Dick flashbacks to his first encounter with the Judge.
Nightwing #37 continues the “Untouchable” arc, featuring the newly created Judge as the antagonist. Sam Humphries continues to write the series, while Klaus Janson (pencils), Jamal Campbell (pencils and colors), and Alex Sinclair (colors) provide the issue’s artwork. So far I’ve been impressed with this arc, but does this issue meet the same high bar as its predecessors?
Unfortunately, this issue is the series’ first major misstep since Humphries took over as writer. This is largely due to the issue’s narrative structure–it’s essentially a frame story, with Nightwing meeting an old acquaintance, then reminiscing about how they first met. The acquaintance, Lucy, once went by the crime-fighter alias Baby Ruthless, but she’s not very memorable in either identity. The two’s conversation revolves around a past encounter with the Judge, but we don’t learn much of substance about the character.
On the more positive side of things, a lot of the story focuses on how eager Dick (then Robin) was to impress Batman when they first met. This does more to dig into Dick’s emotions than the arc has thus far, so it’s a welcome change. Nonetheless, it doesn’t make up for the fact that we’re three issues into an arc with a brand-new villain character and said character has yet to have a truly awesome moment. The introduction of a supporting character who contributes little of narrative importance only compounds this frustration.
My frustrations with this issue’s writing are exceeded by my frustrations with its art. I strongly dislike when a single issue has several pencilers unless the shifts between their styles feel thematically appropriate. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case here. One art team covers the issue’s current-day events while the other handles the flashbacks, so at least the art doesn’t change mid-scene, but it still feels unnecessary. Fortunately, a lot of the art is at least of a high quality. Campbell’s work on the present-day scenes is particularly beautiful. Janson and Sinclair’s portions of the issue are a bit less consistent, with some beautiful detailing at best but also some generic and questionably laid-out action scenes at worst. Overall, most of the art is passable to good, but its overall impact is still diluted by the seemingly purposeless mix of styles.
Nightwing #37 isn’t an outright bad issue, but it is a disappointment after the higher quality level of the issues leading up to it. The narrative here doesn’t contribute much of note regarding any of the series’ recent additions to the cast, although there is some nice focus on Dick’s emotional life. The art also has plenty of positive moments, but said moments are dragged down a bit by how needless the mixture of art styles is. Ultimately, this is a decent issue, but it’s not one that I would recommend to anyone besides Nightwing fans.