By Brendan F. Hodgdon. The most interesting source of tension in Nightwing #44 isn’t due to violence with superpowered villains or flirting with Batgirl. No, the friction that makes this issue stand out is how it combines a timely, high-tech story with a retro style. The fresh creative team of Benjamin Percy and Chris Mooneyham have brought late-90s attitude back to the original Robin.
A lot of its throwback appeal is thanks to the art. Chris Mooneyham provides an aesthetic that would feel right at home in the Devin Grayson era of Nightwing. Combined with the subdued colors from Nick Filardi, Mooneyham brings a low-key grit to the proceedings, which feels both supremely appropriate for a story set in Blüdhaven and serves as a nice contrast to Dick’s personality. (Also, because it’s Nightwing and I’m sure people are concerned: yes, Mooneyham provides plenty of Grayson beefcake here.)
Even the proto-cyberpunk story feels like a throwback, in a way; Percy provides a suspicion of technology in this issue that would fit right into the pre-Y2K panic of the late ‘90s. But it’s very of-the-moment as well, and the concept of “virtual gentrification” is certainly a new and interesting one. The sci-fi trappings that Percy and Mooneyham are establishing here have a lot of storytelling potential, though for now they’re just scratching at the surface.
While the world-building elements of this story are still developing, it’s clear that this creative team has a handle on Dick Grayson as a character. Percy’s approach to Dick as an old soul with Luddite attitudes towards technology feels right to me in an inexplicable way, and the repartee with Detective Svoboda is classic Nightwing. And there are little details, like Dick’s phone call with Barbara Gordon or his nostalgia for the dial tone from his days with the circus, that bring depth and personality to the story.
There’s also solid action in the book, though it took a second read-through of the issue to notice that none of it comes from fight sequences. This is not a story where Nightwing pounds on some superpowered goofball. Rather, the action comes from straight-up peril. (Two thrilling examples: how Nightwing attempts to save people from exploding phones and a runaway train.) It’s an interesting, subtle choice in how the story is structured, one that feels appropriate for a Nightwing story.
What really sells me on this new creative team is all the little details Percy, Mooneyham, and Filardi got right. They seem to have a great understanding of Nightwing and what makes him distinct amongst the Bat-family, something that will be a huge asset going forward. For the past few years, Nightwing has had a pretty uninterrupted run of great stories. This team should have no problem continuing that hot streak.
Written by Benjamin Percy.
Art by Chris Mooneyham.
Colors by Nick Filardi.
Letters by Carlos M. Mangual.
7.5 out of 10
Check out this five-page preview of ‘Nightwing’ #44, courtesy of DC Comics!