Nightwing aim to help improve Bludhaven for everyone that lives there hit a major roadblock as Blockbuster sent two villains to attack a homeless town filled with kids. With some help from Tim Drake as Robin and Barbara Gordon as Oracle Nightwing was able to overcome the odds. But just as things looked as though they would turn out okay Bludhaven’s newest villain in Heartless showed up. Heartless made an immediate statement as a fire engulfing the homeless town in flames. How will Nightwing handle Heartless and save the homeless kids? Let’s find out with Nightwing #81.
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Bruno Redondo
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At Bludhaven City Hall Melinda Zucco is sworn in as the new Mayor of the city.
Afterwards she goes to a meeting with Blockbuster and other major Bludhaven power players. Blockbuster asks Melinda what her plan is now that she is Mayor of Bludhaven. Melinda answers that she aims to make them all wealthier and have their power go beyond Bludhaven City.
Back at the homeless town Nightwing defends some kids from Heartless. Heartless surprisingly lets the kids go so they can get away from the fire.
Heartless then fires their laser gun at Nightwing. Nightwing easily dodges the laser and throws one of his escrima’s at Heartless. Heartless catches the escrima and surprises Nightwing with a quick uppercut. Nightwing quickly recovers while realizing that Heartless has enhanced strength and speed. With this knowledge Nightwing uses his experience and fighting abilities to keep Heartless at bay.
As there fight isn’t getting anywhere Heartless decides to blow up the pier that Robin was leading all the homeless kids to in order to get away from the fire.
Nightwing immediately goes to warn Robin. The warning comes just in time so Robin, Harley, and the homeless kids avoid Heartless explosion.
With no way out Nightwing calls for all available ships in the area to help. Several ships (which are named after past creators who worked on Nightwing’s series such as Devin Grayson, Tim Seeley, Dan Jurgens) show up and save the kids. As that happens Nightwing passes out.
Dick Grayson suddenly wakes up back at his apartment. Barbara Gordon tells Dick that he passed out because his brain is still recovering from being shot in the head and Heartless uppercut during their fight reaggravated his injuries.
After learnignthat the kids got away safely Barbara reveals to Dick that Melinda Zucco (daughter of Tony Zucco from his first marriage) is the new Mayor of Bludhaven. Tim Drake goes on to mention that Melinda was raised by the Maroni Crime Family since she was eight years old. Barbara then shows Dick and Tim the FBI records for Melinda which have almost all been redacted.
Understanding that things got even harder for his goal of protecting Bludhaven with Melinda Zucco, Blockbuster, the Maroni Family, and other criminals running things in the city. Dick thinks of paying Melinda a visit as Nightwing. Barbara and Tim are quick to say that is a bad idea since Dick has not fully recovered yet.
Later that night Dick tries to get some rest but is unable to sleep. He instead decides to go out as Nightwing and find Melinda.
As Nightwing reaches Melinda’s place Oracle calls him, knowing that he went out after she warned him not to. Nightwing says he is going to do things quietly.
As Nightwing enters Melinda’s place Oracle spots someone hiding in the left corner from the cameras in Nightwing’s mask. She warns Nightwing in time for him to dodge the attack from Melinda’s guard. As he attempts to fight back Nightwing’s head injury catches up to him and is knocked down the stairs. Melinda then appears and knocks him out with a bat.
Nightwing then wakes up tied to a chair with his mask taken off. Melinda is shown to be the one to have taken his mask and immediately recognizes him as Dick Grayson.
Dick uses his rage to break free and yells about knowing about Melinda being Tony Zucco’s daughter who was raised by the Maroni Family. Melinda says that Dick has it all wrong. Melinda then reveals that her father is actually John Grayson and is Dick’s long-lost sister. End of issue.
The Good: Nightwing #81 delivers everything you want from a comic book. We get the big action set piece involving Nightwing vs Heartless. Then we have many emotional story beats centered around the current state of Bludhaven from multiple levels.
Opening Nightwing #81 with Melinda Zucco being sworn in as Mayor of Bludhaven was a strong way to set the tone of expect the unexpected with this issue. Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo get you completely in on how Melinda Zucco is on the villain side of things. Seeing her with Blockbuster and other crime families set-up how we aren’t supposed to like her. Even when she says she does not want Bludhaven to burn she is promising Blockbuster and other of the city’s elite that their wealth and power will increase under her reign as Mayor.
