Written by Kyle Higgins
Art by Juan Jose Ryp
Reviewed by Sean Lamont
Dick Grayson has been having a tough time of late both in story as well as outside the book as it looks to find its niche in a Bat-world. Between losing all of his money, his friends, his goals, existing in a perpetual state of response to his larger selling Bat-title comrades, and now losing a partner and a brother; one would expect this would be this issue that he finally boils over and loses control of everything. And that is entirely true…if you consider $99 of damages in a super-brief fit of rage a proper response to all of the above. I exaggerate for humor’s sake, but lets take a quick look at how Nightwing #18 stands up as a transitional issue for our original Robin.
Distraught by the loss of everything he holds dear, Dick Grayson struggles to find the meaning to his open nature and optimistic philosophies when the world has continuously crushed him due to his demeanor. Teetering between pulling away from all he once stood for and putting his life choices to the ultimate test, can Damian once again pull Dick up out of the shroud of gloom that surrounds him even in death? Or, even if he can move forward once again, will the past once again drag him back to a place of darkness?
This issue runs a middle ground for me. Nightwing has had the unfortunate task of running as a reactionary book to all of the major occurrences in the other Batman family of titles, and this issue really is no different as Dick is forced to deal with the loss of his closest sibling and once partner Damian. While the manner in which his mourning is handled plays out fairly well in this issue, displayed by Grayson pulling into himself instead of leaning on others, it just comes across as lacking in the emotional oomph that a now deceased relationship like this really should have had behind it. On top of that, the Dealer side story, which thematically is a perfect representation of Dick moving forward in his life choices, has a sense of getting in the way of properly addressing the ramifications of Damian’s death. Where Higgins does start to build steam for myself though, is his long-form buildup into giving Nightwing a reason to leave the city of Gotham; hopefully cutting the apron-strings of Batman and allowing the title to finally start standing on its own merits. Merits that have been there since the beginning, but have been unable to find the sunlight it needed to grow while stuck beneath the reactionary shadow of its Gotham Batman Traffic Control.
Ryp’s artwork also runs a bit of a mixed bag for me. While showing an improvement over last issue, he still struggles to get the emotional resonance out of facial expressions without making them look warped or off-kilter. This may stand out more than usual due to the emotional nature of this issue, but it is still very noticeable even in scenes where it is not relied on as heavily. Where he does work quite well is in his fluid capture of motion with Dick, an almost essential skillset for the character; as well as his very detailed backgrounds and set pieces. The fringes and details of his panels look wonderful, so if he can get a grasp on the faces themselves he should be able to bring quite a bit to the table.
It’s ok. If you are a fan of the character, it’s a middling issue that transitions the character naturally into the next stage of his adventure. Those looking to jump on may be better served by waiting until next issue (which is sure to be the big gala launch of his new direction), but will find a solid, even if not dazzling, chapter of his story. As I said at the top, life is rough for Dick Grayson, and it looks like it is only going to get tougher. But hopefully tackling these new challenges on his own will help nurture him into the premiere title he should be starring in.
Jump-On Point: Readers can easily jump on here, though I would recommend reading Nightwing #17 to put everything in context.