Nightwing 1

nightwing 1

Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing Nightwing 1, originally released July 27th, 2016.

Michael: I find it kind of odd that as popular and enduring as Dick Grayson is, he’s constantly going through a series of status quo changes: Robin, Nightwing, Batman, Agent 37 and back to Nightwing again. Change is life, both in our three dimensional world and comic books’ two dimensional one. But the ground under Dick Grayson’s feet seems to shift moreso than other characters. Is it because comic-dom loves him so much and wants to keep him fresh? Is it because we don’t really know what we want for him? Nightwing 1 would have us believe that Dick’s always on the move because of his hectic circus upbringing, which is a plausible explanation, but I don’t know if I quite buy it.

After gallivanting around the globe as Agent 37, Dick Grayson returns to the role of Nightwing…sort of. Writer Tim Seeley has been shepherding Dick from the pages of the delightful Grayson and the not as delightful Robin War. Dick is now “working” for the Court of Owls’ big brother, The Parliament of Owls. The Parliament thinks they own Dick because they put a bomb in Damian’s head that has since been defused – it’s kind of convoluted but it’s easier to just roll with it. As Nightwing, Dick plays messenger boy for The Parliament of Owls but refuses to do any of the bad guy stuff: stealing and killing. After Dick says his goodbyes to his Gotham pals, he meets up with mercenary The Raptor, who has been hired to reeducate Nightwing on behalf of The Parliament.

Dick Grayson is a character that fans sympathize with as a contemporary, but I think that we’re as protective of him as if he were our own child. As a fan of the character I want Dick to outgrow the influence of Batman (which he has) but at the same time I always prefer sequences with him that involve the ol’ Bat family instead of new characters. I want him to be his own man but I don’t want him to wander too far from home. It’s a complicated feeling for a fictional character – one that I think that Seeley recognizes, as Nightwing 1 is full of Gotham scenes featuring Dick interacting with Batman, Robin, and Batgirl. Perhaps I cling so tightly to these types of scenes because the Bat family are the people that know him better than he might care to admit at times.

Babs

The scene where Nightwing watches/advises Robin as he spars with Batman is a fairly typical “batcave scene.” Dick’s internal monologue provides us with the universal story of returning to your childhood home with the eyes of an adult. Besides a few humorous moments with Damian, Dick has come seeking advice from Bruce, only to find that Bruce isn’t concerned with telling him what to do anymore. I think Dick is as confused as to what he should be doing as Nightwing as I am. Batgirl is probably on the same page as me as well. She questions Dick’s plan to once again “play spy” as he goes undercover inside The Parliament of Owls. I’m kind of hoping that Nightwing will take a sharp left turn early on and turn this Parliament of Owls plot on its head. With Damian’s head safe from being blown up and Dick’s refusal to get his hands dirty, there doesn’t seem to be much at stake here. Perhaps Raptor will “kick Dick into shape” for The Parliament as suggested though.

pages

Did anyone else notice the editorial slip up in that Batgirl scene, or was that just me? After Batgirl and Dick agree to disagree on his spy games, she intercepts a call on the police scanner. Before we see Dick suit up and leap into action with Batgirl we have a page of Nightwing threatening a Russian dude for the Parliament. At first I thought it was an intentional use of time jumping but rereading it – especially with Dick’s description of “itchy feet” – it’s definitely something that slipped by editorial. Oh well, mistakes happen, but it was really confusing for a minute there.

All of my ponderings and predictions might make it seem like I didn’t enjoy Nightwing 1, but I don’t know if that’s exactly how I feel about it. I think my feelings about Nightwing 1 are as complicated as my feelings for Nightwing himself. Moving Dick from Nightwing to Grayson was a controversial move at the time, but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Moving Dick back into the role of Nightwing – particularly this Parliamentary version of Nightwing – doesn’t feel like a step forward. Nightwing 1 has the joy and zeal of the life of Dick Grayson and a half-baked plot of Grayson.

What do you think Spencer? I tend to go harsher on things than you do, are you enjoying the Rebirth of Nightwing thus far? Do you agree with my parental feelings of Dick Grayson? What do you think about Raptor? From what little I know he reminds me of an overly dramatic Karnak.

