SUNDAY SLUGFEST: Nightwing #1

A comic review article by: The Firing Squad
Dick Grayson isn't Batman before, but he definitely was Batman at some point. Which means things could have been confusing for Catwoman not too long ago. Also, apparently Baraka from Mortal Kombat is the bad guy in this issue but without the creepy shark teeth and bald head, or something. BONUS: This issue ends with yet another line that could be turned into a Wicker Man reference with its promise of "Next: Everything Burns"



Michael Deeley:
Rafael Gaitan:
Kyle Garret:
Chris Kiser:





Michael Deeley:


This comic's so good, there's not much I can say about it.

I mean, everything you'd want in a good first issue is right here. Dick Grayson thinks back on his time as Batman and how it's changed him, (and hasn't changed him). His old circus is in town bringing back painful memories. We see him fight two villains; one he easily defeats, the other nearly kills him. We get a look into his personal life. And the art is great. The characters are natural, the action is well-blocked, and their movements are fluid. It looks great and reads great.



Another nice element is how it ties into another comic without calling attention to it. Batman #1 ended with the implication that Grayson had killed somebody. Here, the mystery villain says Grayson is a killer, "and he doesn't even know it." There's no mention of Batman #1. You wouldn't know about it unless you'd read that comic or heard it from somebody else. This might set up a crossover between the two titles, or maybe they'll just tell the same story from different perspectives. I'm just glad we don't get a crossover along with the reboot. (I mean, in addition to that Purple Woman.)

There are a lot of little moments that helped bring this comic to life. Like the circus clown complaining about wearing a costume similar to The Joker's. This comes right after Grayson thinking of how Gotham will corrupt the circus like it's corrupted everything else. Grayson's meeting with a childhood friend hints at a personal history just with an awkward look and the sentence, "Well it's…kind of a long story." I find myself interested in these people and their lives, and I've only just met them. And that's "people," not "characters".



Nightwing is a solid comic book. Compelling characters, great art and little hints that keep catching your eye. I'm tempted to keep reading.


Michael Deeley is proudly serving in the US Air Force while inoculating his fellow airmen with his liberal views. He's currently struggling to balance a life that includes family, career advancement, video games, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 in addition to comic books. He currently buys only three monthly series: Irredeemable, Incorruptible and Dark Horse Presents. The rest are minis, specials, trades and back issues.



Rafael Gaitan:

I miss Dick Grayson as Batman. I was never a fan of Nightwing. Scott Snyder's run on Detective Comics was a phenomenal place to explore that character, and some of Grant Morrison's best Batman stories have come about with young Grayson wearing the mantle. I'd grown accustomed to his face, one could say, when he removed the cape and cowl and now in the New 52 he's back as Nightwing. This is most assuredly one of the books I followed due to talent, because Kyle Higgins was phenomenal on Batman: Gates of Gotham and Eddy Barrows is a fabulous artist who was wasted on middling crap like Straczynski's "Grounded " story, so it's great to see him back in action on something that a) was worth my time and b) came out in a timely fashion.

Higgins pulled off the impossible in this issue: he made me care about Nightwing. Having not been a fan of the Teen Titans and less than enthused by Chuck Dixon and Scott McDaniel's 90s run, very little could stir me from my apathy for the character… but something about him taking up the Bat made for fascinating storytelling. Higgins captures that voice perfectly, opening the comic with first-person narration from Dick, including him addressing his time as Gotham's Batman, which helps ground the story's place in the new universe- it's one of the softer reboots, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Higgins absolutely nails Grayson's headspace and physicality, concocting exciting two page spreads that show a flair for comics language: As Dick runs through the city, he jumps on a train headed the opposite direction, and then the narrative follows suit across the next line, placing his dialogue/ captions from right to left, and again one row down when he changes directions. It's a smart little piece of writing that is expertly rendered by Barrows. His art is clean and expressive, but most importantly it has a real sense of motion and position, never losing an ounce of steam. Higgins and Barrows lead the eye exactly the way they want it.



