Nightwing has been taken by the Judge. As the Judge chides Nightwing for his continued failures in apprehending him, we are shown the second encounter between the two years ago before Dick Grayson officially became Nightwing.
It still would have been preferable we had been given these flashbacks sooner. It does nothing for the story at this point beyond dropping in a random myth with which the Judge is connected. In fact, the Judge is a character that needs as little supernatural connection as possible. It takes a lot out of this character to have him supernaturally powerful. This could have been a Purple Man who is naturally that good at getting in people's heads. This seemed to go out the window with the revelation that his eyes were stitched shut in the previous issue, and it s further lost in this issue. This doesn't ruin the character completely, as there are still interesting and unnerving elements to the Judge. It's just that some potential was lost.
Ironically, even Nightwing seems unwilling to believe that the Judge is a metahuman. He's also confused that the Judge recognizes him from the previous engagement told of in this comic. This is odd given that Dick wears the original Nightwing costume in the flashback.
The flashback itself is dark and traumatizing enough to justify Dick's hatred of the Judge. This issue is far from bad despite the convoluted revelations about this antagonist.
Like the last flashback issue, Jamal Campbell and another classic artist, this time Phil Jimenez. Campbell is a good interim artist to compliment Bernard Chang's work in the other issues, as both have a sleek aesthetic. Jimenez's work well-detailed and has some of the trimmings that harken back to the days of comics past. Both Campbell and Jimenez put in great work here, and Matt Santorelli's inkwork supports Jimenez well. Alex Sinclair provides some high-contrast and eye-catching color art in the Jimenez sections, and Campbell's color art is as sleek as his pencil and inkwork.
While it arguably overcomplicates the story of the Judge, Nightwing #39 is another solid entry in this series. The artists put in some great work, and Sam Humphries keeps the Judge creepy and compelling despite the backstory. This one gets a recommendation. Check it out.
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