Raptor is back, and Dick finds himself allying with Blockbuster.
Writer Tim Seeley’s final arc on Nightwing continues in issue #31, which touches base with most of the series’ extended cast and hints at what’s still to come from Raptor. Is it good?
Writing-wise, this issue is largely a letdown. It’s not all bad, but its best points aren’t strong enough to distract from its flaws, either. This is largely due to its best points being more related to concepts and their potential than their actual execution. Much like in his first appearances back when this volume began, Raptor stands out as the most interesting character. His concerns for the basic human rights of lower class people and devotion to pointing out the lies of rich villains like Blockbuster make Raptor the easiest character in the cast to feel invested in. Unfortunately, even Raptor isn’t all that enthralling here. He more or less delivers a monologue in the opening scene before disappearing, having barely interacted with Blockbuster and having sustained no conversations with Nightwing. Raptor doesn’t feel like he’s much of a foil for Dick when the two don’t actually spend time in the same scene.
Unfortunately, the rest of the cast isn’t utilized any more effectively. Dick mourns the loss of a relationship he valued, but it’s hard to empathize when said relationship barely received any page-time. There’s a groan-worthy revelation about two villains working together, which raises further worries about how much spotlight Raptor will actually receive by the end of the story arc bearing his name. Meanwhile, it feels like Huntress serves no purpose in the story except to elicit emotions from Dick. She lacks much sense of independent motivation or thought, except for when said motivations could be used to affect Dick’s emotional state. I give Seeley credit for trying to incorporate several characters into the story, but the end result is that none of them feel adequately developed or easy to care about. There are a few good gags throughout the issue, but they’re short in length and the fact that they’re more memorable than any of the character work or plot revelations is a problem.
The issue’s artwork is plagued by the same sense of untapped potential as its writing. Miguel Mendonca’s pencils throughout the issue are never poor, but they’re not particularly memorable either. All the basics (consistent body proportions, coherent visual storytelling, etc.) are covered, but there’s not much in the way of unique flair. It all just feels very standard, and standard isn’t good enough to make up for the plot’s subpar execution.
Overall, my biggest qualm with Nightwing #31 is that it never gripped me. Few specific moments were horrible, but most were mediocre. This is an issue that I had to read a second time just to remember what happened besides Blockbuster being vaguely present. The reduction of Huntress to nothing more but a plot device for inducing angst in Dick is especially disappointing. Unless you’re a diehard Nightwing fan who buys every issue, I would pass on this one.