Nightwing #1 and 2
By Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows
Dick Grayson is a real divisive character in comicdom. The former Boy Wonder, he ran around in short pants with Batman for ages, the iconic shell that boy readers could imagine themselves in. A puckish and nimble lad, Grayson was fearless but also laughed in the face of danger as his mentor grimly stared into the dark void of death. It was a nice mix unless you preferred Batman to be a loner in which case the kid in the little fairie boots had to go.
In the 1980′s, Marv Wolfman and George Perez led Dick Grayson on a path of adulthood (already begun in the back pages of Detective Comics where he fought crime solo). As team leader of the New Teen Titans, Grayson showed that he was every bit as clever and brave as his teacher the Batman and just as resourceful. Pitted against unholy demons and killers from space, this Robin was no slouch, but he still cut a boy-like figure in his uniform. It was time for a change. Redubbed Nightwing, Grayson carved out his own identity free of Batman (who meanwhile took up another ward whom he got killed in the Middle East… but that’s another story).
Nightwing was an older hero, but still young enough to appeal to readers who may feel alienated by a rich billionaire playboy with deep traumatic pain to overcome. His costume adjusted over the years and he even got his own ‘beat,’ Blüdhaven. His acrobatic skills aided him in his fight against street crime, but there were other plans for the former boy wonder… deadly ones.
Editor in Chief Dan DiDio disliked Nightwing, feeling him to be neither Batman nor Robin and therefore having no real character thread. Outraged, Marv Wolfman talked him out of killing Grayson in the pages of Final Crisis, though they left the killer blow in… which is awkward. With a new lease on life, several attempts were made to prove DiDio wrong and show that Nightwing was his own man. The results were mixed and in many cases far too forced.
After the death of Bruce Wayne, Grayson took on the mantle of the Batman and tried his best to live up to his guardian’s teachings. The result was surprisingly successful, earning the accolades of readers and creators alike. Of course it was always meant to be a limited affair, and in the end Nightwing returned… awkwardly… to his old uniform.
That condensed history lessen should serve to show that there is a lot of history to this character and a lot riding on the success of this series. Nightwing has consistently been a fan favorite character and under certain creators, sold lots of comics. It can be done. The newest iteration had to show how cool and slick Nightwing is without forcing it down the reader’s throats. Personally, I think they did quite well.
Grayson is a tricky character to write because he is hardly brooding and scarred but he’s also not wise-cracking like Spider-Man. He’s a mellow medium of sorts; complicated but free-spirited and cocksure. In the first issue, Kyle Higgins and Eddie Barrows show that his time as Batman has honed his crime fighting skills to a razor’s edge, making him a far more formidable combatant. Fluidly leaping from building to elevated train, he moves like an animated image more than a person, something that makes Nightwing very unique.
The one major drawback for me as a reader is that the story is juvenile. Discovering that a brutal serial killer is on the loose (this is at least the fourth of the new 52 books that involves this plot), Grayson disturbingly treats it like a puzzle. The aloofness of his demeanor is rather bizarre and off-setting and I don’t think that it’s intentional. After finding a torn apart boy, Nightwing retires to his loft where he cools down and eats cereal from the box (like a regular guy). He thinks about how Haley’s Circus is back in town, and wonders if he can stand a visit. It is, after all, his old home and the setting of the murder of his parents.
Walking along the streets, he is assaulted by an assassin with the unlikely name Saiko and… this is the weirdest part… takes time to duck down an alley and change into his costume. This is key because while Dick is getting his domino mask on strait, Saiko is slaughtering policemen. It’s just childlike to think that he had to change into another outfit and that it hid his real identity in any way. Saiko is a dimestore killer with extendable claws (ala Daken or Wolverine or whoever) and the two fight uneventfully.
The seconds issue develops more of Dick visiting the circus and reconnecting with an old flame. It’s touching stuff and hints that this series may indeed have legs if it can rise above the child-like antics of silly costumes and tough-guy-talking killers. I still don’t understand why Nightwing needs an alter-ego. It’s not like he has any kind of double life, he just insists on fighting crime in his special outfit.
I often think of superheroes walking along the street and seeing someone in peril but unable to act because people may know why they really are. It’s an old-fashioned conceit that Marvel Comics wisely ditched and I see no reason why DC can’t follow suit.
For all of its flaws, the writing is decent in that it avoids re-treading old ideas or providing exposition and instead allows Nightwing to grown in his own way and show the reader who he is rather than telling us. I will say that the real treat for me is the artwork by Eddy Barrows. The cityscapes, circus tents are well defined and the fight sequences are positively riveting. Nightwing is not like Batman who fights his battles like a warrior/soldier. Grayson is more of a fluid mover, striking his opponent as if they are both unwilling dancers on a weird battle ground.
This may not be the Nightwing book that many have been waiting for, but I think it shows great promise that given time it will blossom into a worthy Bat-family title.
Nightwing #1 sold out but can be purchased at local comic shops in second printing or online at Comixolgy.