Book Review – Nightwing vol. 5: The Hunt for Oracle

  • Title: Nightwing vol. 5: The Hunt for Oracle
  • Author:  Chuck Dixon
  • Artists: Greg Land, Scott McDaniel, Patrick Zircher, Butch Guice, Karl Story, Drew Geraci, Mark McKenna, Jose Marzan Jr, Bill Sienkiewicz, Hector Collard, Robert Tewes, Patricia Mulvihill, Gloria Vasquez, Shannon Blanchard, John Costanza, Albert T DeGuzman
  • Line: 1990-Era (Early Modern Age)
  • Characters: Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Huntress, Oracle, Nite-Wing, Black Canary
  • Collection Date: 2016 (reprint)
  • Collected issues: Nightwing #35-46 and Birds of Prey #20-21 (1999-2000)
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/13/2017

I really, really enjoyed this volume of Chuck Dixon’s Nightwing. The first few issues overlap with Nightwing a Darker Shade of Justice from the previous printing, but here they are presented with two issues taking place during No Man’s Land, when, in the wake of an earthquake, Gotham is abandoned. Batman sends Nightwing into Blackgate prison to get rid of the warden, Lock-up. Nightwing’s plan to go undercover is immediately uncovered and he’s dropped in a hole with a number of villains that he and Batman had previously faced and captured. Later, the hole begins to fill with water. Nightwing manages to get the villains to work together enough to blow a wall between the hole and the next chamber so the water has someplace to go. Nightwing is also captured by Lock-up again – who has discovered the rumors of his death are exaggerated. The prison is back under Batman’s control, and a broken and beaten Dick Grayson shows up at Barbara Gordon’s.

Barbara begins to care for Dick, taking care of him, when her Oracle’s nest is attacked by the GCPD. The police get closer and closer, walking in to every one of her traps. Eventually, Dick and Barbara have to escape. They are nearly caught in the parking garage but Huntress arrives to help her former Birds of Prey team-mate.

After all that, Dick decides to return to Blüdhaven. Dick returns to the police academy and graduates. He also discovers that Clancy had always wanted to go to med school but she couldn’t afford college and she was too intimidated to apply for a scholarship. Dick encourages her to apply for a WayneTech Scholarship, which she of course gets. Clancy goes to med school. But when Dick applies for a job as a police officer in Blüdhaven, he’s told he isn’t qualified. Another student, whom Dick has reason to suspect of being not that honest, gets the job instead. The corrupt chief of police makes this other “cop” his enforcer.

Meanwhile the same police chief has arrested Tad, alias Nite-Wing, but provides him with information to start taking down some of Blüdhaven’s connected criminals, mostly as a means of disrupting Blockbuster’s gang and eliminating competition. Our Nightwing notices this, and takes Nite-Wing under his wing, so to speak, to train him. Dick’s first suggestion: change your name and get a better costume. The two are captured by Blockbuster’s henchmen. Immediately separated, Blockbuster threatens torture. But the minute he leaves, his chief enforcer gets the twins threatening Nightwing out of the way and reveals himself to be a Federal agent investigating Roland (Blockbuster). Nite-Wing, meanwhile, had a ton of documentation to take down Blockbuster from the chief of police. It’s in his car, though Dick had started to FAX it to Oracle. Dick tells Cisco Blaine (the Federal agent), he will get the info while Blaine releases Nite-Wing. Tad, though, being a bit of an idiot, kills the agent, thinking he’s a henchman and enforcer for Blockbuster. Dick is really upset by this, obviously.

Blockbuster meanwhile sends his hired villains after Oracle, including Mouse and Giz.

The remainder of the book is “The Hunt for Oracle” as Blockbuster’s goons chase Black Canary and go after Oracle. Both Black Canary and Nightwing try to get to Barbara to help her. Black Canary doesn’t actually know who Oracle is – only knowing her as a voice on her comms. It’s a chase, and a good one. Not going to spoil the end.

I loved this book. The writing was both sharp and fun. Dixon’s characterization of Dick Grayson is perfect – smart, caring, loyal, and with a driving need to help others – whether that’s helping Clancy get in to med school by encouraging her to apply for a scholarship, or training Tad. The opening Blackgate/No Man’s Land sequence is full of action – as is the closing chase, but the Nightwing series shines when it focuses on characters – Dick Grayson and his friends. Even a villain like Blockbuster is given some humanity – his extraordinary size has caught-up with him and he’s facing heart trouble or a possible stroke. His private doctor even talks to Roland about a heart transplant with an artificial heart, or a heart from an animal. Blockbuster rejects the idea of a pig’s heart, but has the doctor investigate the use of ape heart from Gorilla City.

I highly, highly recommend this book and the rest of the series. It’s an enjoyable read. The book is beautifully written and the characterization is spot-on.

Update: Nightwing Vol. 5 The Hunt for Oracle features Nightwing #35-46 and Birds of Prey #20-21.

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