Today, Mark and Spencer are discussing Nightwing 13, originally released January 18th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Mark: There’s a moment in Nightwing 13 that clearly encapsulates the little, niggling issues in this current arc of Tim Seeley and Marcus To’s Nightwing that prevent me from really embracing the book like I want to. It’s a small moment, to be sure, and it’s easy to gloss over thanks to the stronger WHAM-BAM-BOOM elements in the issue. But the devil is in the details, and the difference between a good book and a great book is usually mere inches.
Okay, so Nightwing has just unmasked Jimmy Nice in the mayor’s office (surprise, the killer is Jimmy Nice). Suddenly, four Bludhaven SWAT team members rappel through the windows and order everyone to freeze.
At this moment, Jimmy Nice is holding a superweapon menacingly as Nightwing, Simon, and Cherry stand behind him. Jimmy, seeing that the jig is up, opens a tele-tube portal to make his escape. On his way to the portal, he knocks Simon over and grabs Cherry. Jimmy turns, quips at Nightwing, and then throws his tele-tube at Simon’s head before making his escape. Nightwing snaps into action, pushing Simon out of the way of the tele-tube, saving Simon’s life.
Remember, the SWAT team that came in through the window witnesses all of this.
Then, someone (it’s unclear who) yells at Nightwing, “Don’t move!” Nightwing sprints towards the windows as a second tactical team bursts through the door and begins to open fire at him, no questions asked. Nightwing jumps out of the skyscraper, passing through the broken windows that the original SWAT team should be standing in front of. The SWAT team in front of the windows has completely vanished.
Now, taken as a whole this sequence makes for an exciting climax to the issue. But once you get past the razzle dazzle the events don’t hold up to even the slightest bit of scrutiny, and it boils down to the fact that Nightwing’s motivation for fleeing the scene doesn’t make any sense. An entire SWAT team just witnessed the bad guy kidnap a woman, saw the bad guy throw a projectile weapon at a man, watched Nightwing save that man, and then looked on as the bad guy disappeared into a glowing vortex, hostage in tow. Additionally, Simon saw the fight between Jimmy and Nightwing, and Nightwing just saved his life. On top of all of this, I’m not sure there’s any reason for the SWAT team to target Nightwing— a known hero and current face of a Bludhaven advertising campaign. Nightwing arriving on the scene isn’t in-and-of-itself suspicious, and by the SWAT team arrives Jimmy Nice has already been unmasked so his Nightwing disguise wouldn’t have fooled anyone into thinking Nightwing was the one committing the crime. They may not like him being there, but why try to blast him to smithereens?
Basically, there’s absolutely no reason for Nightwing to run.
This may seem like a small detail to latch onto. What does it matter that there are a few continuity errors in an otherwise blockbuster moment? Isn’t that just comic books? But when one of the fundamental problems with this arc of Nightwing has been a lack of compelling motivation for Dick Grayson’s behavior, these moments add up. Whatever the ultimate ending to this arc that Seeley has in mind, Nightwing is being driven there not as a consequence of his own choices, but by strained plot machinations. And while those machinations might allow for satisfyingly bombastic conclusions every issue, their hollowness threatens to rob the arc of any lasting consequence.
Spencer, you and I have been operating on (I think) pretty similar wavelengths when it comes to Nightwing, so I’m curious if you think I’m being too nitpicky this issue. Overall, it’s not like this is a bad issue, just particularly illustrative of the problems Nightwing has continually struggled to address. What do you think?
Spencer: I don’t think you’re being too nitpicky, Mark — in fact, I have my own nitpicks of this issue. But I also want to nitpick your nitpicks for a moment (say that five times fast).
The case of the vanishing SWAT team threw me on my first couple reads too, but let’s investigate that moment further. I’m going to repost the panel you posted, Mark, but I’m also going to include the next few panels as well, because that context reveals a lot.
