NIGHTWING #39 intertwines the past and the present with stunning visuals and an outstanding storyline. You can't miss this awesome issue!
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NIGHTWING #39 flashbacks to Dick Grayson’s second encounter with the Judge and reveals the serial killer’s true identity, as well as the origin of his powers of manipulation. Sam Humphries expertly weaves the memories of both the hero and villain into this long-awaited confrontation. Warning, there are spoilers below!

The Story Of NIGHTWING #39

This issue opens with Nightwing trapped in the Judge’s clutches. He recalls a time in his life, years ago, when he stepped away from Gotham and his vigilante persona. Not yet Nightwing, Dick Grayson was attending college trying to to find himself. During his school days, a classmate, under the Judge’s influence, murders three students on campus. Unable to ignore the need to investigate, he dons a mask once again and puts his detective skills to work. Grayson locates the Judge trying to coerce another victim, but the criminal narrowly escapes his grasp, disappearing into the ocean. Feeling defeated, he calls his ex-girlfriend Kory, (a.k.a. Starfire), and she comforts him, telling him he should forgive himself for his failures.

The Judge Controls Blüdhaven in NIGHTWING #38

Back in the present, the Judge reveals his identity as Jacob de Witt, the first Judge of Bludhaven. During the 1600’s, he was thrown into the ocean by a spiteful aristocrat and left to drown. He didn’t die, however, and was resurrected and returned to the city decades later. The serial killer fell into a seemingly endless cycle of returning to the sea and being brought back to life. After the Judge tells his tale, he leaves Nightwing tied up in rising sea water, on the verge of drowning.

Dick’s Flashback

NIGHTWING #39 page 4. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The flashback part of the story primarily focuses on Dick Grayson before he became Nightwing. Discovering who he is, apart from being Batman’s sidekick and a Teen Titan, is the focal point of his memory. When he detaches himself from his friends and his life in Gotham, the grief from the loss of his parents and the end of a romantic relationship settles within him. He soon realizes he can’t ignore his old habits of being a detective and a masked vigilante. His hero life doesn’t define him, but it’s a part of him. It’s really great to see a character figure that out for himself. We see his character grow and develop as he evolves into a new identity.

The Origin Of The Judge

At first, his story seemed to come out of left field for me. The Judge being a notable figure of the colonial era felt random. His claims of being immortal definitely need further explanation. As I kept reading, the fact that the Judge was a witness to centuries worth of corruption in Blüdhaven made his story slightly more interesting. It means the Judge has haunted Blüdhaven for generations, targeting those who are corrupt and dishonest. However, I still have trouble believing the ocean, without some magical force of some kind, is the reason the Judge has existed for so long and has his powers of manipulation.

NIGHTWING Essential Reading List

Amazing Art

Hats off to Phil Jimenez, Matt Santorelli, and Jamal Campbell for some stunning visuals in this issue. I enjoyed how the art style is different during the flashbacks and in the present. There’s a page with golden poker chips, the Judge’s calling card, and remnants of Grayson’s past falling and it’s absolutely mesmerizing. From an awesome action scene to the historical display of the Judge’s backstory, the art style really pulls the reader back in time with the main characters.

NIGHTWING #39 page 6. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Closing Arguments

Sam Humphries does an excellent job at intertwining the backstories of both Nightwing and the Judge into the main plotline of the issue. The artists Phil Jimenez, Matt Santorelli, and Jamal Campbell create a real distinction between the past and the present with their awesome visuals. NIGHTWING #39 really dives into the pasts of these characters and shows the events that led up to this epic confrontation.

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