Like most of the Bat-titles, Nightwing was swept up in Snyder & Capullo’s Death of the Family, but unlike many of those other tie-ins, Nightwing fared rather well. Volume 3 of the New 52 series features some of the best moments of the Joker crossover event as well as noteworthy fallout from the Batman #17 finale and the Requiem event that spun out of Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated. It’s all the other in-between bits that bring down the overall score of this otherwise terrific collection by Kyle Higgins, Eddy Barrow, and Andres Guinaldo.
Nightwing, Vol. 3: Death of the Family features issues #13-18, Batman #17 (the Death of the Family finale), and the Nightwing tale from Young Romance #1 (DC’s Valentine’s Day spectacular, which I do NOT recommend).
Our graphic novel begins with filler. There’s really no better way to put it, honestly. The creative team that started the series back in September of 2011 had taken a 2 issue break to ensure that everything regarding Death of the Family was top notch and so writer Tom DeFalco and artist Andres Guinaldo were called in for 2 issues that would stall for time. The story they were tasked with involved Lady Shiva, who had been teased in the Zero Month issue that explored Dick Grayson’s origin story. It’s a confrontation that goes absolutely nowhere with one chapter hyping up her arrival and the conclusion being her brief appearance followed by a halfhearted fight in which both characters take turns complimenting each other on how good they are at fighting. Shiva’s Master Shredder-esque character design is awful, the complete lack of a story is a snooze, the absence of a resolution is frustrating, and it all builds to a final page that merely states “Tune in next month for Death of the Family!” It. Is. Filler.
When Higgins and Barrows return for the main event what readers get is one of the best Nightwing vs. Joker confrontations you’ll ever see. Not only is it a terrific battle between the two of them, but it’s also a major turning point for the entire series as whole. The world of Nightwing doesn’t hit the pause button as our hero sidesteps into the crossover event, no, no, no. The Joker walks right into the world Higgins established over the course of the first year’s worth of comics and absolutely wrecks the place. Characters you’ve grown to care about from the start are put in danger and many of them don’t make it out alive. Everything that Dick Grayson hoped to achieve turns to ash and you truly get the sense of dread that “Death of the Family” was meant to instill in its readers. It looks great, it’s action packed, and it was the high point of Higgins & Barrows’ run on Nightwing.
After our tie-in closes with a cliffhanger we are treated to Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo’s Batman #17, the final chapter of the Batman: Death of the Family saga. It fits in nicely, but just like its inclusion in Batgirl, Red Hood, and other graphic novels sharing the “Death of the Family” name, it does feel odd to have the narrative switch gears to Batman’s perspective in the middle of an all-Nightwing buffet, but what can ya do? It’s not like an issue was written from every character’s perspective when Joker put the final phase of his plan in motion and I’m thankful for that, actually. But while it’s nice to have that comic collected here to fill in the gap that the Nightwing series itself had at the time, we are missing another important event that had an arguably bigger impact on the series than DOTF. I’m of course talking about what occurred in Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated. If you haven’t read volume 2 or at least the 8th issue of that series, you’ll want to do that BEFORE continuing this book.
It would simply be too difficult to include Batman Incorporated #8 in all of this and have it make any sense so I can’t fault DC for not throwing it into the mix, but it is still very odd and jarring to go from the climax of Death of the Family, then into a lighthearted short story from Young Romance, and then the Batman Inc. Requiem fallout! It’s weird. Truthfully, the short tale of Dick Grayson’s date with a bear-themed vigilante we haven’t heard or seen from since feels incredibly out of place in the middle of this book. It’s laughable. We go from severed faces and the demise of the Clown Prince of Crime to Nightwing flirting on Valentine’s Day for a couple pages and then back to the demise of the Joker and a very beat-up Nightwing. Yikes. You can read the full review of Young Romance HERE. And as for the Requiem business and the fallout of Death of the Family? It’s overwhelmingly bleak and really ends the book on a downer. Well, more of a downer. Make no mistake, that pointless Valentine’s Day short is the only glimmer of hope in this entire graphic novel. You’re in for a depressing read. Even though we see a little bit of Damian Wayne and even a surprise appearance by some Black Mirror characters in the closing chapters, it’s all not enough to qualify Nightwing’s 3rd volume as “fun” because too much awful stuff happens to our hero. On another sad note, but one more to do with an actual critique of the material, the artwork on these closing chapters by Juan Jose Ryp looks rich and detailed just as long as it isn’t showing faces. You’ll see a very old and haggard looking Nightwing as you wrap things up.
Diddly-squat. It’s disappointing to see absolutely zero supplemental material for this graphic novel.
Value: FULL PRICE!
Six regular $3.00 comics plus the $4.00 Batman issue and a short story from Young Romance for $16.99 isn’t a bad deal at all and I think there’s plenty of good material here that Dick Grayson fans will want to revisit again and again.
Nightwing had some of the best Death of the Family tie-ins and the fallout is quite compelling as well so I think the re-read value is high. The DeFalco issues that kick this collection off are really weak and the artwork throughout this collection is of varying quality what with so many fill-in artists contributing but overall I think this is a worthy pick-up for any Wingnut.