The hearts of both Dick Grayson and the city of Blüdhaven get explored in Nightwing #78. Serving as a soft reset after 'Future State,' Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo take a look at the core of who Grayson is and use that as a foundation for the issue. This makes for a welcoming issue for new readers as well as a nice interlude for those who have been following Grayson's journey for the long haul.
Written by Tom Taylor
Art by Bruno Redondo and Adriano Lucas
Letters by Wes Abbott
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Nightwing #78 opens in flashback as a young Barbara Gordon tries to stop a group of older bullies from beating up another kid. Her attempts initially fail, but she gets an assist from Dick Grayson. Adriano Lucas colors Grayson's coat a golden yellow that immediately stands out from the bullies and the snow on the ground. It's a great way to visually identify the hero without putting him in costume or in colors that evoke either Robin or Nightwing.
Bruce Redondo's line-art is really solid, especially the human figures. The poses are typically very naturalistic, but Redondo doesn't shy away from more dynamic blocking. An early example of this is in a wide panel where Dick is leaping in the air at the bullies like a wrestler flying off the top rope. It's not an action that makes a ton of sense from a realism perspective, but it sells Dick's righteous fury and bravery to have him literally leaping into action. Tom Taylor's dialogue between Babs and Dick is a bit of fun, as readers get to see these characters before Barbara was Batgirl and before either of them would really know the legendary heroes they'd ultimately become.
When Grayson returns home to Wayne manner, there's a nice scene between Dick and Alfred where Grayson apologizes for getting into a fight with the bullies. Alfred reassures Dick, "It takes a different hero to help without a mask."
This line takes the reader from the prologue and sets up the main issue as Dick, now the adult superhero Nightwing, leaps into action in the city of Blüdhaven. But the fight he currently has on his hands isn't against murderers or thieves, but a bunch of frat boys throwing rocks at a scared puppy. It's the type of crime that really highlights the level of depravity in the city. Letterer Wes Abbott has the laughter and jeers of the college kids fill the entire panel when the puppy is hurt, encapsulating their cruelty. While the use of a literal puppy as a victim feels a bit emotionally manipulative, the fact that Nightwing feels compelled to act helps sell the moral tenets that Dick lives by and foreshadows a decision made by Alfred at the end of the issue. But it also shows off Blüdhaven's character.
Elsewhere, the villain Blockbuster meets with Blüdhaven's mayor. It's the kind of meeting you see villains have, where the power structure changes or, rather, is really established. But while the meeting is a bit rote in structure, it's visually tense. Lucas uses rustic oranges for the meeting that gives the scene a grungier look compared to the rest of the issue. And there's a really cool panel that's embedded within the sound effect lettering as Blockbuster kills someone, with the lettering serving as a convenient border that sells the effect of the violence whilst cutting out the overtly graphic nature of what Blockbuster does.
By focusing on Dick as a man, Nightwing #78 avoids a lot of pitfalls that appear at the start of story arcs. There isn't a huge focus on worldbuilding or establishing a large supporting cast. While some of the story beats are a bit simplistic, the way they're used to reveal the characters to the reader works really well. Nightwing #78 ends with new possibilities for both Grayson and the criminals of Blüdhaven, both of which are sure to be explored in stories to come.
Get inside the head of the man behind this new Dick Grayson run with our interview with Tom Taylor on Nightwing.