Nightwing: The New Order #2 review

Dick Grayson has created some problems for himself.  In the future presented in The New Order, the former Nightwing has done what he can to eliminate superpowers.  Not content with setting off a bomb that takes away the abilities of 90% of the world’s superpowered population, Dick is also the head of an organization that polices the remaining rogue metahumans.  It’s his life, his new purpose.  Serve as the face of the controversial group, make sure everyone abides by the new law of the land, and put the unaffected under ice until they can be “cured.”  All for the greater good.  All for a better future.

What happens, then, when his son starts exhibiting metahumans abilities?  Does Dick react as a father would, protecting his child at any cost, or does he perform the civic duty he’s championed for so long?

That’s the conundrum Dick Grayson finds himself in.  He could surely pull some strings so Jake doesn’t have to go in stasis.  Since it’s revealed that Jake is effectively immune to any and all inhibitor meds, that is the legal course of action Dick should take.  That is the crux of his dilemma, and the main driving point of this issue.

Frankly, I wish I was more emotionally invested in it.

There are some good ideas here, and Higgins touches on some rich allegorical themes: parallels with gun control, personal identity, and parenting being the most obvious.  While there is quite a bit of material about Dick as a father, including a particularly moving conversation about Jake’s fear in revealing his abilities, Higgins doesn’t really scratch the surface and dive deep into his ideas.

I hate to say it, but there’s a lack of heart to the story.  There are a lot of points in the issue where I knew I should have been feeling something or should have been shocked or upset by a development, but it just never came.  So far, this story is pretty cold and distant.  There are a few gut punches (hearing any child tell their father that they were afraid he would think they were bad is heart-wrenching, no matter how you like at it), but nothing really connects.  Even a pretty big loss at the end falls relatively flat when, considering what happens, it should be the most devastating part of the book.

A lot of the disconnect may have to do with the way the story is told, as well as the relatively small supporting cast.  This is effectively a story in two parts, split right in half.  The issue begins with a flashback to the day Dick set off the device, eliminating most of the world’s superpowers.  These eight or so pages are gripping and poetic, summing up the “what” and even a bit of the “why.”  As Jake narrates, we see the coming of the superheroes, the final battle over Metropolis, and the aftermath of Dick’s drastic decision.

There’s a scene of road rage, where a common man with powers threatens another driver’s life, and then the ensuing protests.

We see Dick survive an assassination attempt.

We’re even told who Jake’s mother is, point blank, if it wasn’t obvious at this point.

There’s also an appearance from Gentleman Ghost.

Starting on a high note.  I dig it.

From layouts to colors to pencils, this is a visually stunning sequence, and has the best writing in the issue.  Even with a bit of a haze to it, the opening of the book is bright and colorful, with a strong visual identity.  White’s colors pop off the page, from the silver of baby Kal-El’s rocket to the bomb’s “explosion” effect, enveloping the Earth in a beautiful and sinister shade of pink.  Higgins’ narration is also focused and tight, using just enough words and letting McCarthy, White, and letterist Clayton Cowles tell the rest of the story.  It’s reminiscent of the opening page of All-Star Superman:

Eight words and you know everything you need to about Superman’s origin.  I won’t place it on the same level as All-Star, which… well, you know how I feel about it.  Still, it’s effective storytelling just the same, with great teamwork between the writer and the illustrators.  It’s so good that Higgins even tweeted a “walk through” of this whole sequence.

It’s when the narrative catches up to the “present” that it lost me, both in the writing and even a bit with the visuals.  Trevor McCarthy’s work is still strong, but as in the previous issue it’s very dark and ink-heavy.  I get that they wanted to distinguish the two halves of the story from one another by utilizing different styles, and to that end they succeeded.  I will say there is a bit more variety in the colors used in future Gotham, including some appealing neon greens and tasteful uses of red skies.  Regardless, it’s still a very dark book that, while never messy or muddy, doesn’t really jump off the page in its latter half.  I’m not asking for out of place, garish colors or unnecessary splash pages, just a bit more life to the visuals.

There really aren’t many characters that we care about, either.  There’s Dick, Alfred, and a brief cameo from a certain… proponent of fair play, but besides Jake none of the new characters make much of an impact.  It’s made worse by they fact that, once again, there are legions of masked “Batsoldiers” who serve as antagonists.  It makes sense with what Higgins is trying to do, but it’s still a worn out trope that’s been used way too much just this year alone.

Dick Grayson is my favorite character.  His relationship with Alfred is second only to Bruce’s.  Seeing them at odds with each other, and with Dick in a situation he’s made for himself but doesn’t want to be in any longer, is material that is ripe for some really interesting storytelling.  The way it’s presented here, though, has yet to really grab hold of me.  It’s a frustrating case of almost being there, seeing the potential, but not quite realizing it.

Even if this issue fell flat, there are enough good ideas to keep me coming back.  On top of that, future issues promise appearances from quite a few familiar characters, some of whom have been cast in some pretty interesting roles.  Given that this is providing context more than anything, it may read better once the whole series is finished, and my opinion of this issue might change.  On its own, though, the second issue of Nightwing: The New Order is a bit of a letdown.

Recommended if:

  • You like Nightwing.
  • More than that, you like Elseworlds stories.
  • You like the idea of emotional dilemmas, even if they aren’t fully explored.
  • You collect each and every appearance of Gentleman Ghost.  As you should.

Overall: The ideas are there, it’s just that the execution isn’t quite delivering yet.  Higgins starts off strong with a gorgeously illustrated and engaging flashback sequence that’s much more interesting than the actual narrative, which is rather slow, cold, and dare I say boring.  There’s still plenty of time for the story to come together, and Higgins has been hinting at some pretty interesting developments in upcoming issues, but as a whole Nightwing: The New Order has yet to take off.

SCORE: 5.5/10