Sam Humphries run on Nightwing started out with a lot of potential. Unfortunately that potential has not been tapped into. Instead we have gotten another story arc with a new generic version of the League of Assassins, in the form of League of Limousine Assassins, led by a sub-par villain in the Judge. A lot of the disappointment in this arc has been the heavy reliance on flashbacks to establish previously unknown history between Nightwing and all the new characters Humphries has introduced. The reliance on flashbacks and some odd character development choices has made the interest in this arc dwindle with each issue. Can Humphries recover and set up an intriguing end to his first Nightwing story? Let’s find out with Nightwing #40.
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Bernard Chang
Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo
Story Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 3.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Nightwing is chained up to a chair left to die in the bottom of the river. An giant squid finds Nightwing and starts squeezing the life out of Nightwing. During this the giant squid breaks the chair Nightwing was chained to. Nightwing uses this to escape before he loses all his oxygen.
Nightwing then heads over to his gym to recover. Nightwing ignores one of his clients, acting like he isn’t there so he can continue his current mission.
Once recovered Nightwing visits Lucy to confront her about working with the Judge and his whereabouts. Lucy reveals the Judge has her under his control. Nightwing convinces Lucy, using their history together, to reveal to him that the Judge is at the Silver Springs Casino.
Elsewhere the Judge prepares the final stages of his plans by showing off a bunch of bear backpacks he has gathered to his assistant, Herika.
When the Judge gets to the Silver Spring Casino, Nightwing is not far behind. Judge runs into the casino before Nightwing gets to him.
Blocke by members of by League of Limousine Assassins, Nightwing uses his bike to launch a surprise attack to enter the casino. Nightwing then proceeds to knock every member of the League of Limousine Assassins out by using his surroundings.
Nightwing then rides the elevator up to the Judge’s office on his bike. When he gets inside he finds one of the Judge’s targets, the Silver Spring Casino owner, open one of the bear backpacks. Inside the backpack is a bomb that ends up exploding, taking out the top of the Silver Spring Casino. End of issue.
The Good: Nightwing #40 does a better job at showing how, when determined, Dick Grayson is someone no one wants to mess with. While the writing for Nightwing was much better in this issue the same thing can’t be said for everyone else involved in this “Untouchable” story arc. The failure in developing the Judge and his cronies into compelling antagonist has continued to keep this arc from reaching the potential it had in the first part.
The one good thing that Sam Humphries does with this issue is his writing of Nightwing. With everyone around him in Bludhaven having betrayed him Humphries is able to show us what an angry Nightwing looks like. And as we see in Nightwing #40, that is not a person anyone wants to mess with. There was an added level of aggression to Nightwing that was on display, from his interaction with Lucy to how he brutally took down the League of Limousine Assassins with the help of his motorcycle. That drive made him ignoring everyone involved in his life as Dick Grayson even more effective as he was completely focused on taking down the Judge.
The Bad: The biggest thing that has kept “Untouchable” back as a story is the lack of connection that Humphries has created between Nightwing and everyone in Bludhaven. In an effort to make his own mark on Nightwing and Bludhaven as a city Humphries has gone about creating his own original characters. By going with this route Humphries has forced in a lot of history that feels completely manufactured between Nightwing and Bludhaven’s residents. That manufactured feel makes it harder to connect with the characters we see Nightwing interact with on an emotional level.
Nightwing acting pissed off at Lucy and demanding the Judge’s location from her is a great example of how manufactured Humphries story has been. With Lucy being a completely new character there was absolutely no surprise that she was used in the Judge’s scheme and betrayed Nightwing. The lack of surprise made it hard to feel bad that she, like the rest of the city, is being controlled by the Judge. Which is the complete opposite of how we should feel given the past interactions with Nightwing and Lucy. This all falls back on how it would’ve been much better, from a story perspective, to use a character we have seen in Nightwing’s past in this spot rather than filling it with a character with.
The lack of connection extends to Dick Grayson’s personal life. There has been so much time spent on retroactively adding to Dick’s history that Humphries forgot to make the reader care about his current personal life as a trainer running his own gym. Not having that time to previously spotlight how important Dick’s current personal and professional pursuits are made his student feeling let down not connect like it should have. There should’ve been more weight to this moment but since we didn’t see that much from this side of Dick’s life there is no surprise to what this may mean for his work life.
All of the weaknesses with the these sub-plots made how the Judge comes off as a villain even worse. Humphries has spent so much time trying to build up the Judge’s credibility in his efforts to destroy Bludhaven that it was head nodding that Humphries is writing him to be such a cartoon character. There is nothing serious to the way he talks, which makes him come off as an attempt to replicate the magic the Joker holds within the Batman Universe. But unlike the Joker, we have seen how the Judge does not have the same credibility. Since we don’t actually see how much chaos he is causing the city, beyond the casino owners, there isn’t a good sense of how threatening he is. That all could’ve been solved by showing how the Bludhaven police and citizens react to the Judge’s actions, even if it was just a page.
Further hurting how the Judge is developed is the way Humphries portrays the League of Limousine Assassins as nameless grunts. As a newly introduced organization who has an extremely similar name to the iconic League of Assassins, Humphries needed to show how this organization was different in their fighting and society disruption methods. That never happens as Nightwing has shown that he could easily take them down on his own. While that makes Nightwing look good it does just further drives home the fact that Humphries new organization is just a knock off League of Assassins that will be forgotten after this arc. And with the Judge being the leader of the League of Limousine Assassins he also gets placed in the same “throwaway villain” pile.
While I normally enjoy Bernard Chang artwork his art in Nightwing #40 was not the best. There were moments in this issue that it looked like the penceling wasn’t done as the coloring overtook the line work. This made it hard to tell where a person’s chin was and where their neck started. There was also a lot of problems with clarity during the due to how dark they tried to make certain scenes.
Overall: Nightwing #40 was another disappointing chapter in the “Untouchable” story arc. While Sam Humphries does a solid job writing a Nightwing as a hero you don’t want to mess with the same can’t be said about everyone else involved in this story arc. The execution in the development, or lack thereof, for the Judge and the new supporting cast for this series has left a lot to be desired as everyone has been portrayed as throwaway characters. Unless something big happens Humphries run on Nightwing will be as forgettable as the characters he has introduced.