The bad news is that the regular story is delayed once more by a Batman Family crossover, Fear State. The good news is that writer Tom Taylor takes those Gotham lemons and makes remarkably tasty lemonade. The great news is that while regular penciller Bruno Redondo is absent – likely getting ahead on the ongoing arc, which resumes with #87 – Robbi Rodriguez is back, alongside regular colour artist Adriano Lucas, with more excellent visuals.
Nightwing has been called to Gotham by Oracle. But not really. Someone going by ‘Seer’, posing as Barbara Gordon’s AI avatar, has tricked him into turning up in a city that’s no longer a labyrinth of dark streets. The city is lit by dazzling searchlights and camera drones follow citizens, intruding on their every moment. Privacy has gone, and the real Oracle is having an epiphany.
On arrival in Gotham, Nightwing survived an attack by enforcers working for the Magistrate, who’s currently ruling the area – or something, I dived off the Batman books (again!) a few months back when it became apparent yet another sprawling ‘epic’ was kicking off.
Anyway, Dick and the true Babs are suited up and ready to take down Oracle’s corrupted network, which means crossing the bright-as-day city to get to a back-up base. Someone, though, is a little overprotective.
Getting to ‘Oracle 2’ involves another run-in with the Magistrate’s troops, giving Rodriguez a chance to go all Batman ‘66 on a 21st-century fight scene.
I love how Rodriguez makes Batgirl, always one of the sunnier members of the Batman Family, a dread creature of the night, infrared lenses burning through the shadows summoned by Nightwing’s smoke bomb. And Dick also looks great, tossing his truncheon around the page.
The least interesting part of the issue is a sequence in which Dick and Babs are hit by Scarecrow gas – while it opens with a killer splash page, we all know how these moments go.
But look, we get some Tim Drake, which is always good. And Dick and Babs share a nice moment before the final page resolve to hit Seer where she lives.
The story also features a brief flashback of young Robin and Batgirl, and a tease for an upcoming issue of Batman, which I shall ignore.
While I’m not interested in current goings on in Gotham, it’s good to see Taylor continuing the Dick/Babs relationship he’s been spotlighting in regular issues of Nightwing. Heck, given that Babs is narrating, I’m pegging this as a stealth Batgirl issue guest starring Nightwing rather than a Nightwing issue with added Batgirl. However we look at it, it’s an entertaining, great-looking book. It’s especially interesting to see how Rodriguez draws Babs in the latest Batgirl outfit – like an actual human being wearing actual fabrics.
The business about Oracle having spy cameras everywhere – is that new? When I was reading Birds of Prey, Babs was all about finding the information that was already out there, more quickly and effectively than anyone else, not playing Big Brother. If she really has become such a benignly sinister presence, the shock of the Seer is exactly what she needs.
I can’t say enough good things about colourist Lucas, whose understanding of light and colour lifts every page. The approach is different to Lucas’s work with Redondo, but the partnership with Rodriguez is equally pleasing. Wes Abbott also employs colour alongside his armoury of fonts to give characters unique ‘voices’, and it works wonderfully well.
Redondo shows he’s also a bit of a colour whizz with a terrific cover illustration, ensuring we won’t forget him while he’s not on interiors.
All I’m all, Nightwing #85 is probably the best Fear State tie-in we could hope for, serving the event while concentrating on the characters we love.