NIGHTWING #42 / Writer: Collin Kelly & Jackson Lanzig / Artist: Jorge Corona / Inker: Jorge Corona / Colorist: Mat Lopes / Publisher: DC Comics / April 4, 2018
Nightwing #42 sees Robin kidnapped and it falls to Nightwing to save him. With martial arts driven set pieces in Japan, starring ‘demons’ and a dragon, this book delivers plenty of action for the reader to enjoy. However, at its heart, this is a book about brothers. Having recently marathoned through the Nightwing: Rebirth series I can safely say that one does not need to be caught up to appreciate this issue, as this is a self contained story.
Nightwing #42 opens with a Japanese symbol that translates as ‘Beginning’. This literary technique is used throughout the issue, giving it a chapter book feel. This theme is enforced by the opening line of “Let me tell you a story”, and then it delivers exactly that, a story. A tale told by an unknown narrator. The narration echoes like a legend of old, one about a warrior in search for his kidnapped brother. The narrative plays out like an old school Bruce Lee movie. The issue begins with a man in a suit walking into the bar, the camera tightening in on the character, until his face is revealed as Dick Grayson in the last panel.
Dick looks bad-ass in a business suit with his Nightwing mask on. The following scenes feel like they could come straight out of Kill Bill (one of my favorite movies) or any classic Kung-Fu movie. It is a story of one man versus an “unstoppable” gang of martial art gangsters. This issue is enhanced by our narrator describing the mythology of this gang of “demons”, and how after tonight there would be a new myth for them to tell.
When the fights end, Dick is the last man standing and discovers a secret door at the back of the bar. Grayson, in true Bruce Lee fashion, ascends the tower. This is a commonly used story telling device, but not common for the Nightwing/Bat-Family. The artwork, while originally off putting after reading other entries in the series, matches the tone and action of this book perfectly. It reaches its peak as Nightwing ascends the tower, which is based on the 3 kanji or concepts of the Kabuki gang that holds Damien hostage. This is where the artwork and coloring shine. Each of the 3 Kanji are unique both to the book and to themselves. It would be hard to pick a favorite of the 3 designs. The art kicks it up a notch during the final battle, where the fewest words are spoken. It is the coloring that really brings these sequences together, with the backgrounds and tones reflecting what is happening. The lettering is appropriate in every scene and never takes me out of the action because of a misplaced BOOM or KAPOW. If anything, the lettering draws the reader that much deeper into these beautifully drawn fight scenes. My only complaint, and I say this having no artistic talent myself, is Dick Grayson’s face. It is inconsistent throughout the book; sometimes he looks badass and sometimes he just looks awkward.
Nightwing #42 shows a self-awareness of where its source material comes from. The books have several meta jokes around the nature of Kung-Fu films, but also includes Westernized humor and references to figures like basketball MVP, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. As the fights plays out we feel the admiration the narrator has for Nightwing. The Narrator describes how each of the legendary warriors guarding the tower levels underestimate the challenging “warrior.” The story climaxes as one might imagine, with a final boss fight and the appearance of the long-lost brother.
While not the most original of backdrops, this issue takes a well-tested format and improves upon it by adding in the Nightwing mythology. We eventually learn the true voice of the Narrator (although it’s easy to guess) and when that happens the whole issue takes on a new meaning of brotherly love. The final scene of this issue is truly heart-warming and shows Damian in a very different and often unseen light. That is what Nightwing #42 does best, building on the emotion of the relationship between Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne.
As a fan of Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin, which had Dick Grayson as Batman with Damian as his Robin, it makes me happy to see that relationship is both retained and expanded upon in Nightwing Rebirth. Every time I read Dick and Damian in a scene together, it makes me smile. Years of development have allowed that relationship to grow and become one of the best in the Bat-Family. With unique artwork to compliment a heartwarming story, alongside a fresh change of scenery, Nightwing #42 is a great read.
Verdict: 4 out of 5