The best thing that can be said about Nightwing Annual #2 is that it feels like the entire Ric saga may come to an end soon. I’m sure most readers have become numbed by Nightwing as of late, merely biding their time until Dick regains his memories and takes up the mantle once again. Thankfully, this issue seems to set the stage for that return, featuring impressive art by Travis Moore and a few effective sequences with the bat family. All is not well in Dan Jurgens’ Nightwing, but a sliver of light has emerged at the end of the tunnel. If only we didn’t have to trudge through an insurmountable amount of pages dedicated to therapy sessions to get there.

Let’s start with the good. I found it refreshing to see the immediate fallout of Dick being shot in the head by KGBeast and Moore’s art really punches up the tragedy of the scene. The two-page spread that shows Batman hold Nightwing in his arms before he leaps off the roof to get him help is stunning. The dark, yet bold colors keep things appropriately moody, with closeups on Bruce featuring a blood red background in contrast to the dark blue night. The compositions work wonderfully as well, making Batman look small and powerless against the city as he glides away. Then the next panel keeps things up close on Nightwing to reiterate the stakes as blood spills down the side of his head. Additionally, we get to see Damian break into Dick’s hospital room and support him the best way he can…by scolding. I’ve always liked Damian when he’s well written and Jurgens nails the characterization here. Even though Damian essentially yells at Dick to wake up, the art combined with the dialogue creates a sense of desperation through the anger. There’s a great panel that shows Damian perched at the end of Dick’s hospital bed as he turns to hear someone approach. It’s a surreal little image that heightens the sense of foreboding that lies ahead for Dick. His true family seems completely out of place in his current situation. The clinical and the fantastic always clash.

Credit: Travis Moore, Andworld Design, Nick Filardi

Overall, that sense of desperation, which permeates through the bat family, is effective throughout this installment. It’s hard not to be affected when we see the bat family, in civilian clothes, arrive at the hospital and wait for news on Dick’s condition. The emotions of Bruce, Damian, Alfred, and Barbara when they realize Dick doesn’t remember them is expertly rendered by Moore’s art and shows how effective his pencils really are. Each character has a different style of grief on their face. Barbara is overwhelmed with emotion and cries, Alfred is shocked, Damian is angry, and Bruce is in denial. The fact that Bruce thinks Dick is playing dumb because the doctor is in the room with them is a tragic twist of the knife. Additionally, Moore uses a variety of compositions even in these quieter scenes and avoids having conversations devolve into flat, shot reverse shots.

Credit: Travis Moore, Andworld Design, Nick Filardi

Unfortunately, once the emotions run their course, it’s hard to shake off the feeling that we’ve been through all this before. We get some blanks filled in as we see Bruce and Damian attempt to shock Dick back into remembering who he is, but beyond that, we’ve seen “Ric” confront and reject his past multiple times already. No matter how well done the dialogue and art is, the well has run dry on this story line. The entire issue feels like an unnecessary recap, despite some new information thrown into the mix. It doesn’t help that this issue costs five dollars and adds very little progression. However, Travis Moore gets to draw a few splash pages that are a joy to look at, even if most of them are essentially flashy recap pages.

The other half of the comic deals with an extended conversation between Dick and his doctor, Isabella Haas, which details Dick’s happiest memory with his parents before they died. It’s great to see more of Mr. and Mrs. Grayson and Dick’s carnival life, but these scenes hinge on a twist that I felt was so obvious it made this subplot feel like it’s treading water. The most important scene is when Dick and his parents have a Thanksgiving dinner with a great aunt and uncle they’ve never met before. Moore’s art and Nick Filardi’s colors make the dinner scene feel warm and idyllic, particularly in contrast to the cold and sterile scenes at Wayne Manor. Jurgens creates a few interesting themes with these scenes being about what a home really is. Dick mentions that this memory set his “benchmark for a home”, which is why Wayne Manor feels so unfamiliar to him.

Credit: Travis Moore, Andworld Design, Nick Filardi

Putting aside the final reveal, the main thing that stands out about this issue is the timing. There are multiple good scenes here that depict the immediate aftermath of Dick’s amnesia. In fact, I’d say these are some of the best scenes that deal with Dick’s amnesia in the entire run, but they’ve come far too late into this storyline to leave a good impression. It comes across as Jurgens playing clean up on some long abandoned emotional and logistical strands that have been left loose by the previous arcs. Moving backward at this point is extremely difficult to read for anyone who desperately wants the series to move on from this overly long storyline. There are some important developments near the end that feature spoilers, but Jurgens does seem to be approaching the endgame when it comes to Ric.

Spoiler
The big twist is that the great aunt and uncle that the Graysons spent Thanksgiving with are actually part of the Court of Owls and were sent to nudge Dick on the path to join them. This twist was incredibly obvious from the start to me so this ultimate reveal landed on its face, even if it is kind of fun. Not only is the children’s book they give young Richard Grayson to read called “The Very Friendly Owl” (also the name of this chapter), but their house has prominently displayed paintings of owls. There’s a fine line between being subtly clever and so on the nose it drains any tension out of a scene. Additionally, it’s revealed that Dr. Haas is also part of the Owls and purposefully represses Dick’s memories of his past so he is more easily susceptible to being convinced to join the Owls. This development bothered me more as it feels like Jurgens going backward not so much to illuminate character development, but an attempt to justify the inane decision DC made to use an amnesia plot line at all. It’s obviously not Jurgens’ fault that he was given the book in the midst of a controversial story arc, but I question how much this development really adds to the story.
.

Recommended if…

  • You think Travis Moore’s art is worth the price of admission.
  • Further background into the Grayson family interests you.
  • Getting some idea of where the series is heading is important.

Overall

Despite the troubling core premise of this chapter, Nightwing Annual #2 is technically well put together. Travis Moore’s art is stellar and he’s the rare artist who has great control over facial “acting” as well as dynamic page layouts. Moore was saddled with a series of conversations and he still made it exciting to look at. Jurgens does his best to layer a sense of dread through the issue with the Court of Owl threat looming, but it feels like too little too late. I want the series to move on sooner rather than later, and having this annual wring its hands in an attempt to further enrich a status quo doomed to change in the coming months makes it all come off…misguided.

Score: 6/10


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with this comic for the purpose of this review.