Review by Frank Plowright
The compacted final chapter of Back to Blüdhaven saw Tim Seeley move Dick Grayson/Nightwing’s life onward considerably. He’s now established in Blüdhaven and has a relationship going with Shawn Tsang. In a nice touch, she was once a costumed villain he apprehended when Robin. Unfortunately, few writers make the effort to establish such a likeable character and a relationship that progresses nicely without it being the set-up for the friend in dire circumstances scenario. Seeley’s no exception.
Overlook that awkward entry point into the title story and Nightwing Must Die at first continues as solid superhero entertainment. Seeley introduces a good mystery via a foe who’s a form of Nightwing copy, leading to someone even more dangerous, and uses people created for Grant Morrison’s memorable Batman run to introduce increasingly sinister and dangerous events. Robin guest stars throughout the title story, Seeley providing a good version of his single minded and provocative character.
Javier Fernández, artist of the first volume of this revived Nightwing series is back for the five part title story, and brings his strengths and weaknesses with him. He’s good at setting a gritty mood, certainly suitable here, and the occasional page design will come across as startling, but too many others lack anything other than the figures, often with some strange expressions. This is very much highlighted by Minkyu Yung’s contributions to the same chapters. He’s far more intuitive at conveying the emotional tension.
At the halfway point Seeley’s story slips into a form of Grant Morrison homage, but whatever Seeley’s considerable strengths as a writer, imitating Morrison’s dissociative style doesn’t number among them. The hallucinogenic results tie into the continuing theme of what differentiates Nightwing from Batman, but it’s overworked and by the time it reaches an ending where the terrifying villain near collapses in fear of something coming that’s far worse than they are, disappointment prevails. It’s increased by an ending that may result in a neat visual device, but makes no sense, and a coda in which Seeley takes an eraser to the emotional key that’s dragged us through ‘Nightwing Must Die’. The disappointment has now increased to ‘very’.
This is underlined by the book’s closer, a solid effort from guest writer Michael McMillan and Christian Duce. It’s a buddy story as Wally West drops by to deal with a creative new villain who sets interesting problems. Yes, it’s a gimmick, but it’s more enjoyable than much of the content by the regular writer, and how often is that applicable to a fill-in? Blockbuster is next, alternatively combined with Nightwing Must Die as Nightwing: Rebirth Deluxe Edition 2.