Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Review / Commentary # 13 - Nightwing # 13: “The Hunter”

  • Writer: Tom DeFalco
  • Penciller: Andres Guinaldo
  • Inker: Mark Irwin & Raul Fernandez
  • Colorist: Rod Reis
  • Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
  • Editor: Brian Cunningham
  • Assistant Editor: Katie Kubert

Detailed Impression:
Nightwing # 13 starts off with a beautifully drawn cover by series regular penciller Eddy Barrows colored by Rod Reis. The crosshairs design perfectly illustrates the intentions of the foreground character, the assassin Lady Shiva. Shiva makes her Gotham City return this issue in her overly-designed, unrecognizable Kenneth Rocafort New52 costume first seen in issue # 0. (I'm generally a fan of Rocafort's art, but many of his New52 re-designs left me more than a little cold.) Nightwing dropping in behind Shiva looks great. He obviously plans to make her job a little more difficult despite the fact that we have no clear idea what her job actually entails.
Longtime comics creator Tom DeFalco handles the writing chores this time out, subbing in on this two issue arc for Kyle Higgins. Meanwhile, Andres Guinaldo picks up the pencilling duties in his best-looking fill-in work to date in the series. Guinaldo's panel designs retain the rectangular shape that he has used in his previous efforts. However, he mixes his layouts up far more and the images in the boxes just look better. Rod Reis' colors really help maintain the book's overall look, but for some reason he doesn't stick to the established color schemes for either Nightwing or Batgirl. Both costumes should be black with highlights, not shades of gray.
The story corresponds in time with Joker's return over in Snyder's Batman. Since Nightwing can't be allowed to exist as its own entity, Dick automatically assumes that Shiva's presence has to be connected to Joker's own. Dick also repeatedly tries to contact Bruce to ascertain whether the two are indeed connected, but to no avail.
DeFalco handles a cold interaction between Nightwing and Batgirl well. The two heroes argue over Dick following a case that doesn't directly involve Joker despite the fact that Babs can think of nothing else. DeFalco also deals with the Amusement Mile subplot nicely by continuing what Higgins had begun. He pushes forward with both the rebuilding and the “will they?/won't they?” relationship between Dick and Sonia Branch. Dick comes up against an interesting moral conundrum when he decides that he can't allow Lady Shiva to be murdered in a gangland ambush despite the fact that she is a murderer most likely in town to kill an unknown number of people. His valiant effort proves fruitless when the person he is trying to protect from harm happens to use the ambush and subsequent battle as a distraction while she accomplishes the task of killing her first target.

Overall Impression:
I dug this issue. Tom DeFalco has a pretty good grasp of all the characters' voices and motivations. His representation of Dick's skills working undercover in disguise and his instinctive desire to protect even a cold-blooded murderer like Lady Shiva shows that DeFalco knows the character pretty well. He even reminds us that Dick is a ladies' man when Sonia's assistant tries flirting with Dick only to be shut down by her boss with the implication that Sonia doesn't want her assistant infringing on her territory.
DeFalco also does an excellent job of making Shiva's presence felt throughout the issue even though she only appears in a single panel during the actual events being depicted and it's the very last panel of the issue. His one misstep might have been his allusion to her age. When Penguin says that she is rumored to be around Dick's age, he doesn't allow her much time to build her reputation as one of the world's deadliest assassins, a rep she already had when she first encountered Dick in his debut as Robin.

Guinaldo's art is far more impressive in this issue than anything else he's put forth so far in this series. I've often thought his facial work made his characters look kind of ugly. I saw none of that in these pages. He does a great job illustrating emotion and the battle sequence just looks awesome. I have previously held that Geraldo Borges did a much better job stepping in for Eddy Barrows, but Guinaldo more than held his own here, stepping his game up substantially.

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