Sep 21, 2011

The Comics Cube! Reviews the DCnU: NIGHTWING #1

This week's sampling of the DCnU's "new 52" is, at the request of my brother, NIGHTWING #1 by Kyle Higgins, Eddy Barrows, and J.P. Mayer.

As longtime Cubers might know, I've got a bit of investment in this character, and this is one title that, by virtue of the title character, I'd want to see not only succeed, but be one of the pack leaders. So before you go on MINOR SPOILERS abound.

In the DCnU, the Batman pocket of the universe is mostly unaffected. Meaning, where everyone else gets a restart, Batman and his crew (as well as the Green Lanterns) just go on with business as usual. So right off the bat (no pun intended), we're dealing with recent Bat-history, as Dick Grayson references his time as Batman and, while fighting a bulky but small-time criminal, goes on a rather lengthy monologue about how being Batman has changed him and made it so he's unafraid of anything Gotham can throw at him. Right after that, we're shown that Haly's Circus, the circus where Dick Grayson spent his youth, has come to Gotham, and Dick is hesitant to go.

These developments confuse me as a longtime (if inconsistent) reader, because Dick Grayson in his insanely long career has faced down the Joker and Trigon the Terrible, lived in Bludhaven (which they continually said was worse than Gotham), and been the leader of a team that faced many a crisis. He's never really been "afraid" of anything other than living up to Batman's legacy, so when did all this "fear" he was speaking of happen? More to the point, since when was he afraid of going to Haly's Circus? There are several stories of him going to Haly's Circus, and it was never a part of his past that he ran away from.

Having said that, that's me as a lifetime Dick Grayson fan. These foibles and flaws seem to be built in by Higgins to introduce some type of insecurity to the otherwise too-confident Nightwing, perhaps as a way to ground him and make him more relatable, and may just provide the emotional hook that would make Nightwing distinct from so many other superheroes. It's too early to tell if it'll work — we'll have to see further issues, but what I can say about it is that a new reader may just find the character well-rounded, flaws and all. After much introspection, there's a panel where Dick Grayson just looks at the old trapezes and smiles a knowing smile, which I thought was a nice touch.

Eddy Barrows is a good artist for this title, as he's able to convey movement fluidly, something essential to the acrobatic nature of Nightwing. I see a few anatomy and perspective problems, but the bottom line is that he draws Nightwing well and the movements are seamless. You can see it from the preview pages. I particularly like the diagonal layouts, as it accentuates motion and speed.

Unfortunately, when the issue hits its narrative peak (i.e., the villain arrives), it's a little generic. The villain in particular is pretty uninspired, with the only real distinct thing about him being that he will remind you of Wolverine, which isn't particularly a compliment. I would imagine that a new villain should have an immediate impact on you, but all this guy does is unnecessary violence and resemble Wolverine and Snake-Eyes to some degree. He's so nondescript that I hope he does something big in the next issue to really stand out. The cliffhanger is also pretty generic. Let's just say that it's the type that really has no suspense built into it whatsoever. Having said that, there's a pretty intriguing twist as to the villain's motivations, and it would probably have been better if Higgins had made that the cliffhanger instead of what was actually used as a cliffhanger.

At the end of the day, NIGHTWING #1 has a pretty standard story that introduces old and new readers alike to this particular iteration of Richard "Dick" Grayson. It highlights his past just as it moves toward the future. I wasn't blown away, but the art is good and the narrative shows promise. It could stand to be more exciting, and I hope, of course, that future issues are. We will see.

On a minor note, I still don't understand why they went with the red suit. The blue is so much cooler.

I have no idea who did this Photoshop job. But whoever it is, good job.


Shawn D. Hilton said...

I enjoy Nightwing quite a bit, and have fond memories of the Dixon run.

The first issue was enjoyable for me, but I have been a little put off by some books having much more of a reboot feel than others. The Nightwing fan in me loves the fact that little seems to have changed for Dick, but the comic fan in me wishes for a much more hard reboot. I see a continuity nightmare in the making in the future as writers try to figure out which continuity sticks and which doesn't. As Green Arrow got a pretty intensive reboot, and Nightwing didn't, and that makes me wonder how many issues there will be with their past encounters. In particular Red Arrow/Speedy/Arsenal/Roy Harper and Nightwing.

As I remember from my single reading of the book the writer does explain the circus issue by stating this is the first time the circus has been to Gotham, and Dick has seen the circus in other towns, but never Gotham. He then further explains, that in Dick's mind, that Gothat tends to destroy things, and that he's worried that the circus will suffer from being in Gotham.

I can't agree enough about that villain. Moving the big revelation of WHY the villain is acting out against Nightwing to coincide with the fairly weak closing would have increased that impact by a lot.

Great review!

Duy Tano said...

That's a good point about the circus, Shawn, but it did seem they were treating Dick with kid gloves there, like they were OK if he didn't come because they'd understand that it meant something to him.

And yes, this entire reboot, the way it's done, reeks of continuity problems down the road.

David Walton said...

This was one of my favorite books last month. My only real problem was the gratuitious violence. There's no reason why the supervillain couldn't have dispatched the cops without killing them.

And I was too intrigued by the villain's remark about Dick Grayson being a killer and not even knowing it to think of him as generic.

Gotham taking your strengths and turning them against you is Snyder's big theme, and it looks as though he and Higgins will be working closely. I'm excited about that.

Duy Tano said...

It's not the villain's motivation that's generic. It's the look and the weapons. I do wish they closed out with the big revelation though.

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