Though loosely connected to the series’s previous arc via last week’s annual, Nightwing #48 is by and large a shift away from “The Bleeding Edge” and its emphasis on technophobia as being almost a virtue. In this issue, Nightwing makes his way to the dramatically named Isle of Harm to take part in a mystical, sci-fi motorcycle race more dangerous than any other in the galaxy. While there, he runs afoul of an unexpected opponent: the Silencer. How does this issue compare to the series’ latest installments? Is it good?
The most fun aspect of this issue is definitely its concept. It’s a nice change of pace (and, to a degree, genre) after the fairly street-level exploits in writer Benjamin Percy and co.’s first arc, as well as all the other Rebirth-era Nightwing runs. The Isle of Harm exists as a nebulous inter-dimensional hot spot where humans, superhumans, and extraterrestrials alike gather for reasons both noble and ignoble. The sci-fi trappings of the setting allow for some fun visuals, as the actual motorcycle course is full of portals and impossible distances that complicate the ride. All in all it’s nice to see Nightwing visit a seedy location that’s different from the usual city streets or docks.
Another positive aspect of this issue is that Percy’s gotten a firmer grasp on Dick’s voice. He doesn’t have the same strange abhorrence for technology that he did throughout the last arc; he’s much more open-minded like many readers will be used to him being. He still has his sense of determination, however, and this resolve combined with his positivity and confidence makes for a likable take that feels true to the character. Percy’s narration does a good job conveying all these personality traits, as well as necessary plot information, without beating the reader over the head. All in all, Dick’s voice comes across quite naturally.
Art-wise, this issue has plenty of good points. Amancay Nahuelpan does the line-art, and his skills with both perspective and anatomy are solid. Not only does Dick sound like himself here, he looks like himself as well. Nahuelpan’s version of Nightwing is both classic and energetic. There are also some good page compositions, especially in the latter half. The decision to render the motorcycle race via two-page spreads is an effective one, as it complements the horizontal nature of the track and provides plenty of room with which to render the various racers, dangerous pitfalls, and resultant accidents.
Colorist Nick Filardi also does a solid job here with tones that contrast well and highlight the right areas while still leaving plenty of solid black for dramatic effect. The brighter colors convey the hustle and bustle of the island as spectators gather to gamble and enjoy the mischief. Carlos M. Mangual also does a good job on the lettering as always. His work is clean and pleasing to look at, without any noticeable flaws of any kind.
While this issue does a lot right, it isn’t exciting or memorable enough to be great. The action scenes lack a certain pizzazz, and some movements are a bit hard to follow at times. As cool as the supernatural motorcycle race is, it’s not utilized to its full potential. I probably won’t remember much of the race track’s terrain or design by the time next month’s issue comes out, and Dick’s fellow competitors don’t make any impression (with the exception of the Silencer). Speaking of the Silencer, her very brief presence here makes the cover seem a bit misleading. Dick’s narration, while solidly written, isn’t a source of deep introspection. This, combined with the lack of notable supporting characters, causes the issue to be driven solely by its premise with little assistance from the actual characters or conflict.
Overall, Nightwing #48 is the most fun the series has been since Percy took over as its writer. His grasp on the character’s voice has improved considerably, the premise is fun, and every aspect of the visuals is solid. With that said, the lack of interesting conflict and supporting characters prevent this issue from living up to its full potential. Nonetheless, I would at least recommend this issue to fans of the main character.