Nightwing #39 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Jamal Campbell, Artist; Phil Jiminez, Penciller; Matt Santorelli, Inker; Alex Sinclair, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: With Nightwing #39, A few issues into Humphries’ Nightwing arc, I was getting a bit worried about The Judge, who had too many notes of other villains and was dominating the series to an unfortunate degree. However, this issue – taking place in two timelines and finally giving us The Judge’s origin – adds some very original and welcome twists, and this run starts to feel like it’s coming into its own. After the reveal that The Judge is actually blind, he’s got Nightwing captured in a rapidly flooding area of Bludhaven, another manifestation of Bludhaven’s endless corruption. As he taunts Dick, Nightwing’s memories are drawn back to the second time he fought The Judge, and this is an era of Dick’s past we rarely see. It’s after he left behind the title of Robin, but before he became Nightwing – an era where we see he was sort of adrift, isolated from his friends and searching for himself – in this case, by attending college in Bludhaven.
There’s a lot of nice little details in this issue, such as a series of texts he gets from his circle of friends and family (it’s a little weird to think about it, but Dick probably only left the role of Robin in…2013 or so in this timeline?). However, any relaxation he might get ends when his college is rocked by a brutal murder, and he caught into a new conspiracy involving a terrifying Bludhaven urban legend and The Judge’s latest manipulations. Both Phil Jiminez and Jamal Campbell do a great job on art this issue, but the segment that really surprised me was the Judge’s origin. We’ve known so far that he has some sort of supernatural powers of manipulation, but his motivations were shrouded in mystery. Now we know, he’s tied to Bludhaven’s origins, he’s filled with rage, and he actually has a reason for his grudge against the city. He’s a fascinating villain, and the issue is easily the tensest that Humphries has done yet.
Corrina: This best part of this arc for me has been the flashbacks to Dick’s time as Robin and his transition to Nightwing. It’s an area that’s been little explored in the modern DC era but as someone who grew up on Dick Grayson, a student at Hudson University, hoping to sort out his life, I particularly enjoyed this month’s segment. I would sign on for a Humphries series set in this time period.
But it’s the regular plot that prevents me from completely enjoying this arc. All right, the Judge is some supernatural manifestation of anti-corruption who has himself been corrupted. That’s a nice irony and he’s a good way to explore the deepest feelings/resentment of this supporting cast. But his confrontation with Nightwing is talky and that Dick can’t escape from being tied to a chair seems a bit much.
But I could buy that part, since Dick is injured, and villains gonna monologue. But it’s the constant “these deaths are my fault because I didn’t stop the Judge before” over several issues that impinges on my enjoyment of the story. It’s even a question on the cover of this issue, about why Dick didn’t stop the Judge. He tried, he stopped him for a time, and now he’s fighting him again. (I mean, this is the pattern of every Bat-villain ever.)
It’s this tour into guilt that seems unlike Dick Grayson because he knows the blame for the Judge’s actions falls on the Judge himself. Dick is a protector and he should feel bad when he fails to save people but to be completely torn up and constantly berating himself because he couldn’t stop what he now knows is a supernatural creature reads as out of character.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.