Nightwing: The New Order #1 review

Dick Grayson is the most beloved man in the DC Universe.

He’s liked by pretty much everyone.

Of all the people Batman trusts, he’s possibly third only behind Alfred and Gordon.

Superman himself respects him enough to follow his lead.

Dick has led countless groups of heroes in just as many iterations of the Titans, he’s the big brother to anyone who earns the name Robin, and the ladies… well, they like him quite a bit too.

Going back to his introduction in 1940, Dick was a shot in the arm to a burgeoning industry.  As the plucky sidekick, he took Batman from pulp hero to true phenomenon, and his presence is no small part of what made comic books popular.

Because people liked him.

So what happens when the world’s most beloved man does the unthinkable?

“Twelve Years Ago,” or perhaps 2028, the influx of superhumans was out of control.  Something drove Nightwing to detonate some sort of device that wipes out superpowers.  Everywhere.

For (almost) everyone.

What would drive Dick Grayson, best friend of a speedster, former love of an alien princess, to take away what makes people special?

It’s a question that isn’t fully answered, and it doesn’t need to be.  Not yet, anyway.  All we know is that Nightwing saw a problem, found a solution, and now he’s living with the consequences.

Kyle Higgins insists that Dick didn’t kill anybody, and I believe him.  Contextually, there’s nothing to indicate that he’s a murderer, so while his actions are drastic and hard to comprehend, they aren’t outright unforgivable.  At least for the audience, that is.  One of the best choices Higgins makes here is having Dick carry this huge weight on his shoulders.  He feels as if he did the right thing, but I don’t know if he believes it.

So in this future that is mostly bereft of superpowers, Dick is a bit of a celebrity.  He’s the former Nightwing, the guy who took away the world’s superheroes, and the head of a police force that rounds up the few the bomb didn’t effect.  See, there’s a small percentage of the population who retained their powers, and by law they have to take suppressants to keep their abilities in check.  There’s an even smaller contingent of that number who are not affected by the suppressants at all, and those individuals are kept in stasis.

A lot of this is rather chilling and could be mined for some really rich story.  Coupled with the fact that Dick is still an all around good guy and just trying to do what he thought was best, this series could end up being great.  It’s not there yet, but it could get there.

It’s hard to put my finger on what doesn’t quite work here.  Higgins’ script is fine, full of some good ideas and a really intriguing premise.  Dick’s son Jake narrates, throwing in some great lines like “for a guy who hated letting people down… I’m not sure he ever really came to terms with that.”  “That” being given the label of traitor. So I like the ideas Higgins presents in the abstract, especially taking such a lovable guy and having him wrestle with the consequences of a difficult decision.

What drags it down a bit is the overly obfuscating dialogue.  There are too many “do you think it’s him?” and “does he ask about her?” type phrases that it gets a little distracting.  I get not wanting to play your winning hand too early and wanting mysteries to unfold, but it’s a little too esoteric and even a bit forced.  There’s a lot of expository dialogue, too, and while some of those scenes are pretty good (it’s always great seeing Dick interact with Alfred), this still feels like a preamble to the main story.  The pieces of a great narrative are put in play, but they just sit on the game board as the rules are read.  We get the idea that we’re in this futuristic world with new rules and a new status quo, but we don’t really get to experience it yet.

But really, there isn’t anything bad here by any stretch.  Higgins’ writing is confident and his character voices are solid.  The scenes between Dick and Alfred and Dick and Jake are really strong, and I like the idea of Jake narrating from even further in the future.  It’s just for all the solid character work and themes, there just isn’t an awful lot of excitement to go along with the intrigue.

To counterbalance that, Trevor McCarthy does bring a fairly nice visual flair to the story, and what action is there flows really well.

I’m always a sucker for the “trailing body” effect to simulate jumping or falling through the air, and with a master acrobat like Dick there’s lots of opportunity for some pretty dynamic movement.  Besides that rooftop chase early in the issue, though, there isn’t much in the way of action scenes.  It’s mostly just a lot of talking, be it at police headquarters or Wayne Manor.

McCarthy does do some great work with Dick’s character design, making him older and wearier while still maintaining his handsomeness.  Dick has a bit of a receding hairline, but besides that and a few lines on his face he looks as young as ever.  What really sets him apart from the Dick we know is the weight he’s carrying, and McCarthy does a pretty great job illustrating that.  Dick tries to put on a facade of happiness and nonchalance, but you can tell that he’s tired and, dare I say, insecure.  There’s a weariness in his eyes that even the most charming of smiles can’t hide, a pain and grief that is simmering just beneath the surface.  From a character standpoint it’s some really strong work.

The futuristic environment, on the other hand, is… kind of bland.  It looks fine, though the heavy inks throughout make it feel oppressive and uninviting.  There really isn’t a lot of memorable character to the environment; it looks like Gotham.  Not to say I wanted flying cars or anything, but some cool vehicle designs or some new buildings would have made it feel different.  Gotham is one of the most unique and recognizable fictional cities in all of fiction, yet it’s lacking any real personality here.  Had you told me it was Metropolis or Central City or Coast City or, heck, Blüdhaven, I would have believed you.

Dean White gets a bit creative with his colors in the opening flashback, bathing the bright costumes in a faint sepia tone, but that’s about as bright as the issue gets.  Everything else if just lots of different shades of black, blue, and green with some reds thrown in there.  If the intent was to make everything look a bit sterile, then it worked.  Like the writing, though, there isn’t anything bad about the visuals, just a lot of unrealized greatness.  The creative team is fantastic so hopefully everyone has a chance to shine in the issues to come.

If nothing else, the costume has those blue fingerstripes again.  That’s the most important thing.

Recommended if:

  • You miss out of continuity Elseworlds stories.
  • You want to see a different kind of conflict for Dick Grayson.
  • You want to see the fingerstripes back on the Nightwing costume.  So important, guys.

Overall: Nightwing: The New Order is full of some great ideas and interesting thematic material, yet it doesn’t quite get off the ground.  With stretches of exposition and a rather bland futuristic environment, this is a case of the series potential elevating the existing material.  Once we get a better feel of the world Higgins has created I’m confident this series will be more exciting, but for right now it’s an okay debut that has plenty of room to grow.

SCORE: 7/10