Writer: Devin Grayson
Pencils: Shane Davis
Inks: Marlo Alquiza
Publisher: D.C. Comics
As Nightwing is called in by the Haly's Circus to take the place of a performer who has suffered a mysterious death, we see Dick is unable to focus on investigating this potential murder, as he's to busy preparing for that night's show. His attention is then diverted when he comes under attack during the show, and in spite of his best efforts Dick's unable to save everyone who was endangered by this attack. In the end there are more than twenty dead, and a hundred seriously injured.
Nightwing is very much a book that could use a good kick in the pants, and in the past couple issues Devin Grayson has given every indication that she plans on doing exactly this, as following on the heels of effectively breaking up the Barbara/Dick relationship, she offers up this issue which has Nightwing on the scene of a horrific tragedy that effectively shatters Dick's free-spirited nature. I mean like Batman, Dick's childhood was brought to a shocking end when he watched both his parents murdered, but in a decided marked contrast Dick didn't allow this event to drive him down a path as dark and uncompromising as Batman. In fact one of the more enjoyable aspects of Nightwing as a character is that there are moment where the character almost looks like he's having a grand old time while in the midst of heated combat. However, the nightmarish event that Nightwing encounters in this issue is sure to make a considerable impact on the character, and I fully expect the shocking event that is hinted at in the next issue box, will likely involve Nightwing's visit with the villain whose actions sparked this tragedy. Still there are moments that I felt were a bit goofy, such as the scene where the unconscious Nightwing is rescued by the elephant. However, there were also moments that worked exceptionally well, such as the scene with the Flash, and the final page is quite effective as a weeping Nightwing is not something we see every day.
As for the art, guest-artist Shane Davis turns in a pretty average looking issue that manages to clearly detail the action, and for the most part there are no really moments of confusion. Still while the material is easy to follow there's no really moments of visual excitement, and this is a shame considering the main action takes place in a blazing inferno which seems like the ideal location for an artist to deliver some exciting visuals. However Nightwing's high flying acrobatics are never all that exciting as we never get the sense of his being high above the ground, and the heat of the flames is never really visually conveyed. I will give the art credit for managing to do a pretty convincing job of selling Dick's grief in the final pages, as the panels of the grief stricken Dick are quite jarring. I also loved the cover visual to this issue, as is nicely hints at the material inside without spoiling any of the big moments inside.
Now turning Nightwing into an angst ridden character is not a step that I'm exactly looking forward to, but it's reached the point where any sign of change is welcome, as this is a book that has become mired in a sense that nothing of consequence will ever occur. I mean breaking up the Dick/Barbara relationship was an unexpected development, and while I didn't feel it was convincingly handled, I did enjoy the simple fact that Devin Grayson was willing to make this step. This issue delivers a similar moment, as she has the character confronted by a nightmarish situation where he's not able to save everyone. Every good hero needs a moment like this. Spider-Man has Gwen Stacy. Batman has Jason Todd. Superman has, or rather had Supergirl. These are the tragedies that take a measure of a hero and it's nice to see Nightwing looks to have been confronted by a similar scenario. My only real quibble with the scene is that it's somewhat compromised by a cheesy rescue involving a circus elephant.
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