Spencer: Before I answer those questions, Michael, I just want to address the editorial slip-up you pointed out. While that is indeed a problem in the digital version, that mistake isn’t present in the print copies — meaning, this might not even be an “editorial” issue as much as a Comixology issue.

Anyway, I agree with a very minor point you made, Michael, about Nightwing 1‘s similarities to Grayson. That’s to be expected, what with Grayson co-writer Tim Seeley helming the series, but what surprised me going into this issue were how many similarities there were in terms of plot, not just character. Dick may have returned to his Nightwing persona, but he’s still undercover, and still facing many of the same dilemmas he did when he was Agent 37.

In theory, this should be a good thing, especially considering all the “undercover” stories we likely missed due to Grayson‘s seemingly truncated run, but in execution, it doesn’t quite pan out. “Superhero goes undercover in a villainous organization” is a pretty common trope to begin with, but it’s been done to death lately (Grayson and Silk immediately spring to mind), making it feel a little stale this time around.

The biggest problem here, though, is that the Parliament of Owls just aren’t a compelling organization. Maybe I’m still Owl fatigued, but my issues with the Parliament from Robin War 2 haven’t gone away. What do the Owls even want, besides to push around Dick Grayson? Yeah, we know the Owls are bad news, but that’s almost entirely based on knowledge from earlier storylines. The Parliament doesn’t feel like an urgent threat, and that’s a problem when Dick doesn’t need to infiltrate them at all. Their leverage — the bomb they implanted in Damian — is gone, meaning that Dick is willingly infiltrating them because they pose such a threat. It’d be nice to see more of what that threat entails to anyone who isn’t a Gray Son of Gotham.

While this is a problem that needs to be rectified, especially if the Parliament is going to be a long-term part of Nightwing, Raptor does help to mitigate it, if only slightly, by providing a more personal and urgent challenge. Michael, I can definitely agree with your assessment of Raptor, although I might slightly edit it to “Karnak if he was an even bigger dick.” We don’t know this character well enough to judge yet (which is perfectly acceptable for a first appearance), but I almost get the impression that Raptor just enjoys psychologically torturing people, with no apparent motive behind it. I mean, he’s only working with the Owls because they’re paying him — why should he care if Dick’s bad at his job? Like I said, total dick. I’m curious to see what more there is to this character (if, indeed, there is more).

Much like Grayson (especially the later issues), where this issue really shines is in its depiction of Dick Grayson as a character.

grin

The jokes and flippant attitude, and especially that cocky grin (props to Javier Fernandez on that one)? Yeah, that’s Dick Grayson all over.

Unlike Michael, I also fully buy the idea of Dick Grayson having “itchy feet.” That wasn’t always a part of Grayson’s personality — in fact, I don’t think it became a common interpretation at all until after Bludhaven was destroyed in 2006 and DC subsequently had no idea what to do with Dick for a few years — but it feels natural in the New 52/Rebirth universe, especially at this point in Dick’s life. He’s the oldest child of the Batfamily, who still feels a responsibility to his home town, yet doesn’t quite fit in there anymore; figuring out his place in the world is going to take a lot of time, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a bigger element of Nightwing going forward than even Dick’s undercover double-agent shenanigans.

The one bit of characterization that fell flat for me, though, was when Raptor targeted Dick’s “insecurities.”

virgin

Goading Dick by picking at his relationship with Batman? Of course! Dick losing his cool over being called a virgin? Much odder. Maybe I’m still hung up on Mikel Janin’s take on the character, but I just can’t picture Dick Grayson being at all insecure about his own sexuality or romantic prowess, and certainly not enough to fall prey to such a stupid taunt! Sure, you could make an argument that Dick’s girl issues or affection for Barbara Gordon are a weakness or even a source of insecurity, but this issue never does so, even with the Nightwing/Batgirl scene. This is just a very very odd panel.

I have similarly mixed feelings about Fernandez’s art. Just on an aesthetic level, he draws Nightwing’s mask and chest-logo far too thin for my tastes, and the faces of his male characters often look strange and skewed (Batgirl’s face, in contrast, looks spot-on in every single panel). Despite all that, though, he’s rather great at capturing Dick’s natural acrobatic athleticism, and at using his layouts to emphasize Dick’s momentum.

flips n' shit

Dick’s somersault in the first panel directs the reader’s eye across the page to the second panel, and from there, Dick’s kick and the tilt of the windowsill direct their eye back to the left — Carlos M. Mangual’s narration boxes work in concert here to achieve this goal as well. The effect is that it feels like you’re really following Nightwing as he leaps and bounces across the page, and that’s a plus for any book starring DC’s greatest acrobat (take that, Deadman).

