair again and again. I don’t blame Taylor for this, as every single writer of Babs has done the exact same thing since 2011. It’s old, it’s tiring, and a little bit ableist. Barbara is a grown woman; if she’s so fragile that everyone needs to remind her how much ass she always kicks, she might as well not do anything, but that’s also the problem because she never needed that before returning to the Batgirl role. It does appear to be temporary, as the impending Batgirls title only seems to feature Steph and Cass with Babs as an advisory Oracle, but nonetheless DC has to know how to win over its fans with the constant Babs-as-Batgirl sycophancy. It’s not serving anyone.
One thing I’ll mention about the brief flashback was that it’s nice to see the old-school Batman Family era Dick and Babs in their original costumes. I could nitpick on how Barbara didn’t know who Batman or Robin was initially, then remember that the Batgirl Year One story had her learning their identities at the very end, but it was still fine nonetheless. Taylor loves his flashbacks, and I’m not tired of them yet. Babs kisses Dick at the very end, and again I’m wondering if we’re going anywhere with the romance or if DC still forbids it, even with Dan Didio now gone. Time will tell.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic digitally and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue on Comixology through Amazon.
Nightwing #85 is about the same quality as last issue. Not bad at all, but not matching the heights of issue #83. One more part left in Fear State tie-ins, then we can get back to business in Blüdhaven.