Higgins' best move in the book is showing us more of Dick Grayson than normal. If ever there was a character with an identity crisis, it'd be him- he's worn two of the most famous costumes in comics, and even forged out on his own with a third. While other writers have capably handled the effects of that on Dick, Higgins gets a handle for his life outside of crime fighting. We see him have a twinge of heartache when he sees his old circus is back in town, and that twinge is only amplified when he visits and meets an old flame. It's a scene that would be a bit cliché in every other comic, but Higgins gives Grayson charm and confidence- of course he's fluttering about on the inside, but he maintains his external cool. When you've faced down death your whole life, girls probably get a little easier to handle.


If I had to register a complaint, it would be the excess first-person narration. At times it becomes a bit too self-referential and attempts for humor, but ultimately it just acts as filler. Higgins and Barrows have demonstrated an ability to show, not tell, so it's disappointing to see that take a backseat to exposition. Perhaps it was done as an attempt to soften new readers into the comics, but it lacks proper finesse.



Also the necessity of having a big new villain in the #1s is a common trend that works when it works and doesn't when it doesn't… and in Nightwing it misses. As a street level superhero, Higgins hits every mark, and the action sequence of the chase between Nightwing and the villain has some great Frank Miller era Daredevil "speed ghosts," but it feels too artificial, too inserted while the rest of the issue keeps a good clip. We've already seen Dick in action early in the issue, including a boss moment where he beats the hell out of an assailant and the blood pattern on his chest forms the Nightwing emblem – do we really need to see him get his ass kicked by some dude with blades on his forearms? (Yes, but right this second?)

With Nightwing #1 Higgins and Barrows have put together a fairly good, if problematic, title. What's good is great, but the missteps are a bit big. I'm willing to chalk it up to "relaunch rush" and I'm convinced that there's more waiting to be told. I have a sneaking suspicion that Higgins might be trying to turn Nightwing into DC's Daredevil (street level hero, acrobatic prowess, bad luck with women, a club as a primary weapon) and some of the structuring of this issue leads me to believe that if Higgins can work out these kinks (and I think he can,) he might just pull it off.


Rafael Gaitan was born in 1985, but he belongs to the '70s. He is a big fan of onomatopoeia, being profane and spelling words right on the first try. Rafael has a hilariously infrequent blog and writes love letters to inanimate objects as well as tweets of whiskey and the mysteries of the heart at @bearsurprise. He ain't got time to bleed.



Kyle Garret:


Dick Grayson could very well be one of the best characters in comics. He might actually be a better character than Bruce Wayne.

I don't mean that Nightwing is a better character than Batman. Batman is, in my opinion, the greatest comic book character of all time. But Dick Grayson is unique to comics, in that he is a result of the stories; he's the ultimate comic book creation. The iconic characters like Batman and Superman filled a void in comics, but Dick Grayson is a byproduct of the superhero genre.

I say all this because Dick Grayson, more so than almost any other comic book character, has a specific voice. It is this voice that makes his adventures unique. Let's face facts, he's just another night-themed vigilante on paper, but what sets him apart is who he is. It's his character that makes Dick Grayson great.



Kyle D. Higgins knows Dick Grayson, and it's Higgins' grasp of Dick's character that makes this issue, despite a fairly by the numbers story.

I was really bitter when it was announced that Dick Grayson was stepping down as Batman and going back to being Nightwing. I loved the Dick Grayson Batman, particularly when partnered with Damien as Robin. It was an incredibly fresh take on the Dynamic Duo and one which I wish still existed. I viewed Dick's stepping into Bruce's role as an evolution for the character, and stepping down would be stepping back.

But the narration at the start of this issue reminded me of another issue of Nightwing, one that I have not yet been able to place (so if you know, please tell me!). It's also narrated by Dick. He's teamed up with Tim Drake, at the time the current Robin. During the issue, Dick points out that someday Tim will be Batman, because Tim wants to be Batman. He's a superhero by choice, and the end of his path is taking on Bruce Wayne's role. But Dick also points out that such a future isn't for him. He has no desire to be Batman. For him, being Robin wasn't like being an understudy; it was just the life that fate had dealt him.

The fact that Higgins was able to get me on board with Dick Grayson becoming Nightwing again speaks to his handling of the character and, really, was enough to win me over.



