Review – Nightwing #38: The Judge Rules

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Nightwing #38 cover
Showdown with the Judge. Image via DC Comics

Nightwing #38 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Bernard Chang, Artist; Marcelo Maiolo, Colorist


Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Desperate Nightwing


Ray: Humphries’ first arc of Nightwing has pitted him against an original villain, a madman taking control of Bludhaven by trading in favors and manipulation. There’s plenty of shades of certain Marvel villains in the character of the Judge, but this issue adds a new wrinkle that raises a lot of questions – but might also take the character a bit over the line into the realm of ridiculous. Where it’s strongest, though, is in the buildup to the showdown between Nightwing and the Judge, as we see the Judge’s grip on Bludhaven tighten. After he manipulates some of Bludhaven’s villains into his corner, we see his previous victims at work. Detective Svoboda, determined to protect her daughter by any means necessary, is still in his thrall. Meanwhile, Guppy – a character who could have been a joke in lesser hands – is instead a figure of pity, as he was goaded by the Judge into becoming a monster.

Nightwing, meanwhile, is dealing with more and more crises around Bludhaven, as the iconic Tree of Justice has been poisoned in an assault on the city’s iconography. He’s decided to wage war against the Judge directly, and with the help of the former Baby Ruthless and one of his Crossfit customers, he gets in in a segment that certainly delivers the fanservice but also feels a bit ridiculous. There’s a place for humor in comics like this, of course, but the tone of the issue overall is very serious. From there, it’s a battle up to the top floor where the Judge is waiting, and he and Nightwing have a battle of wills until Detective Svoboda intervenes, allowing the villain to get the upper hand and reveal the truth about his abilities. Let’s just say that readers of Spider-Gwen, in particular, will find the character very familiar now. It’s dipped a little from the first few issues, but it’s still a highly compelling read.

Nightwing #38 page 3
Detective Svoboda, still under the influence, image via DC Comics

Corrina: The highlight of this issue is, hands-down, Dick’s visit to Guppy and Guppy’s fall into darkness by being manipulated into murdering his father.

Yes, I feel horribly sad for a fish-man with a shark-like face who can shed tears over his own corruption. That’s how good this issue could be.

The rest, however, doesn’t rise to quite that level, though it’s very good. I complained that the Judge has little motivation for his manipulations and mind-control when he was first introduced. Now, we know that he hates casinos and what they represent but, more, that he can somehow sense people’s energies and that’s how he manages to control them. (Possibly the coins contain that energy as well.) I’m not familiar with Spider-Gwen‘s villain but I will note that the unexpected blind man with abilities that compensate for their loss of sight is becoming a trope, both for heroes and villains, and this seems to be an odd sort of disability representation.

But, overall, it’s Nightwing’s characterization that makes me ponder the events of this issue. Yes, it’s been established that Dick is desperate but I’m not sure what to think that he’s so desperate that he doesn’t try to escape after he’s been stabbed and faces overwhelming odds. Sorely, formulating a new plan is the best option? I believe I’m meant to think his desperation is part of the Judge’s manipulation but I’m on the fence as to whether I buy it or not.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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