Alright, Kyle Higgins. Now you have my attention.
After a shaky debut and second issue, Nightwing: The New Order is finding its footing and becoming a truly compelling work. It’s crazy what a simple change in concept and direction can do.
Now, that’s not to say this installment of the miniseries is too far removed from its predecessors; there’s a definite through-line from the opening chapters to this one. Nothing about it feels out of place or inconsistent with what came before. What it does is shift the narrative in a direction that I wasn’t quite expecting it to go and, in doing so, making me curious where it will all lead.
In the previous two chapters, my lack of enthusiasm could largely be contributed to a dull lack of focus. The idea that Dick Grayson got pushed to the point where he felt he needed to rid the world of superpowers is fertile ground for an interesting story. What we got was… a lot of talking.
Even the death of a beloved character didn’t pack the punch that it should have. Everything felt flat and rote, like Higgins had a great idea that just wasn’t translating.
Thankfully, that’s changed. Dick Grayson is now a wanted man, on the run from the organization he’s been the face of for years, and he’s bringing in more beloved characters on his journey. Whether it’s meant to be or not I can’t say, but this “fugitive on the run” direction makes Nightwing: The New Order feel more like an adventure than anything up to this point.
Taking the story beyond the confines of sterile government buildings and an empty Wayne Manor makes this world feel as big as it should, and that’s evident from the very first page.
Yes, dear old Kate Kane has entered the picture. Her inclusion is the first of many familiar characters who have a role in this issue, and I couldn’t be happier. Much as I love Dick and Alfred’s relationship, the small supporting cast was almost claustrophobic. Sure, seeing Mr. Terrific was pretty cool, but beyond that the only remotely interesting character was Jake, and even he’s tied too closely to his dad. That changes here, though, as Higgins starts making this world feel like the DC Universe and not just a generic futuristic microcosm.
The first two pages are great, particularly Dean White’s colors. It simply depicts the opposite sides of a phone conversation, so there’s not a lot of action, but I love White’s use of reds and blues. The opening page has all of these warmer colors that should be more inviting than the cold, sterile hues of the Crusader department’s headquarters, but it’s distant and aloof with it’s greyish undertones.
I hate to call Kate the villain here, but she’s certainly an antagonist. It wouldn’t surprise me if she and Dick ended up on the same side in the end, though, as Brady is clearly hot-headed and remorseless and a predictable candidate for the primary villain. It’s his refusal to obey orders that leads to Dick escaping, after all, with a pretty entertaining interrogation scene that quickly becomes a thrilling escape. Trevor McCarthy’s pencils have been solid up to this point, serving their purpose without instilling much life to the script. He gets to let loose, though, and the results are excellent. He has a great grasp on Dick’s acrobatic abilities, for one, and his sense of movement really makes the action pop off the page.
I love some of the creative panel layouts he utilizes, too. That tri-panel sequence there is clever in its evocation of the Nightwing logo, and simple red boxes give action scenes a sense of movement that isn’t too far removed from Mikel Janín’s work on Grayson.
Above all, this issue is just paced much better. The first issue had some ups and downs, falling prey to too much exposition, and the second started off great and quickly dropped off from there. Higgins uses a lot of the same tropes here as well, yet the sequence of events is much more involving. He gets us caught up in Dick’s escape long before he goes into more backstory, and by the time that comes around it’s more an added bonus than a reprieve from boredom. There are still some aspects I haven’t fully bought into: for one, I don’t for a second believe Jake is in any real danger, and I still don’t quite buy that Dick would have gone to such drastic lengths to eliminate superpowers. Those parts of the story still have room to develop, though and that’s what I appreciated most about this issue: Higgins wisely let’s a lot of the story tell itself through action beats and character interactions instead of laying the plot on thick. Because of that, this is far and away the best issue of The New Order to date, and gives me confidence that the story is on the right track.
It also has Tim Drake with a receding hairline.
I… just wanted to mention that. Poor Tim…
- You’ve stuck with the book, hoping it gets on more stable footing.
- You like the “fugitive” storytelling trope.
- You want to see Tim Drake with a receding hairline.
Overall: Three issues in and Higgins has finally hit his stride. By having Dick go on the run and bringing in more DC characters, Nightwing: The New Order has improved dramatically. While there are still a few aspects of the story I haven’t fully bought into, I’m much more intrigued now than I have been up to this point. The change in direction has done nothing but good things for the narrative, and a future world that felt cold and distant feels at least somewhat familiar and more alive. As a reader I’m excited to see where this goes.