Nightwing has been one of the more consistent comic in the DC Rebirth era. Tim Seeley carried what he, along with Tom King, did in Grayson to a run that added a lot to Dick Grayson’s character. Though it did not end in the most ideal final story there was a lot to love about Seeley’s run on Nightwing. Now we are getting a fresh new creative team as Sam Humphries and Bernard Chang have taken over with the previous issue, Nightwing #35. Right out of the gate Humphries has turned Bludhaven’s government and police department against Nightwing. It is all thanks to a brand new character entering the scene, named the Judge. With the city now against him how will Nightwing respond? Let’s find out with Nightwing #36.
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Bernard Chang
Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: The Judge surprises Mayor Madrigal in his office to make a deal.
Elsewhere Nightwing is falling after being shot by Detective Svoboda off the Bludhaven Police Department HQ.
At the harbor Guppy is pushed out of a deal with the crew he was part of.
Nightwing is able to recover and continues his investigation with an injured shoulder. He goes to St. Jude’s Monastery where there are dozens of dead monks. Nightwing finds the last monk alive and quickly questions his connection to the Judge. The monk reveals that the Judge was one of them, going by the name Learned Hand, but doesn’t get anything else.
Back at the mayor’s office the Judge reveals he was able to befriend those close to Madrigal to get into his office. Though Mayor Madrigal demands him to leave the Judge says he is there to reveal all the corruption going on with the casinos, how he has been robbing the school district blind and doesn’t want to be mayor anymore.
At the Tiki District Nightwing spends the rest of the night looking for answers on who the Judge is, fighting various gangs. Nightwing eventually learns that the Judge quickly became friends with the mayor’s driver.
At the mayor’s office Madrigal admits that the casino owners stopped paying the 10% they agreed to pay to the school district when the government allowed them to operate in Bludhaven. Eventually it got so bad that the casino owners blackmailed Madrigal by placing him on the Silencer’s radar. The Judge says that Mayor Madrigal will have to confess everything he just said.
Guppy gets back to his place and apologizes for not getting his dad’s meds but promises to get them the next day.
On the roof of a casino the mayor’s chief of staff jumps off but is saved by Nightwing. When Nightwing questions why she jumped off she tells him let Judge in after being told to go home but was hiding when she heard a gunshot from the mayor’s office.
Nightwing quickly goes to the mayor’s office only to find Madrigal already dead.
In the morning Dick Grayson has Alfred tell him how to patch up his shoulder but doesn’t talk about his investigation
When Dick meets his class a breaking report comes over the TV about the federal government shutting down Bludhaven’s casinos for the foreseeable future due to Mayor Madrigal’s secrets.
Elsewhere the Judge gleefully stands by tree with lights swirling around him. End of issue.
The Good: Nightwing #36 is a big improvement over the first issue with Sam Humphries beginning to get over the Judge as a villain. Getting over the threat that the Judge posses Nightwing and Bludhaven made him have an even deadlier aura than him just going out and killing people. Unfortunately there were a few things that did keep Nightwing #36 back from reaching its full potential.
When it comes to getting tone Humphries nails it in Nightwing #36. Humphries gets over how Bludhaven has a inner darkness that is covered up by all the bright lights of the casinos provide. It is those same bright casino lights that cause the greatest darkness to consume Bludhaven. Combining the power the casinos have over the city with the corruption within both the government and police makes everything that happens in Bludhaven harder for Nightwing to operate, much like Batman in his early days in Gotham City.
Presenting the Judge as the person responsible for bringing out all of this corruption by the casinos and government works perfectly to further his own schemes. In his own way the Judge is one big disruptive force that thrives under chaos. Each time we see him on screen we see how much delight he gets from obtaining the power to persuade others to do what he wants. He did that by befriending all of Mayor Madrigal’s employees and then getting the mayor to admit all of his corruption.
