With a mixed bag between amazing characterization, jaw-dropping in-jokes, and a somewhat questionable last page reveal, Nightwing #81 takes you on a roller coaster of emotions while introducing a new threat to the streets of Bludhaven.
Let's cover the good first. Bruno Redondo, Adriano Lucas, and Wes Abbott are turning in not just one of the best-looking books on the stands — it is stunning — but one that rewards re-reading as the tiny art gags snuck on to t-shirts and random elements are absolutely riotously funny. When there's a fight scene, to see the way it plays out as a sequence of ideas in the same image is very, very creative and clever.
Likewise, Tom Taylor's script breathes lives into the dialogue and ideas of these characters, from Nightwing's stubborn refusal to listen to the kind of smirking exasperation Barbara Gordon shows in her off-again-on-again paramour. That's all top-notch.
Given the relatively newness of the antagonist Heartless, his introduction here was pretty smooth and kept enough of his air of mystery while selling it with action and banter. That's a good choice.
The last page reveal was a little soap-opera-ish, and while it does give the mayoral side plot some legs, it does so by taking a swing at an area of Dick Grayson's life that was considered settled business. Relitigating areas like that is rarely a good idea, but this team has pulled off miracles before, so let's see if future issues show this as a masterstroke.
This is an example of all-around solid comics that are being done at a high level of quality with only the teensiest head-scratching idea to throw it off. RATING: HONORABLE MENTION.
By Tom Taylor, Bruno Redondo
Dick Grayson trades out his escrima sticks for a magnifying glass and a sleuth hat to investigate Bludhaven's new mayor, Melinda Zucco, and find out how the daughter of the man who murdered Dick's parents came to power in Nightwing's city. But his investigative adventure is cut short when he comes face to face with the most horrendous villain in the history of Bludhaven — HEARTLESS.