I guess this is a fairly mediocre review, but to be fair, this is a fairly mediocre issue. Seeley still writes a great Dick Grayson, and there’s some interesting conflicts at hand, but for every element that sings, there’s another that just frustrates. Nightwing has the potential to be a really strong title — let’s hope Seeley and Fernandez can fully draw that potential out in upcoming issues.

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 Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

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One comment on “Nightwing 1

  1. Honestly, I think the stuff about Dick Grayson’s status quo changes comes with a real difficulty in finding Dick Grayson a role.

    Dick Grayson originally became Nightwing because the writer of Detective comics wanted to deage him and write some Batman and Robin comics, which would have ruined all of Wolfman’s work on Teen Titans, so Wolfman suggested a compromise. Dick Grayson became Nightwing, and we were introduced to Jason Todd. Each character had a clear role/purpose. Nightwing was the leader of the Titans, and Jason Todd was Robin.

    But eventually, the Titans franchise collapsed, becoming a minor franchise, and the Batbooks wanted to use Nightwing, but they really didn’t know what to do with him except give him a better costume. When with the rest of the Batfamily, he was great as a big brother, but as a solo character, they were lost. As a solo character, he was always Batman-lite. And whether he was in Gotham, Bludhaven, New York or Chicago, he was still Batman-lite. They couldn’t find a real point of difference. He continued doing everything he did before, but he lost a lot of the foundation that makes Robin so good (the strong focus on father/son, the learning/mentorship stuff). The problem isn’t that Dick Grayson has no roots, it is that Nightwing has none. And so it is also no surprise that he became Batman multiple times (nor that Commissioner GOrdon became Batman when Dick Grayson was ‘dead’ and off the table). What else do you do with him? And t isn’t a surprise that when Bruce Wayne returned in Morrison’s run, they kept Dick Grayson as Batman. What else do you do with Dick? Make him Nightwing again? Quite simply, Dick dealing with the mantle of Batman is just more interesting than Nightwing.

    The big problem is that they know everything about the life that Dick Grayson moved away from, but they have no life he moved towards. He never really gets the chance to make his own life. Which means he works as a Big Brother character to the rest of the Batfamily, as you don’t need to specify where he moved to, but floundered on his own. Nightwing truly needed a fresh start, and that’s why Nightwing books always feel so light and a little directionless.

    In fact, there are only two exceptions I can think of, on the top of my head. The first is Young Justice Invasion, where Nightwing ran the Team. This is kind of similar to him running the Titans before the Titans franchise collapsed and the Batbooks tried to make Nightwing a solo character. There is a clear and obvious new life.
    And secondly was Grayson. Agent 37 is an amazing idea, because it didn’t rely on another franchise like the Titans or the Young Justice Team. Dick Grayson wasn’t just moving away from his old life, but had a new life. Made is own way in the world.

    If I was going to Rebirth Dick Grayson, I would have had Dick, Helena and the Tiger create their own spy agency, change code-names and costumes to Nightwing and Huntress and just continue doing spy stories. Except that seems to be too imaginative for Rebirth, as it really feels like Seeley has come to the same conclusions. Everything I’ve heard makes it seem like Seeley is trying to keep as much of Grayson as he can, by doing another undercover mission, even as he now isn’t allowed to do spy stories.

    And with that, is there any surprise that this issue has that problem? They try and tell you he’s moved on, even as he moves back to his parent’s Batcave. Because he’s always been trapped in the past even when he is supposed to be the person who is always moving.

    Basically, no one has properly done the groundwork for Nightwing as a solo character until Grayson, because they mistakenly thought Wolfman did while ignoring that Wolfman’s solution only worked with the Teen Titans. We finally got a working Nightwing with Agent 37, but then Rebirth struck, which is all about throwing out the baby with the bathwater (though Rebirth seems to be doing everything it can to keep the bathwater). So is it a surprise that Nightwing Rebirth is full of the exact same problems that have plagued every other Nightwing book?

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