Nightwing has been a fairly unstable title during the Rebirth era. Tim Seeley, Javier Fernandez, and Chris Sotomayor started the series off strong, but by the time they left the book its quality had decreased considerably. Then came a single story arc written by Sam Humphries and featuring several different artists. While it started out decent, this run quickly descended to the low quality levels that marked its predecessor’s second half. Now, the series is on its third ongoing creative team in just two years. Thus far, writer Benjamin Percy and artist Chris Mooneyham haven’t managed to reverse the series’s downward trend, but does this week’s issue mark an upswing? Is Nightwing #46, part three of “The Bleeding Edge” arc, good?
This issue is jam-packed with villains, and unfortunately that’s not a good thing. There are at least four notable antagonists here, but none of them are likable. There’s Wyrm, the generic green cyber-man who gets the largest amounts of page-time and scenery-chewing dialogue. Wyrm seems to work for a tech company called Mirage, which we learn gained funding for its recent endeavors from a benefactor on the Dark Web. This concept isn’t inherently bad, but in the context of this series it doesn’t work very effectively. Percy has spent his time on the title thus far building up an image of Dick Grayson as being inexplicably technophobic, so vague allusions to the Dark Web just come off as more awkwardly written paranoia.
With that said, Wyrm and Mirage aren’t the worst of it. The issue’s writing gets more questionable when it comes to the other villains. One of the series’s new supporting characters is revealed to possibly be evil, causing Dick to comment on how he thought he had known them better than that. The problem here is that the character was just introduced two issues ago and, unless they’ve had a lot of meetings off-panel, the two characters don’t know each other very well. A little leeway can be given here due to Dick’s irrepressible belief in other people’s inherent goodness, but the reveal still feels unearned. The Russian Sisterhood and the Terminals also lack effective build-up. The Terminals are linked to Mirage, but design-wise they lack any notable difference from Wyrm. The Russian Sisterhood is a mafia group that works counter to Mirage, and while the concept of having several opposing villain factions isn’t bad, it doesn’t work here. We’re just three issues into this story, and none of the antagonists have been fleshed out. It’s quantity over quality here.
While the last few issues at least had redeeming features in the art, that’s not the case this time around. Mooneyham’s line-work looks very rushed in places, especially when it comes to characters’ facial expressions. Nightwing’s acrobatics also lack polish. As is, the trajectories of his movements sometimes look more like a pinball getting knocked from place to place than a human gracefully leaping. It doesn’t help that another artist (Lalit Kumar Sharma) draws some of the issue’s pages, and the shifts between the two pencillers don’t follow any thematic or plot reason. Instead, Dick suddenly changes facial structures mid-scene. The issue’s inks (by Klaus Janson with Scott Hanna), colors (by Nick Filardi), and letters (by Carlos M. Mangual) are all solid, but they’re not stellar enough to distract from how weak’s the issue’s foundations of writing and line-art are.
Overall, Nightwing #46 is a bit of a paradox. It does too much, yet also too little. There are a lot of antagonists, but none of them are particularly intriguing. The heroes aren’t any more enjoyable to read about, as their dialogue does little but build up the arc’s strange sense of technological paranoia. Even the artwork disappoints this time around, as multiple artists clearly rushed to get this installment out on time. Some aspects of this issue (such as the coloring) are decent, but nothing about it is great. Ultimately, the only reason to get this issue if you’re a Nightwing completionist.