Thus far, I’ve had very mixed feelings about the current Nightwing run. It’s refreshing to see new creators’ takes on the character after the previous creative team’s long run, but the quality level of recent issues has been inconsistent. This is largely because the current arc’s pacing is frustratingly slow and the art team changes frequently. Fortunately, Bernard Chang (artist) and Marcelo Maiolo (colorist) provide the visuals for this issue; their artwork has easily been the best of this run. This is also the second to last issue of this arc; does Humphries build momentum for the conclusion successfully? Is Nightwing #40 good?
This issue gets off to a promising start with a battle I never expected: Nightwing versus a squid. Not a squid-themed villain, an honest-to-god squid. It’s a zany decision I never thought Humphries would make, but I love it. At the start of the scene, Dick is chained to a chair underwater and running out of breath. When the squid shows up, he coerces it into attacking him and, by extension, the chains pinning him down. The narration for the scene is well-written and creates a sense of suspense; I particularly appreciate the attention Humphries pays to how the process of drowning affects the human body. The artwork for the scene is also solid. The squid’s expressions are delightful and the inclusion of its beak is a nice touch.
On the topic of artwork, this issue’s visuals are its best attribute. Chang’s inks and Maiolo’s colors work perfectly in concert; the bright neons pop dramatically against the deep blacks. From blue to orange to purple, there’s a wide variety of colors used throughout, which helps prevent the issue from feeling stagnant. There are some nice action shots of Dick mid-fight, and the most highly detailed pages of the issue include some cool texture work.
On the downside, there are some pages that suffer from inconsistency in their inking and rendering of light sources. When the specific portions of Dick’s face that get shaded in vary from panel to panel and seem illogical given the scene’s lighting, it gets distracting. This problem is most prominent in a scene where Dick is conversing with Baby Ruthless, who still hasn’t been fleshed out in any meaningful way. Also worth noting is that as cool as the squid is, it doesn’t appear after page four. That scene stands out despite its brevity because nothing cooler follows it. The Judge, who has been around for six issues now, is less interesting than an animal that can’t speak and only appears in a fifth of one issue.
Nightwing #40 is a good issue, but it’s far from a must-read. The opening scene is enjoyable due to its zany squid action, but the rest of the issue’s plot is forgettable. Fortunately, Chang and Maiolo elevate the overall quality with frequently impressive work. The colors are fun and there’s a fluid sense of motion to much of the action. With that said, I’d still pass on this issue unless you’re already a Nightwing fan or you have a large budget for your comic shopping.