The scenes with the Judge and Mayor Madrigal were especially interesting as it went all in on explaining how Bludhaven has been able to operate as a Las Vegas-type city. Seeing that explanation further built up how dark and corrupted the city is. And given how the Judge was able to get all the information he wanted from everyone Humphries made you want to figure out exactly what the villain’s plot is.
All of this goes to further the idea that Nightwing has only scratched the surface Bludhaven’s corruption in his short time living in the city. While the Judge is opening the door to all the corruption there is still a lot of work Nightwing may not even know he has to help make the city a better place for its citizens to live. Now things are only going to get more difficult as he is not only is he going up against the local government and police department but also the federal government. Given his reaction to all of this you can see that Nightwing does feel that he is going to have climb over a large mountain in order to stop the Judge from accomplishing his dastardly plot.
While that is going to definitely be a difficult task for Nightwing it won’t be impossible. Humphries did a good job throughout Nightwing #36 showing how our hero will power through any obstacle. The hurt shoulder was used to good effect as it showed how tough Nightwing has gotten. Much like his mentor, Batman, Nightwing won’t simply go down from a gunshot wound. Instead he will use it to further motivate himself to get things over with quickly, which turned him to act in a more aggressive, straightforward method than we normally see from Nightwing.
Bernard Chang artwork is best when he is able to draw Bludhaven as the background for scenes. Chang does a good job making Bludhaven have a Las Vegas-feel with how different districts work while maintaining the neon of the casinos. At the same time, he delivers on how there is a feeling of a dark, slimy side to the city that everyone but Nightwing and select others avoid paying attention.
The Bad: Where Nightwing #36 falls short is in giving further developing the supporting cast of this series. After how much Tim Seeley did to develop a supporting cast in the Run-Offs and others in Bludhaven for Nightwing they are all non-existant here. Even the new associates Dick Grayson have at his gym felt like throwaway characters. And because Dick’s gym is a new place introduced by Humphries in the first issue of his run it is easy to forget all of these characters and think of them as nameless people.
This lack of development for the supporting cast especially hurt Detective Svoboda, who after having a big character moment in shooting Nightwing off the Bludhaven Police HQ, was barely in Nightwing #36. Not only did Detective Svoboda have a limited appearance but she had zero lines in this issue. Not having any sort of presence lessen her action of shooting Nightwing after they had built a somewhat beneficial relationship in Seeley’s run. By not being more involved in the story made it made it seem as though Nightwing was shot by just a random cop.
Giving Detective Svoboda such a limited presence also hurt how the Judge brought up the corruption going on in Bludhaven. Seeing how the corruption also extended to the police department, giving reason for Svoboda sudden turn on Nightwing, would’ve elevated the story Humphries was telling. But by missing this story beat the federal government suddenly appearing at the end didn’t have the impact it should have.
All of these problems with the supporting cast could’ve easily been solved by taking out the sub-plot involving Guppy. Though it is easy to see what Humphries wants to accomplish with the sub-plot it is so disconnected from everything going on in Nightwing #36 that it felt unnecessary. There was just to big of a random feeling to Guppy’s sub-plot made it become overshadowed by what is going on in the city with Bludhaven’s corruption. Instead the time dedicated to Guppy would’ve been better served in spotlighting Detective Svoboda or Nightwing’s new supporting cast.
Chang’s artwork, though having its strong moments, does not fit the darker elements of this story. There needs to be more of a gritty feel to what is going on to get over how Nightwing was fighting hurt and Judge got in everyone’s head. Chang’s artwork just does not have that as he uses too much gloss in his character designs to make even scenes that should have limited light feel like they are well lit. Not matching the tone made it a bit difficult to get over how serious things got for every character in this issue.
Overall: Nightwing #36 has a lot going for it as Sam Humphries furthers the war for Bludhaven between Nightwing and the Judge. In this issue we get to see how the new villain of Bludhaven caused a massive disruption in the city and bring even more chaos to the city. As interesting as all that is the lack of development in everyone outside of Nightwing and the Judge kept the story from reaching its full potential. Hopefully future issues in this arc will find a better way to manage its page count for all the characters involved.