Nightwing finally found his way to Bludhaven for the first time following the New 52 reboot that erased the continuity created by Infinite Crisis. Unlike the Bludhaven that was similar to Gotham City has been transformed with a Las Vegas/Atlantic City-vibe. This makes Bludhaven a completely new city for Nightwing to explore as he is trying to finally set roots down. With how the previous issue went things the move won’t be the smoothest for the former Boy Wonder. Let’s see if things get easier with Nightwing #11.
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Marcus To
Colorist: Chris Sotomayor
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Some time ago Batman and Robin (Dick Grayson) lead Lieutenant Gordon to a warehouse with various stolen Gotham City artifacts inside, all of which have been tagged. Outside the warehouse the GCPD are arresting The Pigeon and The Defacer, who are responsible for the stolen artifacts.
Robin wonders what is going to happen to The Defacer. Batman says that since she is a minor she’ll get a reduced sentence with no jail time. Robin feels bad for The Defacer as she just ended up with a bad mentor.
In the present Nightwing is getting yelled at by Shawn Tseng, who is wearing The Defacer costume, at The Haven Community Center for breaking in. Nightwing can’t believe how things ended up screwed personal life already clashing with his superhero life. Shawn tells Nightwing he is messing everything up for the Run-Offs, something that confuses him.
Suddenly Stallion, another villain Dick Grayson stopped during his Robin days, tackles Nightwing from behind. Nightwing quickly recovers and tosses Stallion against a wall.
Shawn calms Stallion, whose real name is Randy, down and reminds him of everything he has done to change himself.
Shawn reveals that the Run-Offs are a group of people who moved to Bludhaven to get away from Batman and other heroes in order to change their lives.
Jimmy Nice enters the office with Thrill Devil, Mouse and Giz, all former villains Nightwing stopped when he was Robin. The former villains all show their fear for Nightwing. Shawn tells Nightwing he can’t do anything good there.
As Nightwing leaves out the window Jimmy catches him outside. Jimmy says that Nighwing can help the Run-Offs, as he already did by scaring them to become good people, by showing them that someone is fighting for them. Jimmy explains that one of the Run-Offs, named Grace, has been seduced to join the Whale’s Enders gang.
Nightwing isn’t sure he wants to get himself wrapped up in this situation. Jimmy reveals that the Run-Offs group has help him from going down a dark path.
Nightwing agrees to help but in exchange he wants information on Gorilla Grimm’s case. Jimmy tells Nightwing that Grimm had problems with relapsing to his old ways and that he’s been to Meadowdale Mall.
Dick Grayson goes to Meadowdale Mall, an illegal street market cops turn away from as it keeps criminal activity away from the boardwalk. Dick is able to get some information from a woman named Jane. She tells Dick that Grimm used to pay her to play out King Kong type scenarios.
Later that night Nighwing heads over to shipping area Jane says Grimm was known to be at. Inside Redhorn International Shipping, Nightwing looks for clues on if Grimm was responsible for Paulie Paterno’s death. While investigating Nightwing finds some visitor information that seems to point to Grimm being framed.
The next day over at the Bludhaven Convention and Tourism Bureau, Cherry wakes Simon up to show him her newest campaign for the city. She shows him a billboard with Nightwing’s image promoting a safer Bludhaven.
Nightwing finally gets back to his apartment and gets some rest after a full night of running his investigation. Dick thinks he still needs to figure out who he is and maybe he needs someone to talk to.
Later that day the Run-Offs are holding another one of their sessions where Thrill Devil (Juan-Andres) reveals that he sometimes thinks about going back to his old life when driving but that it would hurt their group and himself. Shawn thanks Juan for sharing and that this was a good session after what happened the previous night.
After Shawn sees the rest of the Run-Offs off for the night Nightwing appears. Nightwing admits he has a lot of similarities to the Run-Offs with all the monsters and things he has seen lately. He goes on to say he wants to help Grimm prove he is innocent and maybe the Run-Offs can help him.
Shawn admits to noticing that Nightwing had the look of wondering what things would be like if they met under different circumstances.
Before things can go anywhere some cops arrive to arrest Shawn. The cops tell Nightwing that Shawn is wanted for murder. As she is being put into a cop car, Shawn tells Nightwing she knows he’ll figure out the truth.
One of the cops tells Nightwing to go back to Gotham City, as Bludhaven’s problems are the job for cops not an ad campaign. Nightwing then sees a billboard with his image on it.
