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“When it comes to criminals, their fear is more important than your trust.”

Those words, spoken by Batman in flashback, serve as both a loose theme and the underlying struggle Nightwing is going through on his new mission.  Is it better for the Parliament of Owls to think that Dick is truly one of them, or should he position himself as a threat to their goals?  The same goes for his relationship with Raptor: should he at least feign an interest in his guidance, getting close so he can try and redeem his newly appointed mentor, or should Dick outright reject his influence so as to not risk being tipped over into darkness?

Dick wrestles with these questions and more in this fantastic second issue, giving the narrative both weight and layers that make it much more than a run of the mill adventure.  Instead, Tim Seeley once again proves that he truly understands the title character and his supporting cast, indicating that his stellar work on Grayson wasn’t just a fluke.  Indeed, as much as I loved last week’s inaugural installment, I was prepared to see at least a slight dip in quality before the arc picked up and got moving.  To see such great, serialized storytelling is certainly a pleasant surprise, though given the skills of the creative team it should be expected.

For an issue that is fairly wordy, either through extended dialogues or Dick’s internal narration, there’s not a single panel that drags or scene that feels out of place.  After the introductory flashback, the story picks up right where the previous issue left off, with Nightwing and Raptor conversing after their first meeting.  I said it last week, and I’ll say it again: Raptor is an unlikable punk, and I actually kind of dig him for that.  He’s cocky, arrogant, and pretty pretentious, going on about the merits of branding oneself and how awesome his Suyolak weapon is.  I’m not saying I’d read a solo series starring the guy, but his pompousness and general attitude make him a good foil for Dick, akin to the argumentative banter Grayson had with Tiger but a little more even keel with the jabs.

Dick decides to give Raptor the benefit of the doubt, as he can see similar traits in him that he has himself.  While Raptor may not be a better mentor than Bruce, he does bring a different perspective to their line of work, and as Dick tends to favor “trust” over “fear,” he decides to at least play along to get closer to the Owls.

This impedes on his relationship with Barbara, who is being set up to be a recurring supporting cast member, and as the man who coined #DickAndBabs4Eva that makes me very happy.  Back in Dick’s solo series in the Nineties, one of the most intriguing aspects was his relationship with Barbara, and after some really rocky events and outright mischaracterizations over the past few years, it’s nice seeing them as friends who truly love each other.

I should also mention that Barbara, who wants to connect with Dick for a small rendezvous in the middle of their respective adventures, calls him from Japan, so that along with the mention that Tim is part of Batwoman’s new team makes this one of the most continuity focused issues I’ve seen in ages.  It’s a brief mention, but sometimes that’s all you need just so you can keep the timelines straight.

Anyway, after Dick and Barbara agree to totally-not-a-date, he and Raptor head off to intercept a freighter that is carrying cargo for a certain snake-themed terrorist organization.

That’s right, Nightwing and Raptor take on Cobra!

No, wait.  Sorry.  Got my notes mixed up.

Kobra!

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Yeah, those dorks.

It turns out the Cult is taking displaced refugees and experimenting on them, which doesn’t sit well with Dick at all.  Some of the experiments yield genetically modified hybrids of man and beast, while others are more… experimental.

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Brandon has his “Joker under the bed;” I have… whatever that thing is.

Fernández and Sotomayor really up their game this week, with striking images like that monstrous experiment and some genuinely gorgeous uses of color making this book look great.  It’s the same style as before with its own distinct look, but where the first issue had a few strange panels and weird faces, everything this week looks great.  The figures are solid, the visual inventiveness of the genetic experiments are genuinely terrifying, and the action and emotions are rendered wonderfully.  Like Seeley and Tom King found a perfect match in Mikel Janín and Jeromy Cox on Grayson, Seeley’s solo outing may already have its own distinctive artistic team.  If future installments bring the same kind of energy, inventiveness and beauty, I won’t complain.

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For all those larger moments, it’s one line that stood out to me as the best part of the issue:

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By itself it’s a good line, if not remarkably telling or memorable, but it reminded me of one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever read in a Batman comic.  Just be aware that I’m about to talk about Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, because that thing gets crazy.

[Spoiler]If you’ve never read this story, it would take me way too long to actually summarize everything adequately as it’s loaded with symbolism and subtext.  To be as concise as possible, it’s an “imaginary story” where Batman “dies” and characters from throughout his history eulogize him.

Far and away the most moving speech comes from Clayface:

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“Everyone’s worth it.”

That just resonates with me, and it’s a wonderful outlook to have as a hero.  Batman, for all he does to try and rid Gotham of crime and his reputation as brutal and harsh, sees every life as worth saving, every villain as being able to reform.  It’s beautiful, it’s simple, and it’s the perfect mantra for a guy like Dick to latch onto.

Just don’t ask what Harvey’s talking about there.  I’ve already forgotten.

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It’s a great little moment that may not mean as much to a lot of readers, but it certainly meant a lot to me.  This isn’t just a collection of a few great smaller moments, though; pound for pound this is a great read all the way through.  While it doesn’t stand on its own like a one-off story would, it still reads much better than simply a “part 2 of whatever.”  Seeley has managed to pace this story like a serialized adventure rather than one large story broken into smaller pieces, which is an achievement unto itself.  Like Raptor, he’s playing the long game.  Time will tell if he can keep that pace up, but for now, Nightwing is one of the best, most pure adventure titles in superhero comics.  Given that it’s the direct successor of Grayson that’s not at all surprising.

Recommended if:

  • You love Nightwing.
  • You want some great superhero comics.
  • You want to punch Raptor in his stupid face.

Overall: Two issues in and things are already in high gear.  Seeley is crafting a grand, high-adventure story and is wisely plotting it like an old film, and the artwork from Fernández and Sotomayor is already finding a groove and making for some truly striking visuals.  I’m glad Dick is back in blue for sure, and the fact that he has such a quality book makes it that much sweeter.

SCORE: 9/10