As I said, the rest of the issue is fairly by the numbers: opening fight, open ended plot point, mysterious bad guy. And it would have gotten a lower rating from me if not for the narration. My hope is that the requirements imposed on the creative team for the first issue of a continuity heavy book made this book pedestrian, but that such requirements will disappear over the next few months.

The art from Eddie Barrows doesn't hurt, either. I feel like Barrows has gotten a raw deal since his rise to prominence at DC during 52, but I've always been a fan. His work is dark, yet still vibrant, with hints of Alan Davis and Dave Ross. I'm looking forward to seeing how his art evolves, too, now that he's on a regular, monthly book.

While not a spectacular debt, the first issue of Nightwing addressed my concerns about Dick Grayson's future, and managed to set up at least one new interesting dynamic. I'm looking forward to seeing what we get after this.


Kyle Garret is the author of I Pray Hardest When I'm Being Shot At," available now from Hellgate Press. His short fiction has been published in the Ginosko Literary Journal, Literary Town Hall, Children, Churches, & Daddies and Falling Into Place. He writes comic book reviews here at Comic Bulletin and blogs for PopMatters. He can be found at KyleGarret.com and on Twitter as @kylegarret.



Chris Kiser:

Dick Grayson's tenure as Batman in the two-year-plus gap between the events of "Batman R.I.P." and Flashpoint sparked a revival of my interest in the character greater than I've ever experienced for any other. Mostly thanks to the divergent but equally great work of Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder, this latest chapter in Dick's life re-opened my eyes to all the many things that were originally innovative and exciting about him. The carefree adoptive son of Bruce Wayne was now the Dark Knight himself, and I was feeling regret over how I'd once relegated him in my own mind to the level of supporting cast. After all, this is the character whose Robin costume I wore to my Kindergarten Halloween party.

With all due respect to writer Kyle Higgins, the return of Dick to the pages of Nightwing is a frustrating reminder of why I had previously let the onetime Boy Wonder slip to the periphery of my importance radar. The brilliant Chuck Dixon run notwithstanding, it's hard to view the solo adventures of Nightwing as anything but mere dabblings into the concept of Batman Junior. That's all the more true with the new series setting itself in Gotham City, where we can be pretty sure that Dick won't be facing off against the most nefarious schemes of Two-Face, Ra's al Ghul, and the Joker. To paraphrase the immortal pop songstress, he's not a Robin, not yet a Batman, and that's not necessarily the most compelling hook for a series.



Were Higgins' concocting some unforeseen spin on the whole scenario, I'd likely be singing a different tune, but his story here is essentially a competently executed paint-by-numbers. He writes Dick a Snyder-esque internal monologue about the corruptive nature of Gotham City, brings in a mysterious new villain who equals Dick as a physical threat and introduces some bland secondary characters that don't seem poised to stand the test of time. In other words, it reads like a primer on the elements that you're "supposed" to include in a Batman spin-off first issue. Thankfully for Higgins, the writer does ultimately muster up enough intrigue over the aforementioned villain's motives to make a reasonable argument for picking up issue two, which I will be doing.

Eddy Barrows' contributions on art are very much in the same vein -- good enough to earn a paycheck but relatively indistinct from the many other products on the market. His stuff is reminiscent of what you'd find amongst the rotating pencillers on Brightest Day, plug-and-play drawings designed to fit within the confines of pretty much any DC comic. Much like it is elsewhere in the New 52, the opening images that were used in promos and previews for the series are noticeably more polished than what comes later in the book, raising some concern over quality in the long term.



All told, Nightwing may be in the top half of Bat-books in the New 52, but that doesn't guarantee it anything higher than sixth place. I'm glad that Dick Grayson still has a place at DC alongside all the retcons, de-aging, and marital dissolution, but it's starting to make sense to me why the publisher would have trimmed away a role for similar characters like Wally West. Higgins has a steep hill to climb if he wishes to establish Nightwing as anything better than a third wheel.


Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin. He once reviewed every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event and survived to tell the tale. Ask him about it on Twitter, where he can be found as @Chris_Kiser!

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