I’ve been reading the current Nightwing series ever since its first issue, and I’ve held numerous opinions in that span of time. At first, I was hooked–I loved what Tim Seeley, Javier Fernandez, and Chris Sotomayor were doing with the character. Then, things started to go down south, as quality seesawed between mediocrity and flashes of the series’ original brilliance. As the creative team’s final arc, “Raptor’s Revenge” has been disappointing thus far. Does this last issue of the run impress and turn things around?
Thankfully, this issue is the best Nightwing has been in over ten issues (with the exception of issue #29, which served as an interlude and a Dark Nights: Metal tie-in). The issue’s greatest strength is its artwork. Fernandez and Sotomayor have never delivered bad work on the title, but recent issues haven’t been their best. This time, though, they went all out.
The sense of movement conveyed in the line art throughout is fantastic, as is the attention paid to characters’ anatomy and facial expressions. The visuals are very consistent in terms of what portions are rendered in high or low amounts of detail, so the less intricate background details look stylized rather than rushed. The panel design throughout is also great in terms of both variety and matching the flow of action scenes. Sotomayor matches the linework with electric colors that further help the action pop. The complimentary colors used enhance visual contrast, and stop scenes from feeling too murky or static. Overall, the artwork here is really strong.
Writing-wise, the issue is solid. Raptor finally talks with Dick for an extended period of time (something that was previously absent, despite this arc having Raptor’s name in its title). The pair’s dialogue is mostly strong, and hammers home why they make such good antagonists for one another. Shawn and Dick also receive some much appreciated reconciliation, without anything feeling forced. The issue’s most emotionally resonant moments hit harder than anything the series has delivered in the last several arcs. The issue’s final pages do a great job of wrapping things up for the series’ supporting cast while still leaving the series’ future possibilities wide open.
With all of that said, this issue still has multiple flaws that prevent it from being great. First of all, the Pigeon. Boy, oh boy, the Pigeon. From her introduction until now, she’s never once even bordered on interesting. Her relationship to Raptor was rushed and never worth caring about, and she has some of the worst dialogue of the issue. There’s also an up-close shot of her grinning evilly that is one of the issue’s rare visual missteps. In terms of visual missteps, there are also a handful of plot significant panels where the artwork isn’t totally clear in what it’s depicting. The issue’s most fatal flaw, however, is a major plot decision–Raptor gets killed off, and it feels like an extremely unwise move. The new creative team will have a clean slate, devoid of the only truly “great” villain Nightwing has ever had.
Overall, this issue feels like a triumph because this creative team manages to end their run on a high note, despite the many, many disappointing issues that plagued the latter end of their time on the book. The visuals are usually fantastic, and there’s some solid writing too, especially where Raptor and Dick’s mutual antagonism is concerned. Unfortunately, a “triumph” for this Nightwing run is just a solid issue overall. When the art fumbles it does so noticeably, and the writing’s worst dialogue is cringeworthy. Nonetheless, this is a good issue, and well worth any Nightwing fan’s time.