Nightwing #40 cover

Review – Nightwing #40: Escape From the Sea

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Nightwing #40 variant cover
Death trap. Image via DC Comics

Nightwing #40 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Bernard Chang, Artist; Marcelo Maiolo, Colorist


Ray – 8/10

Corrina: I Have Questions


Ray: Humphries’ run on Nightwing is now turning out to be one extended arc, in the latest major creative shift in the DCU in the last few months. Nightwing #40, the penultimate issue of his arc, picks up the pace, as Dick takes the fight to the Judge and the mad villain continues his quest to punish Bludhaven’s corruption disproportionately. The issue opens with its best segment, as Dick finds himself deep underwater, drowning after being left there by the Judge last issue. With only seconds of air left, he’s forced to resort to desperate measures and provoke a giant squid to squeeze him half to death and break his bonds. This segment is suitably tense, but it probably would have been better if the squid didn’t look quite so cartoony. From there, Dick’s life is falling apart and he contacts his old friend Baby Ruthless, who is both in thrall to the Judge and desperately trying to escape his grasp. She remains the best new character introduced in this run.

I’m hopeful that she’ll stick around once Humphries is gone, but that rarely happens with new characters once the team leaves. However, here she proves to be an interesting grey character – someone who made moral compromises along the way but has maintained her heroic core. She points Dick in the right direction, leaving him to storm the Judge’s casino in a segment straight out of every high-rise action movie you’ve ever seen. Some of the stunts are a bit ridiculous at points, but they’re balanced by scenes with the Judge and his latest victim, as he drags one of Bludhaven’s darkest secrets out of him and uses him as a pawn in his attempt to finish Nightwing off. A tense, non-stop showdown with one of the deadliest villains Nightwing has ever faced in Bludhaven, it’s a strong opening act – but as an only act, it sort of feels like this run won’t leave a lasting stamp on Nightwing once it’s done.

Nightwing #40 page 3
An unlikely ally. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: I love escape sequences and the opening deathtrap in Nightwing #40 is a great one, if a bit odd with the addition of the squid. Still, that might fit with the whole sea being sentient near Bludhaven vibe that’s in this arc. And Baby Ruthless is a fine new original character and I should like this arc except…..

I keep going back to the original concept of this villain. Okay, the Judge has some sort of mystical or psychic control over people. He can give them what they really want if they give something to them. But what if something people really want is good and doing the thing the Judge wants is in contradiction to that good? That seems like it would be a problem unless people are all basically living on the dark side in Bludhaven. Take the casino owner. What he wants is to confess, I suppose, and make up for his sins…but he has to do that by killing people. So, he gets absolution for his sins by committing more sins? If the Judge is truly offering salvation, as seems to be the case (because confessing to murder is a good), then the Judge is also giving them more sins to absolve? Or is that the Judge’s schtick all along to simply toy with people? Either way, I’m thinking way too much about the cause and effect here, rather than the action on the page, so I guess, after all this, I have to say the Judge isn’t working for me as a villain.

As for Nightwing, his angst at losing his personal training business should be poignant but it’s not because we’ve barely seen him build up that business. (I suspect that’s because this run was truncated, which is too bad.) But his single-minded pursuit when he’s literally coughing blood again doesn’t work for me unless he’s also under the Judge’s influence. The injuries push as my suspension of disbelief and add another element that makes it hard to sink into this story.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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