Nightwing #35 is an important benchmark for the series, as it’s the first issue by an all-new creative team. Sam Humphries takes over as the series’ writer, Bernard Chang is on art, and Marcelo Maiolo provides coloration. Is the introduction of fresh blood a good thing after the Seeley, Fernandez, and Sotomayor run’s penduluming quality, or does this issue forebode poor storylines to come?
From page one onward, this issue demands attention with its visuals. Blüdhaven is a city of gambling and nightlife, and Maiolo’s heavy use of neon colors throughout really sells that fact. Besides establishing setting context, the prominent neon coloration is just a joy to look at. Maiolo contrasts the stunningly bright with deep dark tones very well, as Dick’s mostly black costume provides natural contrast to the bright pinks and purples that surround him. This issue’s rendering of Blüdhaven feels electric in a way that most past Nightwing artists have failed to capture this effectively. Bernard Chang’s line-art is mostly solid as well, with a nice fluid sense of action. Chang’s rendition of Dick is also strong, as the character looks athletic without having an extreme bodybuilder’s figure.
Speaking of setting elements, Dick’s got a brand new headquarters and job. The choice feels fresh while still making perfect sense: he’s a cross train instructor now. Here’s hoping that this creative team continues to incorporate Dick’s civilian life into future issues, because it’s a great inclusion here. Also enjoyable is the chance to see Dick interact with others in a variety of contexts. Detective Svoboda is back from the previous run, and a number of new characters (both an antagonist and hopefully recurring supporting cast members) are introduced as well. I particularly like the ironically named (due to his shark-head) Guppy.
Though this issue serves as a solid introduction to the new creative team’s run, it has some faults. The new villain, The Judge, doesn’t get much page-time, and neither his design nor M.O. are interesting enough to trigger much interest. He seems to have some sort of mind control powers or technology, but his specific flair isn’t unique enough yet. It’s also worth noting that, though we see Dick interact with a variety of people, we have yet to see him bond with anyone he’s close to or face someone he’s ideologically opposed to in a memorable fashion. If this is going to be not just a good run but a great run, the character drama is going to have to be heightened in future issues. The kinetic visuals kept me reading more than the actual plot did.
Overall, Nightwing #35 is a solid issue and a good sign in terms of future issues’ quality level. If the new creative team is delivering work this solid from the jump, then hopefully things will just get better as they get further adjusted to the book. Chang and Maiolo deliver kinetic neon action with the visuals, and Humphries does a solid job introducing a number of new characters and plot elements. This issue is a good time; it’s not great yet, but it shows the potential to be so later.