Nightwing: The New Order #6 review

Dick Grayson just wanted to save the world.

To a degree, he did: by robbing the world’s superpowered beings of their abilities, he prevented the inevitable collateral damage that would result from fights between heroes and villains.

By outlawing metahuman abilities, Dick made a world that was seemingly safe for “normal” people while “helping” those with powers by suppressing their gifts, if not outright putting them on ice until they could be controlled. The measures were extreme, but it’s what needed to be done.

After the death of Batman at the hands of Superman, Dick created a world that he thought would be safe for him and his loved ones. He may have caused irreparable damage to most of his relationships, but as long as his son could grow up in a safe, secure world it would all be worth it. And it was.

Until his son began exhibiting powers.

There has been a lot of heavy thematic material in this series, like parallels to gun control and fractured family structures.  Beyond that, there are some really great “comic book” ideas, like having Lois Lane appear as a Blue Lantern.  Even after six issues, though, that’s all they are: ideas.  There isn’t much in the way of an overarching theme, and the “cool comic booky stuff” is ultimately a distraction.

This is made all the more unfortunate because Higgins is a great writer, and he’s a great writer who loves Nightwing.  At the end of the road, I can sort of see what he was going for in a very broad sense, but even still I don’t know what the point of this story is.  Early on it looked like it might be an allegory about gun control, though that was quickly abandoned.  There was that scene early on with two average people getting into a traffic accident and one uses an acquired superpower to take out his anger on the other.  It was on the nose but could have led to some interesting social commentary, yet Higgins never circles back and fleshes out those themes.  His writing is lacking any sort of passion too, so even if he’s angry about something it doesn’t show.

We’re only really made to care because this is a story about Dick Grayson, and that was enough for a while.  An attempt is made to have Jake appeal to Dick’s sense of adventure and duty, but it falls flat.  There is an incredibly brief scene early on where Dick remembers an adventure with Bruce (though I don’t think Dick as Robin fighting Killer Croc makes any sort of sense continuity-wise), and that one panel has more of a spirit of adventure than anything else in this issue.  Higgins tries to call back to it later with Jake saying he wishes he could have been a good Robin to Dick, just like his dad was to Bruce, but it just doesn’t land.

It’s become hard to care about much of anything in this story, because there isn’t much tension or conflict.  There are a few interesting bits of domestic conflict, particularly with Jake’s antagonism toward his mother, though hardly any of it is explored.  Even worse, most of it is resolved in an extended prologue, so what little conflict there is is almost completely brushed over.  There isn’t a real, credible threat in Dick’s way either, at least to make for a compelling villain.  There’s opposition to be sure, with Kate Kane leading a charge to bring in Dick and Jake at any cost.  The previous issue at least ended at an interesting point, with Dick willing to work with his enemy for what he saw as the greater good.  There’s also an eleventh hour heel-turn from a character that can be seen from a mile away, though it is consistent with that character’s history.  Like most everything in this series, though, those are more or less discarded within just a few pages or panels, as Higgins practically rushes this final issue to its conclusion.

There really isn’t any sort of effective pacing here, which is possibly the most frustrating thing about the finale.  For five issues now the story has moved along at a languid pace, almost spinning its wheels at times, and yet the conclusion plays out like a highlight reel.  It lacks any sort of tension as it moves from scene to scene, with a final battle and climax that feels like it begins and ends in four pages.  It’s a bit longer than that to be sure, but so much happens in such a short span that it doesn’t feel like much happens at all.

Trevor McCarthy does what he can with the material, and his work has at least been consistent over the six issue run.  That does mean, of course, that it’s very ink heavy and often lacking in any sort of personality and life, but he does relish a few moments where he can cut loose.  There’s a quick battle between a group of heroes and a bunch of giant robots that’s just the right kind of crazy fun, and some of the cameos he throws in are fun to spot.

His Superman has the spit-curl going the right way too, so that’s an automatic extra point right there.

I will give the story credit for being self-contained and ending on an optimistic note.  Too much futuristic fiction is nihilistic and apocalyptic, and while The New Order started that way it ends on a very hopeful note.  Even if it doesn’t earn it, I’m still glad to see a piece of fiction that doesn’t feel the need to be completely dour.  That it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger is a plus too, making the possibility of an unnecessary sequel pretty much impossible.

Lex Luthor gets an absolutely amazing line too, generating one of the biggest laughs in a comic this week.

I won’t call this bad, because it’s not.  There are solid ideas if you look for them, a few cool scenes spread over the series, and there isn’t anything that’s truly awful or offensive.  What it is, though, is frustrating, in that there was so much unrealized potential.  With an aimless story without any clear purpose spread out over six often interminably long issues, Nightwing: The New Order was more oftentimes than not dull and boring, which are some of the worst things a story can be.

Recommended if:

  • You’ve been wanting to know how it ends.
  • You want a pretty good Lex Luthor moment.

Overall: Nightwing: The New Order has never been my favorite book that I cover.  The story has never really grabbed me, and while there have been some nice character beats to be sure, the overall narrative failed to deliver.  The finale here does its best to wrap everything up, but still can’t make this a story worth recommending.  To his credit, Higgins did write a self-contained story that doesn’t go out of its way to leave the door open for a sequel, though if he had I don’t know who would really want it.  This is a story that didn’t know what it wanted to say or who it wanted to say it to, and while it’s far from terrible, it suffers from a worse fate than simply being bad: it’s boring.

SCORE: 5/10