Review: Nightwing Vol. 7: The Bleeding Edge trade paperback (DC Comics)


After a dynamic run on Green Arrow with lots of character and heart, Nightwing would seem a sure thing for writer Benjamin Percy, a logical next step in his DC Comics career. We know, however, that Nightwing Vol. 7: The Bleeding Edge ended up being Percy's sole solo Nightwing outing, with Scott Lobdell quickly taking over in the next book. Thus this is the beginning of the Nightwing title in a quandary, what should be a solid seller for DC about to be mired in a poorly regarded amnesia storyline and wanting for a regular creative team.

Bleeding Edge seems rather good Benjamin Percy material and problematic Nightwing, if you will. The techno-terror found here is quite in line with Percy's The Dark Net novel and his Green Arrow Vol. 8: The Night Birds, among others, revisiting themes very much in Percy's wheelhouse. At the same time, Nightwing Dick Grayson is far from the Luddite protagonist Percy needs for this story, and his attempts to shoehorn Nightwing into that role ring false. Especially after we have just seen how well a writer new to this title can spin a fresh story while using what came before, the lack of much to center this specifically as a Nightwing story is glaring.

[Review contains spoilers]

What I liked about Sam Humphries' Nightwing Vol. 6: The Untouchable that preceded this was that Humphries used original Rebirth writer Tim Seeley's concept of Nightwing's Bludhaven as the Las Vegas of the DC Universe to good effect. Humphries included almost none of Seeley's supporting characters and instead invented a number of new characters ones, but they all felt cut from the Bludhaven cloth, and the story delved heavily into the politics of a city of casinos. One needed almost no knowledge of Seeley's Nightwing to enjoy the book, but for regular readers Humphries' run felt both like a continuation and something fresh.

To Percy's credit, his Nightwing set-up is not unrecognizable; there is mention made of the casinos, Dick has his personal trainer job fresh from Humphries' story, and Nightwing's police contact Lieutenant Svoboda appears. But perhaps more problematic, starting immediately with the book's opening "the technological world doesn't make sense" narrative screed, it's hard to pair Percy's Nightwing with the Dick Grayson we already know. When Dick extols the the virtues of landlines and mourns the loss of phone booths a few pages later, he sounds like the older Green Arrow than Nightwing. It feels as though Percy's interests for the story drive the characters instead of the other way around, and while that might work on a blank slate, it's more difficult with established heroes.

There's also the problem that, in the same first issue where a decidedly anti-technology Nightwing must battle a technological threat, Dick Grayson also takes on a training client with a cybernetic eye that, you guessed it, turns out to be working for the bad guys. In this way, Bleeding Edge is not particularly suspenseful or surprising. For my particular interests, at the point in which Nightwing starts fighting amorphous gray computer creatures called "the Terminals" and the evil Wyrm has the power to suck people into a supernatural cyberscape, this is less and less what I want from Nightwing versus conflicts with crime bosses like Blockbuster or assassins like Raptor.

I will say that Percy writes a very amusing Nightwing and Batgirl, in line with and even improving on his Black Canary and Green Arrow; highlights are Batgirl telling Nightwing that his clothes smell like "gym butt" and when she needles him by stocking his new headquarters with 1980s boy band albums. There's a Nightwing annual here, drawn by Percy's original Green Arrow collaborator Otto Schmidt, that sees Nightwing engaging in some funny, awkward flirting with Vicki Vale and also uses the topical ideas of technology and hacking "fake news" to good effect. I've observed before that Percy's work seems to get a lift from a good artist, and Schmidt is one of the best doing work around DC right now.

The final two issues see Nightwing encountering Silencer, something I was excited for given that it's one of the few appearances of a "New Age of Heroes" character outside their own book. The team-up is satisfying, though more than a little bizarre, since Percy sets it amidst a cosmic motorcycle race populated with weird aliens and creatures enough to make Mos Eisley jealous (drawn by Amancay Nahuelpan). Ostensibly that's no greater fit for Nightwing than sparring with computer creatures, except that the technophobia tones down enough at this point that Nightwing at least seems a little bit more like himself.

Art for the "Bleeding Edge" story is by Chris Mooneyham in what seems like his first DC work. His characters are solid and clear, but with a hint of sketchiness, somewhere between Dan Jurgens and John Romita; when Klaus Janson joins on inks, the similarity to Romita becomes more pronounced. In a function perhaps of the vagaries of the story, Mooneyham's work seems very confident when Nightwing is investigating murders, and more uncontrolled when the book veers toward robot spiders invading Nightwing's body. Otto Schmidt, again, should get the whole DC Universe to draw; his Golden Age-looking faces might suit him especially portraying Clark Kent and Lois Lane.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Nightwing Vol. 7: The Bleeding Edge

As I've mentioned, Nightwing Vol. 6: The Untouchable was the calm before the storm, and Nightwing Vol. 7: The Bleeding Edge is the storm -- inoffensive but not the strongest Nightwing story, signaling the need for a change that seems to have toppled a house of cards. The next Nightwing volume isn't scheduled out until June, so we'll leave Nightwing aside for a while now; hopefully by the time that book rolls around, DC will have a direction in place for Nightwing again.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Nightwing Vol. 7: The Bleeding Edge
Author Rating
3 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 5 )

  1. C'mon, no detail of Nahuelpan's art? The last two issues were all his.

    1. Cut for length, actually, which is why I went back and name-checked Nahuelpan in an earlier paragraph. I thought the depictions of the "alien" creatures were fine but ultimately decided I didn't have enough interesting to say in that regard. Good of you to ask though.

  2. Are you planning on reviewing the next collection? I'm morbidly curious because . . . Yikes

    1. Oh, of course. I'm curious too!

    2. Your sacrifice will become the stuff of song and legend. Or, at the very least, I'll appreciate seeing what you have to say about the dumbest move from the Bat-office this decade


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