Nightwing 76 is the final nail in the coffin for Ric Grayson (thankfully) and is a safe penultimate issue before all DC titles go on a two-month hiatus due to both Endless Winter and Future State. Writer Dan Jurgens works with artist Ronan Cliquet and colorist Nick Filardi to close this chapter in Dick Grayson’s life. This is an overall safe issue for Jurgens, in which he can do what he does best: show what defines a hero concerning the character he’s writing but is also one where his hands were clearly tied on certain aspects. Meanwhile, Cliquet can shine a little more without sharing artist duties and has full reins of the interiors.
The issue opens with a bit of a flashback to what happened to Dick, which although repetitive, leads into the present day most fluidly. While the readers are probably tired of hearing what’s happened to Dick, Dick is far more tired of it. And when Dick Grayson gets angry, oh wow does he get angry. The best part about this is when he’s angry, it isn’t blind rage. No, no, no, Dick turns his anger into a calculated attack that will always result in a beat down. When the KGBeast shot Dick, he could’ve killed him. If the bullet was only a millimeter off, dead. Now, he holds a gun to Dick’s girlfriend’s head. Yeah, I’d be mad too.
The fight between Dick and the KGBeast is one of the best fights for Nightwing. Jurgens is a phenomenal writer who can encapsulate all that makes Dick different from Batman and still be one of the most important heroes. Nightwing is a hero who embodies leadership, skill and calculated strength. He’s both inspiring and terrifying. Unlike how other writers portray Dick, as some quippy idiot who acts off of his heart, Jurgens sees Dick for who he is. Being Nightwing is who he is, it’s not a “job” it’s, to quote the issue itself, “A mission, [his] calling.”
An important note to take is Dick is just as terrifying as Batman to criminals, but he goes above and beyond. Like Alfred said in Detective Comics, he’s a hero forged in the light. Nightwing is the embodiment of what Batman should be, but never will be. However, as the issue progresses, we see that as much as he tries to be different than Bruce, he still was trained and raised by him. It’s only natural he picks up certain habits and mindsets of Bruce’s. Mindsets such as breaking free from the abyss of solidarity don’t work for anyone like them.
Up until this point, Nightwing 76 felt like the most Nightwing-like issue in a long time. Jurgens used every page to define and showcase Dick’s greatest strengths and importance. The issue almost felt like an apology from Jurgens, as if to say “I didn’t do this to him. I see his importance. I can write to him the way he should be.” Which is true. Nightwing 76 encapsulated Dick’s leadership, quick thinking, skill, finesse, and emotions perfectly. For about 18 pages.
This is where Jurgens’ strengths are put on hold for what seems to be an editorial decision. It goes without saying there is a rule at DC that unrealistically prohibits Bat-Characters from experiencing long-term happiness. It’s a taboo that seems to be a consistent theme at DC, whether it be Bruce and Selina in Batman, Jason, and Artemis in Red Hood, or Dick and Bea. The last month has been breakup after breakup for the Bat-Family. It’ll be interesting to see if this is a direct result of Future State pausing the titles, and presumably new creative teams being introduced, or if this is just another example of the norm for DC.
Outside of the writing, Ronan Cliquet’s art was perfect for this issue. Although the way he draw’s faces can be a little sharp sometimes, his art is extraordinarily expressive. Nick Filardi adds to the emotions of this book with his detailed colors. Filardi compliments Cliquet’s art and adds another layer of depth and emotion to the issue. Together, these two deliver a passionate issue that has grit, heartbreak, and intensity.
Overall, Nightwing 76 is a strong issue that showcases what Jurgens does best by reminding readers what makes Nightwing so powerful. This message is furthered by an artistic pair that can connect with readers and connect with them on a strong emotional level. Its weakness comes through DC’s overall line of thinking and simplistic mindset about relationships.