Against all odds, I loved Dick Grayson as Batman.
Not enough that I didn’t want Bruce back, but enough that I was delighted when it was revealed that they were going to let us have two Batmans. I enjoyed the idea of two very different Batmans and all the stories that could be told along both parallel and divergent notes because of the differences between Dick and Bruce. I was terribly disappointed when I learned that Dick would be back in his Nightwing costume after the relaunch. However, since I had not expected to like Dick as Batman and had been proved wrong, I’ve been trying to keep an open mind. So far, this issue is not the way to convince me.
For this entire issue, other than getting two cops killed while he changes into his costume, Dick does almost nothing but talk to himself. Dick self narrates while he beats up some meaningless villains. Dick self narrates while he revisits his big-top roots. Dick self narrates while fending off someone sent to kill him. And unfortunately, in addition to just feeling a bit overwritten in general, they’re all bits of narration I have seen a million times before, even without being a regular “Nightwing” reader.
What Kyle Higgins does here is, I suspect, “new reader” friendly, and for that I applaud him, as few number one books I’ve read so far have felt that way. But there’s just not much here. Even if a new reader was able to easily understand the book, I can’t imagine they’d feel they got a lot of story for their three bucks. For those that already know the score, I can’t come up with a word more accurate than boring. Nothing really happens, until the end, and while the story ties nicely back to what’s going on in Scott Snyder’s “Batman,” it’s much less powerful.
Additionally, while Dick’s voice doesn’t feel necessarily wrong, there were some notes that felt off. Toward the end of the book Dick hopes that two cops can keep a bad guy busy while he changes into his costume. Those two cops are brutally killed on panel a moment later, their throats ripped out. Dick’s response to that? “Damnit. This is on me.” Hmmm. That feels decidedly not like Dick to me. And truthfully, so does Dick letting two cops get killed while he puts on something more comfortable. Dick self narrates in the beginning for page upon page that he’s at the top of his game, that being Batman made his mechanics “flawless” and then 15 pages later he lets two cops get killed. I suppose Higgins is trying to raise the stakes, but it rings false.
Higgins did nice work in the recent “Gates of Gotham,” so I can only hope that this is a misstep born of trying to do too much and cover too many bases and inadvertently doing nothing at all instead. Time will tell if Higgins can turn “Nightwing” into a book that can hold its own amongst such a large field of new books. Certainly having Dick Grayson at the center will not hurt matters and I hope he can turn this into a win, as Grayson is one of my favorite DC characters, no matter what costume he’s in.
The art by Eddy Barrows and JP Mayer is strong overall, and has a nice almost Alan Davis quality at times. With a few notable exceptions, the storytelling is very good and easy to follow and characters feel consistent and strong. Barrows does an especially great job of highlighting the acrobatic side of Dick and he creates dramatic heroic moments for him with seeming ease. The coloring by Rod Reis is a bit dark throughout, and the few places where the book became hard to follow usually were thanks to too dark coloring. On the whole, however, the art team is working together to create a very strong well-executed comic book. I think had they had something more exciting to do, then they easily could have stepped up to the task, and I hope they get that opportunity.
On the whole, “Nightwing” doesn’t deliver as one would hope. It’s not a bad comic, but it’s not good one, either. It’s not a bad entry point for new readers, but I don’t think old readers will find much of interest. But Higgins has talent and the art team is one of the stronger I’ve seen in the New DC 52 and Dick Grayson is a beloved character, so there’s time for it to all turn around and get interesting.