I was definitely looking forward to this issue of NIGHTWING because of the appearance of Lady Shiva. Shiva is, hands down, one of my all-time favorite Batman villains and characters, in general. However, the most recent portrayals of her character left much to be desired, so I was skeptical (yet hopeful) that she would be well presented in this issue. Needless to say, Lady Shiva doesn't really make much of an appearance in this issue of NIGHTWING at all. She appears towards the end of the issue, but is the main topic of discussion and of Nightwing's search throughout most of the comic. DeFalco plays her character up a lot in the dialogue; making sure that more than one character in the issue stresses how great of a hand -to- hand combatant she is -- even though we don't see a lot of it. I think that's good to a certain extent because it prepares the reader for the inevitable fight in the following issue; but there's something to be said for being shown that a character is good at something rather than told they excel at that one thing repeatedly.
DeFalco references events that have happened in DC comics in the past year. He brings back the "E.M.P. mask" we saw Dick utilize in BATMAN #1, and we see him do some investigative work in a very "Matches Mallone" sort of way. Presenting the character's "detective skills" is a digression from the acrobatic Dick Grayson, but adds versatility to the character. It shows the reader that Grayson is good at a lot of different things, not just one thing.
I really like the art in this issue a lot, I thought it was really well done. Although penciler Andres Guinaldo doesn't take a lot of liberties and doesn't get too creative with the structure and layout of the panels, it's still really pretty and well done. The inking and colors don't weigh down the pencils, either, and give the issue a lot of movement and flexibility.
I really don't know who thought it would be a good idea to make Lady Shiva look like Shredder from the Ninja Turtles, but this has really got to change. I know this has nothing to do with the creative team on this issue and that it's strictly an editorial decision, but I don't know why anyone would want to change Shiva's costume from what it was in HUSH.
This issue could have been better than it was. First, it didn't feel like it had a distinct direction and it jumped around a lot. We saw Nightwing go from one place to another, in search of something. Initially, his only clue into the situation was that it was a quiet night; but you would think that he would need more of an incentive to go into "detective mode." It just struck me as bizarre that every villain in the city was better informed than Nightwing about Lady Shiva's return to Gotham. Pre 'New 52' Lady Shiva always had an incentive for killing. She didn't simply massacre people for the sake of massacring them, but how much of her character is the same in this new universe? I think it would have been more interesting if DeFalco had established Shiva's motives for being in Gotham in this issue, and had put Nightwing on her trail based on her motives. It would have been better to focus on why the character is in Gotham rather than simply that the character is in Gotham.
There were scenes that started, but ended abruptly. The scene where Sonia Branch arranges a meeting with Dick Grayson, for example, doesn't seem to serve much of a purpose at all. The scene that follows it with Dick and Barbara is similar. What purpose does it serve other than to establish a rift in the relationship between the two characters, and imply that Barbara is unprepared to fight the Joker? Additionally, a lot of the language in this scene feels like it's "Pre New 52." The way Barbara says "why bother? We both know how this ends" is a good example of that. There was a lot of Barbara feeling like she could not count on Dick Grayson in their pre- New 52 appearances when Barbara was Oracle. This sentiment resurfaces here, leaving the reader with the impression that the characters have a deeper history than they actually do; even though much of it has been wiped away.
Overall, this issue feels like it has a lot of dead ends. We see one scene, and then see it come to an abrupt end and serve virtually no purpose. The motivation behind Lady Shiva's appearance in Gotham is not even hinted at, which makes this feel strange. It's as though you could switch in anyone in Batman's rogue's gallery for Shiva, which is kind of disappointing. The relationship between Dick and Barbara as well as Dick and Sonia is bizarre. Dick alluding to Batman's relationship with Catwoman and comparing it to his relationship with Sonia felt a bit off too. I think the important thing to remember is that Dick Grayson is not Batman, and DC doesn't need to make him Batman to make him interesting. Do something new with his character that hasn't been done before; don't dwell so much on Batman's history. Don't let Dick ride on Batman's coat tails, so to speak.
This issue of NIGHTWING left something to be desired. It could have been better organized, and could have been more clear in the motives of the characters. The issue features some really pretty art, though, which was good. Hopefully the next issue is more clear in its storytelling.