Overview: In Nightwing #102, it’s the Titans versus the Grinning Man for the fate of a little girl!
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): As Nightwing #102 begins, Nightwing awakens in the morgue and radios Oracle to assemble the Titans at Gar Logan’s mansion. There, the Grinning Man is disguised as Nightwing and moves Olivia outside, where Dick rushes in time to stop them. The Grinning Man flies with Olivia into the air, where he’s intercepted by Raven, Starfire, and Cyborg. Quickly defeated, he’s compelled by Donna Troy’s Lasso of Truth to reveal his origin story and his mission from Neron to bring Olivia to him.
Raven’s particularly upset at this, and later when the team goes over the information they’ve gathered, she suggests going down to the Nether World and getting answers straight from the source. Nightwing agrees and asks Donna and Kory to guard Olivia at Paradise Island while the rest goes down into Hell itself.
In the backup story, Superman asks to stick around with Nightwing to learn how to be a detective after the circus attack. Dick goes over the process of elimination, studying methods, means, and opportunity. After reviewing camera footage and talking with the prop safety inspector, Nightwing concludes that the person who cut the trapeze rope was one of the trapeze artists!
Analysis: I really liked this Nightwing #102. It read like a solid mix of old-school Dixon and McDaniel Nightwing with a healthy blend of Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans. I had some preferential issues upon re-reading it, but for the most part, I think this is one of the creative team’s strongest efforts in a while.
A criticism of Taylor’s run that’s becoming more frequently discussed is his penchant to have Nightwing get out of hairy situations by calling for backup. While I get that Dick has connections all over the DC Universe, that’s a criticism generally. However, this story is clearly a lead-in to Taylor and Nicola Scott’s impending Titans book, and as such, it reads more of a team story than Nightwing and friends. Dick’s voice, in particular, felt very much like the leader of the Titans of old, commanding Oracle to assemble the others and quickly deducing what needs to happen. I liked a lot of the opening scenes. The Grinning Man is surprised that Nightwing is a normal person in a costume, something that often happens with Batman but not enough with his partners. I liked Dick’s focus and using being underestimated to his advantage. We also got a new gag with the Escrima sticks, which was cool and made sense for the fight.
Travis Moore’s artwork gives an added level of creepiness to the story, specifically in scenes with the Grinning Man. This is an artist chiefly used for depicting pretty people being pretty, and he’s made plenty good on illustrating Dick Grayson. But his talent for dark and weird imagery is one most unknown to me until now. Had the fight gone on longer – and I wish it did – we could’ve seen more of what both he and the Grinning Man were capable of. But I love the actual design of TGM, with the hollowed husk of a blackened figure, with just the creepy grin. It’s really cool.
The fight with TGM and the Titans could’ve gone on a little longer and been a bit more dynamic. Once he gets into the air and meets the flying three heroes, they could’ve waylaid on him more. We could’ve seen Wally attack him a bit more than a single punch. Yes, this guy was supremely outmatched, but Moore’s artwork does make some of the action feel a bit stiff and static, with the characters calmly just staring at each other. When TGM flies into the air, Nightwing looks like he’s just calmly watching him get away without much of a reaction to his powers of flight.
I liked bits of Raven taking the whole scheme personally and feeling increasingly angrier the more she learned of Neron’s involvement. This might continue into the Titans book, but it’s a good characterization of her nonetheless, and goes for more than her traditional feelings of guilt she always has with Trigon. Here, she’s both empathetic and angry.
The backup story continues to be moderately strong as well, and I really loved Eduardo Pansica’s artwork. The large panel of the original Batman and Robin team deducing the crime scene was really cool. I hope Pansica continues on at DC on large-profile titles. Also, any time Dick’s shown to be a brilliant detective, that’s always a plus. It’s too unsung of one of his best abilities.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue digitally on Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title through Things From Another World.
Overall I've very few complaints about this. Sure, I would've scripted some of the action differently, but that's not really in the realm of erring in writing. Solid story.