Where Melinda is positioned in this story was further driven home with the conversation that Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, and Tim Drake have about her backstory. Learning that she is Tony Zucco’s daughter from his first marriage and was raised by the Maroni Family firmly entrenched her in the Batman mythos. These two details along with her redacted FBI files puts into question what her motivation and endgame is now that she has been placed in an even higher position of power.
Which all worked well to make the ending of Nightwing #81 with Melinda revealing that her father is actually John Grayson hit as a major surprise. In that moment you were in the same state of shock as Dick Grayson was when learning he possibly has a long-lost sister he knew nothing of. You are immediately left wondering what exactly this previously unknown history of the Grayson Family. We already know that the Grayson Family are connected to the Court Of Owls. Now there is this other possible connection that could make Dick’s own backstory with Tony Zucco killing his parent have an even deeper personal conflict. It all makes you want to read the next issue of Nightwing right away.
Along the way Taylor and Redondo did a great job getting over how motivated Dick Grayson is to save Bludhaven as Nightwing. The fight with Heartless showed that even when he knew how outmatched in powers he was Nightwing was still able to use his superior skills and experience to keep up. It is a good way of showing how Nightwing has trained for a long time to recognize and adjust his fighting style to take on people with superpowers. We see that with how Nightwing keeps his cool when realizing Heartless has some form of super strength.
At the same time, Nightwing does not let the fight consume his thoughts as he quickly goes to save Robin and the kids when Heartless reveals the bombs he planted at the pier. This is where we see how at his core Dick Grayson believes the best in others as he called out for any ships in the area to rescue the kids from the fire. Being proven right by showing us various ships answering his call for help was a great way to show that Bludhaven is a place with a lot of good people there. By doing this Taylor is able to show the reader that Bludhaven is worth Nightwing’s time in saving from Blockbuster and other crime boss control.
With all of this going on Taylor does a good job using the continuity of Dick Grayson’s brain injury after being shot in the head as something that is still impacting the character. Showing that Nightwing is still not fully recovered from his brain injury adds something to be on the look out as Dick possibly needs to change up his fighting style moving forward. This is a much better way of handling the storyline of Nightwing being shot in the head. It gives that story greater importance as there are lasting effects to Nightwing while exploring how Dick Grayson adjust to his current situation in and out of costume.
Another standout from Nightwing #81 is how Taylor once again shows off Dick’s dynamic with other Batman Family members. The conversations between Dick, Tim, and Barbara all have a natural flow to them that get you immersed in their conversation. There is a tone of all three seeing each other as equals as they talk about the situation with Heartless and Melinda Zucco. This gives greater weight to the concern both Barbara and Tim show when they tell Dick to rest before going out as Nightwing to confront Melinda. It gets over how close they are.
This scene between the three also works to establish some of the similarities that Dick shares with Bruce Wayne. It shows how Dick shares Bruce’s stubbornness when it comes to fighting through injuries and not allowing others to stop him from things he sets his mind to. Especially with Nightwing #78 previously establishing how Dick and Bruce have different approaches to being superheroes it is good to also show that there is this influence in the character as well. It all goes to build on how there is a lot of history for Dick Grayson’s character as Bruce, Alfred, Barbara, and others are all important in what kind of person he has become as an adult.
Bruno Redondo once again knocks it out of the park with his artwork. Redondo nails the agility based fighting style that Nightwing utilizes during the fight with Heartless. The emotion packed during the non-action scenes all enhanced the dialogue heavy scenes so the entire story reaches new heights. Redondo also once again delivers some stunning framing of how he captures the flow of certain scenes, such as the fight on the staircase between Nightwing and Melinda Zucco’s guard.
Adriano Lucas deserves just as much credit for the success of Redondo’s artwork. Lucas coloring for the fire during first half of Nightwng #81 was particularly stunning. It got over the intensity of the flames, adding to how desperate of a situation Nightwing and Robin were in as they tried to save all the kids.
The Bad: Nothing.
Overall: Tom Taylor, Bruno Redondo, and Adriano Lucas further cement how they are delivering the best comic book DC Comics is publishing with Nightwing #81. From beginning to end you are fully invested in everything that is going down in Bludhaven. From Nightwing taking on Heartless while trying to save kids from a massive fire to the Melinda Zucco big reveal, this is a can’t miss comic book.
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