Despite this being an obvious transitional issue, with guest artist Juan Jose Ryp and a tie-in to the “Requiem” event that is enveloping all Bat-titles, Kyle Higgins manages to make “Nightwing” #18 feel organic and fresh, moving the character forward through accumulating and oppressive grief. Higgins splices the story together between reflections of “Then,” “Now,” “Two Days Later” and an even more tenuous “Later” offering up flashes of thought and flickers of emotion that define the battle-weary legs Nightwing is standing on when his mentor comes calling.
Through internal monolog and external dialog, both in the present day and days gone past, Higgins makes it clear that Nightwing seeks direction and that the shadow of his mentor might be concealing some of the signs pointing out that new direction. Not to worry, as Higgins has concocted a humdinger of a cliffhanger final page that I didn’t see coming. Leading up to that, Higgins reaches back to the “Black Mirror” storyline from when Dick Grayson bore the mantle of the bat as the writer brings in the Dealer and Sonia Branch. The daughter of the man who killed the Flying Graysons seems poised for a larger role in Nightwing’s future, magnified by her connection to the conclusion and Dick Grayson’s reaction to what Sonia has to say.
While Juan Jose Ryp’s drawings are full of energy and packed with detail, some of the inking is inconsistent and uneven, giving characters larger eyes and sacrificing some shading that would definitely accentuate emotion at later points in the story. Brett Smith’s coloring is dynamic and heroic, with bright greens, reds and oranges all finding their place in the story to pepper in a sense of grandeur. Smith even adds textures in, providing bricks with rough surfaces and adding some spring to the lawn in the burial grounds near stately Wayne Manor. Where the colors don’t work so well, however, is when Smith steps in for what would traditionally be handled by inks in adding depth and contour to faces and shadow to expressions. Those spots come off splotchy and enhance the missteps on the drawings.
“Nightwing” #18 is a comic book that focuses on what a hero does after his world is torn down around him. Nightwing has always been a beacon of light and hope in the DC Universe and the Batman family in particular and to have that beacon dimmed by recent events takes some of the luster off the character. This isn’t dissimilar to what we’ve seen in comics dozens, if not hundreds of times since Frank Miller’s and David Mazzucchelli’s “Born Again” storyline in “Daredevil.” Higgins ties up some lose ends nicely, seeds things to come and caps it all off with a cliffhanger that is certain to entice readers to come back for the next big thing in Nightwing’s life.