To say nothing of the quality of the books, most of DC’s recent Rebirth titles have been continuations of established events rather than true shake-ups of the status quo. Sure, there are some titles like Green Arrow that have brought back integral elements that had long been absent (of course I’m talking about the goatee); and then you have Wonder Woman, which is using the soft relaunch to tell both new stories and revisit the character’s past. By and large, though, the one-shots have been “the next issue,” hardly breaking up the momentum of storytelling except to serve as a decent starting point for new readers.
Then there’s Nightwing, a name that has been almost completely absent for the past two years. Well, absent in the pages of comic books, with Dick Grayson faking his death and going undercover as an agent of Spyral. Perhaps you’ve read that series; it’s quite good. But even with the generally excellent overall quality of the book, fans were still left wondering: “when will Nightwing come back?”
Now that Dick’s days of espionage are over and most of the world has forgotten who he is altogether (it’s… complicated), he’s finally ready to don the mask once more.
Or… is he?
With all he’s gone through and with such a lengthy absence, this is truly a rebirth for Nightwing, possibly more than any character in DC’s stable these days. Tim Seeley, one half of the phenomenal writing team for Grayson, takes this opportunity to get us reacquainted with a character we’re already familiar with, to see how different his unchanging outlook is, and continue a story that’s starting once again.
In essence, this is truly a rebirth.
*WARNING: Spoilers Follow*
The main theme of the book is stated on the opening page, with Dick narrating an encounter he recently had with the Madmen. He muses on the meaning of the name Nightwing, how people assumed he picked it because of some loose, contrived connection to Batman. “Bats go out at night,” he says. “They’ve got wings.”
Makes sense, but the true meaning isn’t as on the nose.
Nightwing was, of course, one half of the Kryptonian legend of Nightwing and Flamebird. “The Nightwing was ‘The great rebuilder. The catalyst of change.'”
That’s a fitting description of a man who has countless times taken the circumstances of his life to make it something better. Still on the nose, but appropriately so.
The rest of the issue follows Dick and Damian as they spend the day together, playing arcade games and just talking. There’s an awful lot of dialogue throughout, but it never feels text-heavy or cumbersome. Seeley knows this character well and he absolutely nails the chemistry between the former Dynamic Duo.
Their friendship and banter in the pages of Batman & Robin is what made me actually like Damian, and Dick’s grief when his partner was killed was one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever seen in a comic. I’m glad Seeley chose to place most of the focus on the two of them, as their dialogue actually sounds like a genuine conversation rather than written lines. They discuss normal things: the spy organization Dick used to belong to; his former partners in the organization; the leather-clad pseudo-Batman who started as Dick’s nemesis and kind of became his bro. You know: guy stuff.
We get the first good look and Helena in her new Huntress costume (which is possibly the finest single page Yanick Paquette drew this issue), along with some more banter between Dick and Tiger. The newly christened Patron seriously needs to be a recurring guest in the monthly, because I don’t know how long I can go without reading Tiger calling Dick an idiot. It’s the little things.
Now, you see that thing Dick’s holding in his hand up there? Looks like a little… I don’t even know what it looks like, but it looks weird. It turns out that when Damian turned himself over the the Court of Owls back in Robin War they implanted a bomb in his head. Generally speaking, we (mostly) like Damian and don’t want to see his head blow up. So, Dick reaches out to Midnighter, who supplies him with an extraction device that is made from Damian’s DNA so the Owls will think it’ still where it belongs.
So, yeah, that’s pretty much a synthetic nose.
It’s one more little bit of wackiness that I wanted to see more of in the pages of Grayson, and it’s the third best interaction Dick has in this script. Plus it all goes down after Dick and Midnighter take on the majestic, fabled Killicorn:
And one more for good measure:
My absolute favorite scene is Dick’s conversation with Bruce, for the simple fact that it makes Bruce appear human. Too often he comes across as cold or callous, when really the very foundation of Batman is built upon ideas of family. Instead of simply telling Dick where his costume is or that he’s ready to see him back in the fight, Bruce actually asks him if it’s truly what he wants to do. It’s an incredibly touching scene, reaffirming that these men are like father and son, brothers in a shared crusade. They love each other, they care for each other, and it’s nice seeing Bruce be vulnerable every once in a while.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that, at the end of it all, Dick finally suits up and is back in blue. What is surprising is the new development with the Court of Owls, which is more than welcome: I’ve long felt that the Court, now an entire Parliament, had grown stale as a concept, so their recent appearances didn’t do much more than bore me. That’s just me, of course, but it’s a shame to feel that way about a concept that was initially so interesting.
The Parliament, meeting with Lincoln March in Greece, shed their white masks and don black so as to be able to “be more invisible” and hide in the shadows. It’s a pretty great sequence, and it’s capped off by something that genuinely shocked me.
Lincoln March is dead. May we never speak of him again.
Again, an interesting concept of a character that had suffered from overexposure. He’ll probably find his way back at some point, but there’s no denying the satisfaction in the Owls accusing him of being a spoiled, self-centered brat and taking him out so easily. Giving Dick his own adversary is a great idea too, as he’s never had a steady rogues gallery of his own; most of his enemies have either been tied to Batman or ultimately forgettable. Remember Shrike?
I did kind of like Torque though, so you know, whatever.
That’s a lot of material to cover in one issue, and it mostly works. This is more a prelude, a prologue to a bigger story than a standalone adventure in itself, and with all the loose ends and new beginnings that’s all it needs to be. There isn’t an awful lot of action, so Paquette doesn’t get to show his chops with fight scenes. Most of his work is solid, though some faces are a little wonky at times, but the work he does fits well with Seeley’s script. This is more about relationships anyway, so a more laid-back visual style is what’s needed over kinetic, wall-to-wall action. Nightwing will always have plenty of chances to fight; it’s knowing what he’s fighting for that makes it matter.
- You like a book packed with great dialogue.
- You want to know what the future may hold for Helena, Tiger, and Midnighter.
- You like to see Dick interact with the rest of the Batfamily.
- Oh, come on, we all know this is what we’ve been waiting for.
Overall: Nightwing is back, and fans should certainly be happy. Like other Rebirth issues, this is a bit of a slow burner, but Seeley wisely uses it to reestablish already strong relationships and to set the stage for other characters’ futures in the DC Universe. It’s good, not great, and that’s okay: it doesn’t need to change the world, it just needs to set up Nightwing’s place in it.