Nightwing #4:
A Darker Shade of Justice

by Chuck Dixon, Scott McDaniel
(DC Comics, 2001)

If every issue about Nightwing showed our hero slugging it out with some costumed lowlife, the series would get dull pretty fast. So A Darker Shade of Justice, the fourth collection in the series, includes a few major benchmarks in Dick Grayson's career.

In Bat-chronology, the book begins shortly after a cataclysmic earthquake devastated Gotham, the federal government closed the city down and a flood of refugees swamped Bludhaven, where Nightwing hangs his mask. The first chapter of this adventure features a surprise visit by Superman who, rebuffed by Batman at assisting in Gotham, offers to lend a quick hand here. This one-shot issue is a throwaway, entirely unnecessary in continuity, and yet it's a fun issue nonetheless.

The story from there develops rapidly, as Grayson joins the police academy (so he can fight crime by night and day), a pair of traveling French acrobats makes Bludhaven their personal playground, and a misguided hero wannabe dubbed Nite-Wing begins making his move on the city. If that wasn't enough, Batman summons Dick back home to Gotham to deal with a crisis at Blackgate Prison, where both the inmates and the guards are equally to fear.

And then, just to get things even juicier, a sick and injured Nightwing comes calling at Barbara Gordon's door and, amidst their fumbling steps toward romance, a cadre of ex-cop gangsters try to storm her fortress.

Chuck Dixon has always been the perfect writer for current and former Robins, and in A Darker Shade of Justice he gives us a character who is comfortable standing alone, no longer in the shadow of his Bat-mentor. Scott McDaniel isn't my favorite artist, but I must say his jumbled, chaotically detailed art here expresses a kinetic energy perfect for Dixon's script.

by Tom Knapp
3 February 2007

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