Review: Nightwing Vol. 3: The Battle for Bludhaven's Heart hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

If perhaps I still have a sense Tom Taylor is going easy on the Nightwing Dick Grayson character, Nightwing Vol. 3: The Battle for Bludhaven’s Heart does at least bring some things to a head before Dark Crisis. In Battle, Taylor improves on creating a sense of danger for the characters than he did with Nightwing Vol. 2: Get Grayson, but like that book, most of that danger comes to naught.

At the end of this volume, things are just about perfect for the grown-up Boy Wonder. I’m interested to see how, or if, Taylor can complicate that going into the book’s second act.

[Review contains spoilers]

In Nightwing’s original conflict with Blockbuster, under the pen of Chuck Dixon and then Devin Grayson, it took 93 issues before Blockbuster learned Nightwing’s secret identity, beat him severely, threatened to kill everyone Nightwing knew, and then Nightwing stepped aside while the vigilante Tarantula killed Blockbuster. It’s striking to realize we’re about 93 issues in again, though the similarities couldn’t be more different, so to speak — here, Blockbuster learns Nightwing’s secret identity and threatens to kill everyone he knows, but Nightwing defeats the gargantuan Blockbuster easily in hand-to-hand combat and readies to turn him over to the police. (Blockbuster escapes and, unbeknownst to Nightwing, is killed by rival villain Heartless.)

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

I’m taken in particular by the similarity between Blockbuster’s threat against Nightwing’s family in Devin Grayson’s controversial issue and the threat in Taylor’s. Is Taylor’s an intentional attempt to retell Grayson’s story with a different outcome? Does Grayson’s story need to be retold without various problematic aspects, or would Taylor be better served with a wholly new villain and scenario? Granted Superman fights Lex Luthor on the regular and the same with Batman and the Joker, but Nightwing versus Blockbuster again for the first time (like Catwoman versus Black Mask) begins to feel like the only Nightwing story writers can tell.

Notably here, again, Nightwing about kicks Blockbuster’s rear without breaking a sweat. Between Dick Grayson becoming an overnight billionaire, dating Batgirl Barbara Gordon, all assassination attempts against him failing, beating both KGBeast and vaunted killer La Agente Funebre, and now being physically able to handle Blockbuster, I wonder if Taylor’s conception of Nightwing isn’t overinflated. Nightwing is a character assuredly coming off a string of bad luck, and neither did I want him to undergo the tragedy of losing new half-sister Melinda Zucco when it seemed like Taylor was going there, but four volumes in and it still doesn’t seem like Taylor is doing much to tax the character.

Maybe that’ll change next time around when I expect Nightwing must finally turn to the threat behind the threat, Heartless. That’s also the promise of Nightwing versus an original villain, though there’s enough indication that Nightwing has tangled with Heartless before that I’m also wondering which of Nightwing’s old foes Heartless might be. Heartless has got a butler, a raft of electronic ports on his arm (USB-A, it seems, for data, though I’m curious what the HDMI does), he’s as strong as Blockbuster, and needs stolen hearts to survive — is this Raptor upgraded, perhaps? A Court of Owls Talon of one sort or another? I’m eager for Taylor’s mystery to be actually solveable, but I’d also be sorry to see him reusing another established Nightwing foe.

I am always glad to see Maggie Sawyer (and Dan Turpin! I think it’s been since Final Crisis), but following the trend, Sawyer is always who shows up when the Bat-family police forces need a revamp. Though, again, I adore Sawyer and I especially like that Taylor brings current all her recent continuity right away — engagement to Batwoman Kate Kane and etc. — this too seems like quite the boon for Nightwing; we know Sawyer and Turpin aren’t going to be selling secrets to villains and the like. At this point the real tension in this run for me page after page is seeing whether Taylor will trouble Nightwing at all or if things will just continue to go Nightwing’s way.

That includes Dick and Barbara’s relationship. Despite this book’s lack of angst (which wouldn’t bother me except when taken to this extreme), Taylor’s Nightwing is perfectly in character, has great crimefighting toys, and the dialogue is bunches of fun, as in the awkward moments after Dick accidentally lets an “I love you” slip out.

But Taylor having Barbara call them Dick and Babs “forever” — with a very serious-looking panel of Bab’s eyes as drawn by Bruno Redondo — is a gauntlet thrown; under another writer, that would be a signal of the calm before the storm, but I’m inclined to think Taylor actually means it! That’s just tempting fate that the main Bat-book or some other DC crossover is going to need Barbara shunted to another dimension or something, something where this can’t possibly last. But under “no tears Taylor,” the most unlikely thing of all — a happy ending — might actually be what we get.

Redondo has done great work on this title consistently, but I was particularly impressed with a Robin flashback in the beginning where his art took on Jim Aparo vibes. Credit too to backup artist Geraldo Borges, whose outsized Blockbuster fills up the page to emphasize how gigantic he is.

With Nightwing Vol. 3: The Battle for Bludhaven’s Heart on the books, we’re getting awfully close to my reading Dark Crisis, and then I should be reading the fourth Nightwing volume, which takes place around Dark Crisis, shortly thereafter. Will Nightwing be at all perturbed by anything that happens around him? Tune in next time to find out.

[Includes original and variant covers, character sketches]

Rating 2.5


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