“I am not Nightwing.”
Snow cascades from the heavens, briefly dancing in the frigid, winter breeze before covering everything in a fluffy, white blanket. In this moment, as they walk in each other’s arms down the snow-covered path, nothing else should matter. Unfortunately, not even quality time with Bea can stop Ric’s mind from wandering. From his forgotten past as Nightwing to his recent exploits with the individuals adopting the mantle, Ric’s head is spinning.
“My memories of him are all gone, like footsteps erased by the falling snow. But his path is still under there… calling me… trying to lead me back…”
Snow is an excellent metaphor for what is going on in Dick, I mean, Ric Grayson’s mind following his maiming at the hands of KGBeast. Although his memories are buried like a snow-covered path as a result of the trauma, his innate characteristics are still underneath. When I imagine a snow-covered path, the imagery is not that the path has been erased, but rather that the steps along this path have been filled in with fresh snow. I think Scott Lobdell and Zack Kaplan’s use of this metaphor to open Nightwing #57 will provide some frame of reference for what is going on to anyone who missed the previous story-arc, hasn’t read Batman #55, or has generally been living under a rock since this past September. What I love the most about this metaphor is that it gives the reader a visual representation of the character’s internal conflict.
Another reason that I love the use of snow as a metaphor is because of the white, fluffy stuff’s transformative properties. Not only can snow transform those boring school days into days off for students in winter, but it also transforms all of the dead foliage from fall into new growth for spring. It is a time of rebirth. Here we are witnessing the transformation of Dick Grayson into something new, Ric Grayson. (Although, I thought DC had dropped the whole “Rebirth” thing a little while ago.)
Of course, some of this feels as though Scott Lobdell and Zack Kaplan are attempting to convince the reader that this is still the same character at his core after so many changes. I think a lot of these feelings are the result of the character protesting too much in narration and dialogue. There are two scenes throughout the issue where Ric proclaims that he his not Nightwing or that he was not involved in vigilante activity. As a result, it becomes too much because it feels like we’re being beaten over the head with the concept repeatedly.
“I’ve been so lost in my own issues that I’ve forgotten how freeing it is to let go of your pain and fight for others.”
A majority of the conflict within Nightwing #57 is steeped in Ric’s relationship with Bea as well as the impending closure of her neighborhood’s homeless shelter as the result of gentrification. Scott Lobdell and Zack Kaplan use these devices to construct a narrative about the need for ordinary heroes. As a result, your enjoyment of the issue may depend on how much you enjoy awkward, high school level flirtation and social commentary.
Zack Kaplan’s dialogue between Ric and Bea will have you cringing at moments with its awkwardness. Thankfully, it never quite approaches the level of Anakin’s coarse diatribe on sand. This is the result of Kaplan’s infusion of humor into the situation through Bea’s rebukes of his advances and Ric’s self-deprecation. Moreover, Barbara’s conversation with Bea comes off as the typical snooping that an ex-girlfriend might do. Although sometimes intentionally cringeworthy, these conversations add a level of authenticity to these characters as humans.
Lobdell and Kaplan use Bea’s conflict with Councilman Pollard to accomplish two goals. One is to serve as a reflection of issues going on within our society. I think grounding the narrative in this conflict gives the issue some social relevance, as we have all seen how shortsighted solutions tend to hurt others more than help. Certainly the construction of a sports stadium would introduce more jobs and provide opportunities from some individuals in need. However, this eliminates the immediate need of their housing when the shelter is closed for a parking lot. (Cue: Counting Crows’ “Big Yellow Taxi”) Additionally, the inclusion of Joker’s Daughter into this political conflict has me wondering her overall connection to the story.
The second is to push the narrative about their need for ordinary heroes. In some instances, this comes off as a call to action for readers as well as support for those individuals making a difference in their communities. Which, I am sure was the intention. However, Ric’s declaration that Bea is the true superhero simultaneously evokes the emotion that the two writers as still trying to convince the reader that this will be a positive change for the hero. As a result, this element of the story feels heavy handed as I feel like I’m still being sold on the concept. I would feel less of this had it not been an element in several of the other scenes.
“Oh yeah. I’m not lost anymore. I’m just… inspired.”
Travis Moore’s art with Tamra Bonvillain’s colors are one of the true highlights of Nightwing #57. Together, they do an excellent job conveying the characters’ emotional range throughout a dialogue-heavy issue. Travis Moore is wonderfully able to convey Ric’s feelings towards Bea through facial expression without the need for exposition. Additionally, the two expertly convey Barbara’s uneasiness during her awkward conversation with Bea.
Ultimately, Nightwing #57 is a mixed bag. Although the dialogue is sometimes intentionally cringeworthy yet enjoyable and laced with humor, it feels as though Scott Lobdell and Zack Kaplan are still trying to sell the reader on the concept of “Ric Grayson.” As a result, it feels like a missed opportunity to explore who Grayson (Dick or otherwise) is at his core.