All of the elements for a great story are here, but Kyle Higgins hasn’t quite found how to use them yet. He’s a like a chef in a fully stocked kitchen that keeps making us grilled cheese sandwiches. Sure, it’s filling but I’d like to see some more ambition from this series. The last issue showed real promise by kicking off this “Heart of the Circus” mystery, there was an alright action scene, and above all else Dick inherited Haly’s Circus.
Under the Big Top
The circus opens up so many opportunities! Dick’s got a built-in supporting cast of circus folk! So many idiosyncrasies and larger than life personalities, I mean it’s all too perfect an environment for a fun, unique, and interesting supporting cast. But other than a neat 2 page spread at Haly’s funeral we don’t see much of these characters. Instead we get a little interaction with the cute redhead that looks too much like Barbara Gordon and that’s it. Boring.
What could still lead to some exciting new stories is the fact that this is a traveling circus and every few weeks could feature Dick in a different city fighting crime. It even fits well with that global presence nonsense started by Grant Morrison. This month Dick is in Chicago and we get to see him hunt down a childhood friend who now hires mercenaries (we’ve all been there). It’s a weird fight scene that involves the childhood friend, Zane, using some sort “upgrade” that he can use as a weapon to conjure up visions of doubt and regret. It comes out of left field and it’s never made clear what exactly the upgrade is but apparently it’s surgically implanted in Zane’s body. Nightwing’s only able to defeat him by unveiling yet another surprise feature of his suit. That’s 2 issues in a row that Nighwing has only survived a fight because of some deus ex machina and I’d much rather see him out fight or outsmart his enemies that pull this cheap trick every time. What’s next, Shark Repellant?
The thing that this book does exceptionally well is establishing Dick’s roots. This issue opens with a great flashback to Dick’s childhood and it finally gives some gravity to his relationship with the circus, with Raya (the girl who looks like Barbara Gordon, but isn’t) and good ol’ Haly. Actually showing us what a great guy Haly was in this flashback actually made me care about his funeral scene. It’s just a shame that his character wasn’t more established before his death. Killing off a seemingly important character before giving the audience a reason to care is a problem also shared by the current Catwoman run, but her book actually showed the victim-to-be in the 1st issue, Haly never showed up until the end of Nightwing #2 and within 2 or 3 pages he was dead.
2 Pencilers 1 Book
Nightwing is an oddity as far as art goes this month. Halfway through issue #3 there is a transition between pencilers, but it is surprisingly seamless. Both Barrows and Pansica do a wonderful job showing movement and highly detailed characters and environments that feel refreshingly unique. No two characters look alike and that’s hard to find in most comic books, sadly. And although it was a somewhat confusing and absolutely over the top fight scene, the Zane battle did give us a glimpse at Dick’s parents and that was one of the real highlights of the issue. You’ll see what I’m talking about when you get a load of his dad’s Flying Grayson’s outfit.
The Average One
Nightwing is an okay comic, in fact it’s been the most average in quality read of all the bat-books 3 months in a row, but it’s not a good sign when I read the comic an hour ago and had to open it back up to remember how it ended. It’s well-drawn and the writing has set up a foundation for something really great, but for now it’s so middle-of-the-road, so anodyne that it’s far from being a must-read.