Writer: Devin Grayson
Artists: Rick Leonardi (p), Jesse Delperdang (i)
The book opens with Nightwing snagging the roof of the passing bullet train, as he tries to keep up with Mary Redhorn, who has been targeted by the crime families of Bludhaven due to her possession of a journal that could be used by the justice department to identify the corrupt elements within that city. As Nightwing makes his presence on the train known to the killers that have also found their way onto this train, we see they join Nightwing on the roof of the speeding vehicle. We then see that Nightwing's experience at safely riding atop a speeding vehicle comes into play, as he's able to knock all his attackers off the train with very little effort, and he leaves them dangling alongside the train. We then see Mary Redhorn has decided to try & lose herself in the mob of tourist that have descended on Paris, and Nightwing finds that his masked appearance doesn't exactly convince Mary Redhorn he's looking to help her, as she bolts once again without listening to his assurances that he's not looking to kill her. We then see Nightwing comes up with a plan that has Mary Redhorn welcome his presence with open arms, as he approaches her in his civilian identity.
I understand from comments Devin Grayon has made over the years that writing Nightwing is a dream job for her, and her work on what I believe has been Nightwing's only annual would've had to have been one of her earliest projects, so I can see why she would hold a great deal of affinity toward the character. However, I do hope that her desire to write a strong, competent Nightwing doesn't blind her to the fact that her first job as a writer is to deliver an entertaining read, and watching Nightwing handily defeat a foursome of thugs without even breaking a sweat doesn't make for the most thrilling of reads. Now I'm not asking her to make Nightwing less effective so us readers can thrill that his mistakes have lead to his being endangered by his opponents, but given the setting for this battle was the top of a speeding bullet train, having them stand around and talk while Nightwing reduces their numbers with relative ease made for a decidedly unimaginative action scenario. I mean why even take this encounter to the top of the train if you aren't going to use this setting to generate hair-raising thrills & acts of daring? I guess my one recommendation would have to be to make things tougher, and since Lady Vic & Brutale are on their way, I may just get my wish.
The simple fact of the matter is that this title lives & dies by how well Devin Grayson understands Nightwing, and the world he operates in, and if nothing else this opening arc has shown that she gets the character's appeal. Unlike Batman, Nightwing needs to have an every-man quality to work, and while the encounter on top the train could've used more punch on the action side of things, the dialogue exchange is a perfect Nightwing moment, as he points out to one of the goons that the kickback from firing his gun would likely knock him off the roof. There's also Barbara's effort to preserve Dick's secret identity, which results in a fairly amusing guest-appearance by one of Dick closest friends. I also enjoyed the frustration that Dick encounters as he tries to figure out a way to get protect the skittish Mary Redhorn, when she bolts every time he shows his face. There's also a cute little moment where Nightwing goes dashing up the Eiffel Tower only to discover that he's effectively trapped himself like treed cat. I also had to smile at his rather simplistic solution to this problem, as well as the way that he manages to get himself in a position to protect Mary Redhorn.
Rick Leonardi has been kicking around the comic industry for a fairly long time, and his name was always a welcome sight in the credit box, so I'm glad to see him land the assignment as this book's regular artist. His work does a great job detailing the action in a clear, easy-to-follow manner, and even better when the action does break out, Rick Leonardi has shown a great eye for visually engaging panels. Take the encounter on top of the train, as while there isn't all the much action to speak of, the little that we do get is nicely handled, as we see Nightwing's efforts to keep these goons from getting themselves killed results in a rather cute reveal shot as we see what exactly Dick has been doing to make them disappear. There's also a fairly cute scene where Nightwing thinks about the options open to him after he figures out that he's effectively trapped himself on the Eiffel Tower. My only quibble with the art is that Rick Leonardi's range of facial work don't look to be all that varied, as Nightwing's got roughly two expressions, as he's either looking grim/determined, or stunned by a recent turn of events. Still the story doesn't really call for any other expressions, so perhaps the writing is the guilty party here.
An enjoyable issue that shows us Devin Grayson has settled right into this book, and has herself a very strong understanding of this book's cast. This issue has itself a cute little scene where Barbara works to protect Dick's secret identity, and Nightwing's little exchange with the thugs of the roof of the speeding train made me smile. On the other hand I do think that Devin Grayson created a fairly interesting setting for a battle to take place, and then failed to deliver one, which is a bit worrisome, as if nothing else Chuck Dixon has trained the audience of this book to expect some killer action sequences. It just seems strange that Devin Grayson would move the action to the top of a speeding train, and then fail to deliver any really exciting moments. I mean it's a bit like Indiana Jones making his way through a temple without setting off any of the traps. Still, the issue is entertaining enough thanks to Devin Grayson's strong use of Nightwing & his supporting players.
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