NIGHTWING #26 By Tim Seeley, Javier Fernandez, and Chris Sotomayor
NIGHTWING #26, while not as exciting as previous installments, makes up for it with a compelling emotional conflict brewing inside of Dick Grayson. It's fun to see Dick reunite with his former lover, Helena Bertinelli, while fighting Italian mobsters. The art by Javier Fernandez and Chris Sotomayor helps solidify the emotional impact of NIGHTWING #26. This marks a great start to the new "Spyral" arc!
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A Darker Shade of Grayson
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NIGHTWING #26 starts a new arc titled “Spyral.” The plot continues storylines from before Rebirth and sees the reunion between former lovers Nightwing and The Huntress. However, the main theme of NIGHTWING #26 is how heroes deal with loss and death in their lives.

NIGHTWING #26 pg. 11. Image Courtesy of DC Comics

Although NIGHTWING #26 did not have the same pull or intensity as NIGHTWING #25, I have faith in author Tim Seeley. He takes some time to build up the story and action in his arcs. Unfortunately, this makes some of the earlier issues feel slower or less impactful than later installments. While this issue felt slow, it is simply because Seeley is setting the scene with character development and story points. When all is said and done, I expect “Spyral” to be as great an arc as any in Seeley’s NIGHTWING. For now, let’s talk about what happened in this specific issue.

READ: Check out our review for NIGHTWING #25, an awesome end to the last arc!

Bird Reunion

In NIGHTWING #25,  the mysterious organization known as The Second Hand killed Brendan “Giz” Li, a member of the Run-Offs. In this issue, we find Dick reeling from the death of his friend. He blames himself for Giz’s death since Giz was investigating The Second Hand for him. This guilt draws Dick closer to the anger and fear he has tried to avoid throughout his time as Nightwing. Unlike Batman, Dick hates to embrace darkness as a hero. But now we find him struggling to keep his negative feelings at bay.

NIGHTWING #26 pg. 11. Image Courtesy of DC Comics

Taking advantage of Dick’s conflict, Helena Bertinelli A.K.A Huntress plays upon Dick’s grief to recruit him into a partnership he doesn’t want. Unlike what the cover of this issue will have you believe, Huntress teams up with Dick to hunt down an Italian gangster involved with her father’s and possibly Giz’s murders. Huntress, besides being a great character on her own, is a great supporting character for Dick Grayson. Whereas Barbara Gordon represents Dick’s pull towards law and order, Helena represents his darker instincts. Dick doesn’t want to use anger to pursue cruel vengeance against his enemies, but that is exactly what Helena does. In many ways, Dick’s relationship to Helena reminds me of Daredevil’s relationship with Elektra in Marvel Comics. Elektra manipulates Matt Murdock in the same way that Helena does Dick, but that doesn’t stop the mutual attraction between them.

READ: Find out more about Elektra and Daredevil in this article!

A parallel storyline in this issue is Shawn’s conflict with her former colleague The Pidgeon. The two used to commit crimes of civil disobedience to fight corruption in their cities. The Pidgeon, who is now on parole, attempts to recruit Shawn back into a life of crime. Pidgeon, like Huntress, is also manipulating her friend who is suffering from severe grief at the loss of someone close to her. We will have to see in future issues whether Nightwing and Shawn surrender to their darker instincts.

New 52 Connections

As the name would suggest, this arc sees the return of the Spyral, a covert spy agency reminiscent of James Bond’s MI6 that both Huntress and Nightwing served in before Rebirth. The return of Spyral is a clear attempt by Seeley to bridge some of his work on GRAYSON with his work on Rebirth’s NIGHTWING. In GRAYSON, Dick Grayson gave up his role as Nightwing to work for Spyral as “Agent 37” alongside Helena, who served as “Matron.” Over time Dick grew estranged from Spyral and returned to Gotham to become Nightwing once again.

I hope that Seeley will not play too much on plotlines that he set up in his GRAYSON run. While it’s great that he’s bringing back characters from his pre-Rebirth work, NIGHTWING has done a great job of appealing to new and old readers alike. So far, Seeley has written the perfect balance of referencing earlier works while creating new storylines. While I’m only slightly familiar with GRAYSON, I have been able to insinuate from NIGHTWING what I need to know to understand what is going on. As long as the plot doesn’t become too dependent on knowledge of GRAYSON, I think new readers and old readers will have fun with this arc.

Art in NIGHTWING #26

NIGHTWING #26 once again has Javier Fernandez’s pencils and Chris Sotomayor’s coloring. Although Fernandez was the artist who started the NIGHTWING run, he hasn’t worked on it since issue #20 back in May, so it’s great to see his art alongside Seeley’s writing again. His unique style is what set the trend for all issues to come. The shading he draws coupled with Sotomayor’s bright coloring reflects Dick’s struggle with his own emotions. In an extremely sensual scene, where Dick washes his body in a scorching hot shower, Fernandez and Sotomayor are able to brilliantly capture the steam fogging up and obscuring one’s vision in Dick’s bathroom. These panels cleverly capture what it actually looks like when steam clouds up a bathroom. It also serves as a metaphor for Dick’s confusion and uncertainty with his own emotions.

NIGHTWING #26 pg. 11. Image Courtesy of DC Comics

There are other sequences where the artists beautifully capture the emotion that Seeley wants the reader to feel. During the funeral scenes, the color on the page is drained out and particularly gloomy. This is in direct opposition to the bright colors when Huntress and Nightwing fight Italian gangsters. This shows us, without clearly saying it, that Dick feels more himself when he is beating up bad guys. It distracts him from dealing with his own emotions like he has to do in the shower or at the funeral. This great combination of art and story is what all comics should strive towards.

Final Thoughts

NIGHTWING #26 does a great job continuing this new saga for Dick Grayson A.K.A Nightwing. It is a darker issue where he battles with his own tumultuous emotions. This inner conflict is what makes Nightwing so compelling. It is another reason why the DCEU should put a film with him in production as soon as possible. Tim Seeley has absolutely earned my trust with the way he has written and always lands his arcs. He, along with his fantastic artists, Javier Fernandez and Chris Sotomayor, completely understand who Dick Grayson is and why we should care about him. NIGHTWING #26 continues to remind us why Nightwing is the hero we need right now.

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