Nightwing Annual 1

nightwing annual

Today, Spencer and Scott are discussing Nightwing Annual 1, originally released October 30th, 2013.

Spencer: Will they or won’t they? Television romances love to milk the idea of two characters who are obviously into each other, but for whatever reason, simply can’t spit it out, or if they can, will be kept apart by circumstances beyond their control. Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon are one of DC’s ultimate “will they or won’t they?” couples, and in the Nightwing annual, writer Kyle Higgins decides to further explore their relationship. If these two are so perfect for each other, why can’t they be together? It takes a superpowered arsonist for them to discover the answer.

Barbara is helping Dick pack up for his move to Chicago, but when Dick finds a picture of them together in the good ol’ days, it leads to some wistful reminiscing and perhaps even some regrets. They’re interrupted by the Bat-Signal; Nightwing and the hooded-woman-formerly-known-as-Batgirl discover that a costumed arsonist calling himself “Firefly” (I blame you, Joss Whedon) has been attacking the friends and family of movie-star Cindy Cooke, including her ex, Ted Carson. The story of how Ted and Cindy drifted apart leads Dick to invite Barbara to move to Chicago with him, and he promptly puts his foot in his mouth.

The two initially believe that Firefly is Garfield Lynns, a jilted pyrotechnics man who worked with Cindy in the past, but after being led astray by a red herring and seemingly losing Cindy, they discover that Firefly is actually Ted Carson himself; he murdered Lynns and stole his gimmick, then faked his own death and Cindy’s so that they could finally be together. Dick and Barbara work together to take him down, but ultimately end up apart; Babs just can’t leave Gotham right now, Dick can’t stay, and if Ted taught them anything, it’s that they can’t force this kind of thing.

Well that's an oddly helpful life lesson

It’s a bittersweet note to end the issue on, but that tone is fitting of the issue itself, which balances Dick’s generally lighthearted personality with the darkness of this case and the darkness in both of the protagonists’ lives at the moment. Higgins has an excellent handle on all these elements, and especially on the relationship between Dick and Babs. This issue wouldn’t work if the readers couldn’t see the chemistry between these two, and fortunately, Higgins absolutely nails it.

Robin Selfies

Personally, I’ve always wanted Nightwing and Starfire to end up together—the result of entering the DC Universe through Teen Titans—but Higgins writes such excellent chemistry that I forgot all about that and rooted for Dick and Babs throughout the whole issue, even when I knew that they couldn’t be together. Of course, that’s largely because of DC’s current “Anti-Marriage” rule (and if you’ll allow me on my soapbox for a moment, just let me say that I hate that rule. Marriage does not mean the end of interesting stories—I actually find that insulting as a human being—and if a writer can’t tell a good story with married characters, that’s the writer’s fault, not the marriage’s. Just look at April and Andy over on Parks and Recreation; if anything, they became more interesting when they hooked up), but this issue does an excellent job of explaining it away in-universe with realistic and touching reasons.

As I said, it’s a little bittersweet, but I think we’re ultimately left with a hopeful message. Higgins ends the issue with the common “[Not] The End” tag, but it’s entirely appropriate in this situation; this isn’t the end of Dick and Babs’ relationship, not by a long shot. There’s still time for things to change between them, and that’s true in real life as well. Our stories, and the stories of our relationships, aren’t over as long as we’re alive. Maybe a romance doesn’t work out, no matter how much we want it to; that doesn’t mean circumstances won’t change in the future. Or, on the other hand, just look at Cindy and Ted; in their case, the relationship not working out ended up for the best, and Ted lost his mind because he couldn’t accept that.

In the end, this annual struck me as a poignant take on how complicated and bittersweet life and relationships can be, but ultimately, how there’s always hope to make them better; I’m impressed by how well Higgins pulled it off. This is no fluffy one-shot annual, that’s for sure.

I was also quite impressed by the issue’s handling of Firefly. He’s always been a C-List Batman villain at best; even my beloved Batman: The Animated Series had trouble finding things to do with him (and openly made fun of him on the commentaries). I mention B:TaS because the first two-thirds of this issue is remarkably similar to Firefly’s origin episode of that series, where Firefly was Garfield Lynns, jilted pyrotechnics man in love with his rock-star employer. While Dick and Babs have their own red herrings throwing them off within the issue, these similarities are what threw me off of Ted’s trail, and I found that a clever new use of familiar story beats.

Of course, I’m not sure if Ted will make a better Firefly than Lynns in the long-term—I fear any future stories with him will risk repeating these same story beats over and over—but even if he doesn’t, I think the new design will go a long way towards legitimizing the character.


Artists Jason Masters, Daniel Sampere, and Vincente Cifuentes, along with colorist Chris Sotomayor and letterer Dave Sharpe, all work together to create a frightening and fantastic looking new interpretation of the Firefly. If there was ever a case where an inventive design could carry a weak character, this is it.

So, Scott, what do you think of this new Firefly? Did you want to see Dick and Babs get together; do you think they made the right choice in the end? Did you find this issue hopeful, or depressing? And hey, you live in Chicago, right? Did Babs’ stereotyping of y’all’s accents bug you?

Scott: Well, I used to live in Chicago but I don’t anymore, so I guess I really have no right to be offended. Plus, I’m originally from Detroit, so anytime someone takes a jab at the city where Da Bears play, I’m all for it.

To answer your first question, Spencer, I’m not sold on this new Firefly. His costume looks cool, but this Ted Carson is far from a criminal mastermind. Just take a look at the hitlist Dick finds in Garfield Lynns’ loft- the one Ted planted there to lead the police astray.

Always proofread

Rule #1 for forging someone else’s hitlist: don’t put their name on the list! Isn’t Carson trying to make it look he was murdered by Lynns, not the other way around? And how are Dick and Babs not immediately suspicious when they see that the man they’re looking for has apparently already killed himself? This must have been an oversight by some member of the creative team that just managed to slip past the editors and into print. Either that, or every major character happened to have the same bizarre brain-fart.

That observation aside, I definitely think Dick and Babs make the right decision in the end. I found myself rooting for them throughout the issue, but the moment when Dick asks her to move to Chicago with him was a huge red flag for me. Their relationship hasn’t been prominent enough throughout the New 52 for that kind of major step to seem appropriate. As much as I want to see them together, it wouldn’t be the right call for the characters or for this title. Higgins is well aware of this, and he establishes early on how the timing never seems right for these two. Pairing them up at the end of the issue would have felt forced, and obviously that’s how Higgins wants us to feel, as he blatantly calls it out as such. Fortunately, Dick sees things the same way and leaves town by himself. These two are going to have to earn it.

That reality is all the harder to face after seeing how awesome Dick and Babs are together during that flashback at the end of the issue. It’s hard to imagine a crime fighting couple that would be more fun to watch. Higgins makes a point of saying this isn’t the end of their story, and while that’s great news, I’m actually glad it’ll be on hold for now. Dick’s move to Chicago has rejuvenated this title, and I’m happy to see him making the move to the Windy City more permanent. Like Dick says, Chicago is about to get crazy. Batgirl will just have to wait.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

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