I noticed Nightwing: Old Friends, New Enemies in various comic shops and on Comixology, so I started asking friends of mine if they’d read it. Most hadn’t, but those that had, recommended it. I’m always a little cautious of older stories simply because the writing can be a bit cheesy from time to time. The stories for this trade, specifically, were written and published in the mid to late 80’s. Times were a little different then, and the Comics Code Authority was overseeing publications to prevent government regulation, so there were weird instances of “You’re allowed to due this, but you can’t do that,” which could make it hard for creators to tell the stories they were passionate about telling. In the end, I gave in and decided to give this book a shot. Nightwing is my favorite character after all, and there’s nothing I respect more than his progression from side-kick to standalone hero, so why wouldn’t I be excited or willing to read this? Right?
Nightwing is busting a group of criminals when he discovers that his old friend and ally Speedy has come into town looking for him. He needs Dick’s help to track down Cheshire… the mother of Roy’s child! Then, in a second adventure teaming together the two Teen Titans, Nightwing and Speedy get caught up in a war between two rival gangs. Collects SECRET ORIGINS #13 and ACTION COMICS WEEKLY #613-618 and 627-634.
There’s no need to read anything prior to picking up Nightwing: Old Friends, New Enemies, however, I would recommend having a basic knowledge of Nightwing and the Teen Titans/ Titans (specifically Roy Harper).
Nightwing: Old Friends, New Enemies is essentially three stories. Unfortunately, with each story, Nightwing becomes less and less involved. In fact, I question whether or not I would even consider this Nightwing’s story. In my opinion, this is Roy Harper’s story more than it’s Dick Grayson’s, and that bothers me quite a bit. I will openly admit that this isn’t a bad read, but if you’re going to bill a book as a Nightwing book, make sure the story is his. Had this been titled Nightwing & Speedy: Old Friends, New Enemies, I wouldn’t complain. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, so I’m disappointed.
The first story is from Secret Origins and covers Dick’s origin, as well as his transition from Robin to Nightwing. The story takes place following the Teen Titans’ time on Tamaran, while they’re on the planet of Okaara, so don’t be concerned when you open this book and find this on the first page:
When I first saw this, I immediately thought, “Oh… Ok… What did I get myself into?” But roughly a page or two later, the narrative becomes good, so don’t fret. I expected the chapter from Secret Origins to feel like old news, but it was actually a bit of a gem, and worth the time of any Nightwing fan. Yes, you know Dick’s story. Yes, you know he was a founding member of the Teen Titans. Yes, you know about his transition from Robin to Nightwing… But there’s something about this story that’s heart-warming. The retelling of his past isn’t what wins me over, more so than the way he shares that story with Jericho. I’ve always viewed Dick as a positive character that inspires hope, and this story drives that theme home. And that orange little guy that’s featured on the first page… When you finish this story, you’ll feel bad for judging him at first site.
The next chapter begins the longer, two-part story featuring Dick and Roy. I know I said I was disappointed because this is a Speedy story labeled as a Nightwing story, but I also want to be very clear that I enjoyed reading it. In the first chapter Roy seeks out Nightwing to get his help, but he only wants his help – the Teen Titans can’t take any part in this, just Dick. So what exactly does Roy need help with? Cheshire.
Dick joins Roy in his mission, but as things start to unfold, we quickly learn that there’s much more going on. Speedy isn’t exactly honest when he recruits Nightwing to support him either, something that not only puts Dick and Roy in danger, but Roy’s daughter as well. I enjoy the mystery of Speedy’s intentions, as well as the dynamic between Nightwing, Speedy, and Chesire. There’s a clear espionage vibe to the story as Nightwing and Speedy travel the world, attempting to stop Cheshire from killing diplomats, or other government officials of their respective countries – a clear influence on how creative teams are currently writing Dick Grayson.
The cat and mouse chase between Cheshire and the two Titans is a fun, and the action is entertaining, even if it’s a bit dated. What I really appreciate is the varying level of skill between these characters though. These days, all of our heroes and villains are master martial artists that can take down practically whoever they encounter at any time. Here, however, Speedy is completely inept at taking on Cheshire in hand to hand combat, and even Nightwing knows that an extended fight with her will lead to his death.
As I mentioned earlier, this is Roy’s story, and while Dick plays a large role, it’s mostly a supporting one. The plot progresses to focus more on Roy and his daughter, as the narrative takes the two to Ireland in the aftermath of the conflict with Cheshire. It’s here that a completely new threat presents itself. This is also, unfortunately, the point in the book where Nightwing practically vanishes. Page after page, I kept reading wondering when he was going to pop up, but nothing… Nothing at all. I even started wondering if a good Samaritan helping Roy was Nightwing in disguise… but it wasn’t. Page after page turned into issue after issue. As much as I wanted to enjoy the story, I just felt let down and cheated. If I wanted to read a Roy Harper story, I would have purchased one.
There are some great moments with Roy as he grows to become an adult and father, so I don’t want to take away from that. There are also some rather edgy themes that are touched on or hinted at in this book, that should also be praised. Roy and Cheshire’s relationship alone could serve as a prominent topic of conversation, but the plot threads for the Ireland story are especially edgy – specifically the portion cover child abandonment and child abuse. They weren’t explored with the best finesse, but the idea that they were even touched on is worthy of applause in my opinion, as well as my biggest reason for praise.
Eventually, Nightwing does return to the story as the narrative circles back to a mystery that is introduced at the beginning of the trade pertaining to Roy and his employment. I don’t want to give too much away since the mystery itself drives the pace for most of the story. When all is said and done, you’re left with a relatively simple, yet gripping book that is, in fact, worth your time. Just be aware that you won’t be reading the “Nightwing show.” I know I’m harping, but it’ll make less of an impact if you go into Nightwing: Old Friends, New Enemies knowing this is Speedy’s story.
Erik Larsen, Tom Mandrake, and Cherie Wilkerson cover art for this trade, and the result is what you would expect from a comic that was originally published in the late 80’s. The work is good for that time, but if you’re particular with art, this might not be the best book for you to read.
None. Nada. Zilch. All you get with this trade, is a collection of stories. Isn’t that all we’re really looking for anyway though?
$11.99. Comparatively speaking, it’s easy to think, “This is a bit pricey considering what is and isn’t included.” In some ways, I would agree with that statement, however, when you consider how much work goes into a comic, then you can’t help but feel petty for thinking such things.
The important question to ask: “Is the Nightwing: Old Friends, New Enemies good?” The answer to that is, “yes.” However, the lack of extra’s and the fact that this is hardly a Nightwing story drops the score down a bit. Yes, that might make me petty, but when something sticks with me this much, it’s worth accounting for.