Review: Nightwing Vol. 6: The Untouchable trade paperback (DC Comics)

Nightwing is going through some changes right now. New regular writer Benjamin Percy, fresh from Green Arrow, departed after a couple of issues, replaced with Scott Lobdell. What I've been hearing about that run hasn't been glowing, though a recent interview I saw with Lobdell suggested his run was knowingly temporary, too. Apparently Eric Esquivel was supposed to follow, but DC has nixed that even before officially announcing it. Preface to all of that yet-unresolved uncertainty is Nightwing Vol. 6: The Untouchable, collecting an apparent guest-arc by Sam Humphries and Bernard Chang, plus a pair of one-off issues.

Humphries work has been hit-or-miss for me on Green Lanterns, but I liked very much his seven-part Nightwing story, which delves well into the Rebirth Nightwing's past and also does some smart world-building for the Rebirth Bludhaven. There's little knowledge required of what's taken place so far in the Rebirth Nightwing series; indeed, given this book's length, nine chapters total, this strikes me as one of those "read on an airplane and kill an hour or so" kind of books. I have at times been impatient with these kinds of interstitial trade-length stories not written by an ongoing creative team (see Wonder Woman Vol. 5: Heart of the Amazon), but given the upheaval in the Nightwing title these days, this kind of approachable, scene-setting story might not be such a bad thing.

[Review contains spoilers]

Tim Seeley's just-completed Nightwing run did a lot of heavy lifting to return the New 52 Nightwing/Grayson to his pre-Flashpoint roots. We saw the character live in Bludhaven again, for one, and Seeley also brought back antagonist Blockbuster and a host of B-list villains from Chuck Dixon's time, though in revamped form. That said and done, Humphries builds on this wisely, largely ignoring the Dixon-inspired elements and mostly latching on to Seeley's new conception of Bludhaven as the Las Vegas of the DC Universe. As such, we get a story that, though grounded in some classic Nightwing elements, has a lot to it that's creative and fresh — the Justice Tree, Guppy, how the casinos are tied to Bludhaven's economy — making it again both interesting to long-time readers and accessible to new ones.

After Crisis on Infinite Earths, Nightwing Dick Grayson's time as Robin basically mapped to his pre-Crisis adventures, but in the uncertain Rebirth continuity (and the New 52 before it), Dick's youth was not so established. To that end, I liked for instance Hope Larson's Batgirl Vol. 3: Summer of Lies, which imagined the new first encounters of Dick and Batgirl Barbara Gordon. It's good to see similar in Untouchable; there's seeming no overarching timeline nor continuity of character (Dick, in the awful anachronistic new-classic New 52 costume, has angst akin to Jason Todd here), but still Dick-Grayson-as-Robin flashbacks are fun, especially since they got Klaus Janson to draw them. That goes too for the flashback to Nightwing's early New Teen Titans days, and even a Starfire cameo, drawn by Phil Jimenez.

Untouchable kept my interest the whole time and I consider the main story strong overall, though the weakest part for me was the book's central serial killer, the Judge. The story suggests pretty strongly watery supernatural origins for the Judge, never offering a scientific explanation for his powers of suggestion, for instance. That's the kind of foe I'm more accustomed to facing off against Batwoman Kate Kane (as in the similarly aquatic-themed Batwoman Vol. 1: Hydrology) than Nightwing, and I might've been happier with a more concrete mystery for Nightwing to solve. The moment Nightwing wrestles an octopus is the time this story jumped the proverbial shark for me, though fortunately that's close to the end.

The book ends with a story each by Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelley and by Michael Moreci with art by fellow DC workshop graduate Minkyu Jung. Both of these, in poor coincidence, involve Nightwing coming to the rescue of Robin Damian Wayne, a relationship that's grown stale to me in general and here both times is full of the expected "I didn't need saving" kind of quips. Lanzing and Kelley's sees Nightwing fighting through warriors of Asian myth; Moreci's is a too-heartfelt, on-the-nose tale of Nightwing dismissing and then appreciating Damian and Arsenal Roy Harper. There's groan-worthy humor through both, culminating in a bizarre gag where tragically un-hip adults Dick and Roy don't know what "Netflix and chill" means but teenage Damian does. Were Untouchable a whole trade of this kind of thing, it might be skippable, but fortunately the main story is here to anchor it.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Nightwing Vol. 6: The Untouchable

Following Sam Humphries' Nightwing Vol. 6: The Untouchable, issues #35-43, is Benjamin Percy's Nightwing Vol. 7: The Bleeding Edge at the end of December 2018, issues #44-49 and the first Rebirth annual. Though Batman Vol. 8: Cold Days, which ties into Nightwing #50 and beyond, also comes out in December, the eighth volume of Nightwing — with issues by Percy and Scott Lobdell — won't be out until June 2019. That's was a three-month difference between Nightwing Vols. 6 and 7, and a six-month wait for Vol. 8. As I've said before, those early days of quick Rebirth shipping spoiled me, and how. Hopefully by the time the next-next volume of Nightwing comes out, DC will have decided a direction and creative team for the character; Humphries would have my vote if he cared to come back.

[Includes original and variant covers, character and cover sketches]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Nightwing Vol. 6: The Untouchable
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)


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