Elsewhere, the Whale’s Enders gang watches the reports of Shawn being arrested. One of the members says they have to show Nightwing it isn’t safe to be in Bludhaven. He says he is glad Grace, whose villain identity is The Orca, is on their side. End of issue.
The Good: Since beginning his run on Nightwing solo, Tim Seeley has shown to have a great understanding of Dick Grayson in and out of his Nightwing costume. Much like his mentor Dick is not someone that is able to just live in one life. Both his personal and superhero lives run together in conjunction. Nightwing #11 is a great example of this.
One of the things that I was worried about after Nightwing #10 was how quickly Tim Seeley was showing us how Dick Grayson’s attempt at a personal life would bleed into his life as Nightwing. The reveal of Shawn Tseng having a villainous past looked to be too coincidental to happen right away. It’s a move that as a reader you know could only happen in a comic book, or other forms of entertainment, for story purposes.
Luckily Seeley found a way to make this reveal to be more than it seemed. Instead of just making Shawn someone that Dick will have to eventually arrest Seeley turned it around to give both characters depth. For Dick this revelation is something that once again shows how he needs to figure out who is. This also gives him a reason to interact with the Run-Offs group outside his Nightwing costume. Because as Nightwing he can’t get any of the help he is looking for but as Dick Grayson he can figure things out.
Having Shawn as the voice for all the former villains looking to reform was also a great choice. Seeley was careful enough not to make her sound like a jerk towards Nightwing. Instead she comes off as someone that has been able to accept who she was and that she is making her life better. And while it is been able to move on from her past as The Defacer there are still things about that previous life that’s hard to come to terms. These little choices make her a much more layered character than if she would’ve fallen into either camp.
Similarly, while we don’t get a lot of time with the other reformed villains, Seeley was able to give us a good idea of their individual backstories. Having each of these characters have a past in not only Gotham City but also with the original Dynamic Duo is all the information we need. It is also a reminder that not all Batman villains go on to be Two-Face or Penguin, who are constantly around. The Batman Family’s nightly work does actually affect those they fight, just some more than others.
All of this character work helped to amplify the importance of Nightwing’s first case in Bludhaven. It’s clear that something is going on that’s causing the cops to turn on Gorilla Grimm and Shawn. Having the cops be their own challenge for Nightwing to overcome makes this mystery much more interesting. Because we know Nightwing could go on and solve this case on his own but to have to fight the police is its own hill to overcome.
Nightwing #11 does a great job in making the divide between Nightwing and the cops even bigger with the marketing campaign created around Bludhaven’s new hero. The cops were already shown to dislike Nightwing for simply being a costumed vigilante. Now the city’s government is using Nightwing as a political cash grab and making it clear that it’s him not the cops that makes the city safe now. How Nightwing, a guy who was trained and has worked in the shadows for years, reacts to this type of attention creates another angle for Seeley to explore in future issues.
For his part, Marcus To once again provided some excellent artwork. Though he isn’t given any actions sequences to draw To is able to give Bludhaven its own unique design. Bludhaven has a seediness to it that feels different from Gotham City, one of which is run by individuals rather than gangs. The design for the characters that are part of the Run-offs was also well-executed. Each of the costumes had their own personality while giving a clear D-list villain quality to them.
The Bad: While I have no problem with Nightwing and Shawn starting to form a bond it is too predictable that they would instantly grow attracted to one another. For one, having Shawn fall express attraction to Nightwing rather than Dick Grayson makes the relationship instantly doom for failure. It goes against what Seeley wants to establish Bludhaven for Dick as his home HQ, both personally and professionally.
The way they express it as well is problematic. It draws on the ever predictable soap opera concept that in another life Dick and Shawn would end up together. This also draws to many similarities Bruce’s relationship with Selina. If Seeley is going to establish Dick’s personal life there needs to be some relationships that he makes that do not involve or at least originate from his superhero life.
Overall: Nightwing #11 was a strong world building issue. Tim Seeley once again shows off his understand of who Nightwing is in and out of his costume. The backstory the Run-Offs receive work well in complementing why Nightwing moved to Bludhaven in the first place. Seeley also creates enough obstacles for Nightwing to overcome that make his first case in his new city interesting to follow. As long as Seeley can find a way to balance the personal and superhero life Dick Grayson leads, this series will only be getting better moving forward.