Look at the color and designs of the roof and walls in the room the SWAT team breaks into, then compare it to the walls and roof in the room Nightwing and Jimmy are in. They’re not the same room, are they? The SWAT team rappel into another room entirely, then burst into Nightwing’s room just in time to miss Jimmy.
It really explains a lot. As the policewoman (whose name isn’t included in this issue, a pet peeve of mine) explains to Defacer earlier in the issue, all the Bludhaven PD cares about is keeping their jobs. Nightwing and his free crimefighting is a threat to them, and the PD have already threatened him more than once because of it. I am not surprised at all that they shot at him, and I wouldn’t be even if they had witnessed Dick’s fight with Nice (which we’ve now established that they haven’t).
Even with that misunderstanding cleared up, this scene is still super messy. At the beginning of the sequence, we see the SWAT team on the ground, watching Nightwing swing into the building, but in the above panels we see the team rappel in from the roof. Did the SWAT team climb all the way up to the roof’s building from the ground floor just to then rappel down a few stories into a mid-level room? Why would they do that? Did another team land on the roof? Then why show the team on the ground at all?
And while you can figure out that the SWAT team doesn’t rappel into Nightwing’s room from the panels I presented, it takes a lot more work than it should. The layout actively works against the proper understanding of the scene: To has the SWAT team and Nightwing & Nice’s crew facing each other despite being in different rooms, and Seeley and To have the SWAT team yelling at an empty room, but never actually show us that the room is empty. It’s sloppy and counterintuitive. To and Seeley can’t even seem to keep track of how many windows they’ve broken — Nightwing breaks one, then Nice breaks a second when he throws the Mayor out the window, yet at this point To draws three broken windows. Later, Nightwing breaks yet another window to flee the SWAT Team (and it looks like they might shoot through a few more), yet To still only draws three broken windows.
This even goes for some of the action throughout this sequence.
This moment would have so cool, so smooth, if only Nice’s staff had been flying in the same direction in each panel (or maybe if To had had the staff overlap all three panels in order to show its path!). Instead, To demolishes his momentum by having the staff moving to the right in panels 1 and 3, but to the left in panel 2. The reader can’t follow the staff’s path, despite the way it breaks into the gutters suggesting that they should.
Perhaps my biggest gripe about this issue, though, is the setting. Let me ask all of you: when does this issue take place? It’s nighttime during pretty much every scene featuring Nightwing, yet the scene with Defacer at the police station and the scene with the Mayor seem to take place during the day, or at least the early morning (the Mayor mentions an 8:30 meeting). Maybe Nightwing fights through the night into the early morning? That could work, but the sequence of events is out of order — it’s dark in a Nightwing scene, then light at the police station, then dark again for another Nightwing scene, then finally a bit more dawn-ish at the Mayor’s office.
The only constant bit of timing/weather is the rain, which remains consistent throughout the issue — except for the following scene:
Yup, it was raining on every page leading up to this moment, and rains on every page following it — there’s just no rain on this specific page. Also: what in the world is Nightwing’s grapple-line attached to?!
This page also highlights perhaps my greatest issue with, not only this issue, and not even just this arc — with Seeley’s Nightwing in general: his Nightwing is such a sad-sack. This series is practically defined by Dick feeling sorry for himself, and to be perfectly frank, I’m fed up with it. Dick taking personal offense at the Run-Offs running off instead of recognizing why and understanding their fears (which they freely admitted to him) just feels petty. Dick’s “loss of trust” never felt as important as he and Seeley made it out to be in the first place; focusing on the fallout as long as they have just feels gratuitous.
I still like the Run-Offs, I think there’s a lot of potential in a police department only interested in keeping their jobs no matter the cost, and there’s even some interesting stuff to explore when it comes to Jimmy Nice’s plans and psychology (even if his being the murderer is super-predictable — his name is Nice, c’mon, of course he’s the bad guy), but it’s hard to care when the lack of attention to detail makes it look like the creators themselves aren’t giving the book their all.
Besides, we’re 13 issues into this title; it’s probably time for me to just admit that I don’t care for Seeley’s take on Dick Grayson anymore.
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