Reading a trade is often a different experience than picking up monthly issues. Messy cliffhangers are resolved immediately, themes are often easier to follow, and pacing issues can be largely invisible when you have six issues of content to burn through in one sitting. I had my problems with Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s Nightwing as I read their single issues when they first came out. Very few of them were about the level of craft on display. Redondo’s pencils with Adriano Lucas’ colors are some of the best in comics right now and Taylor’s scripts are confident and persuasive, especially in the smaller, more character driven moments. My problems dealt more with what a comic book arc should accomplish. This is a more subjective concern.
Nightwing Vol 1: Leaping into the Light doesn’t tell a complete story. These six issues make up a very long beginning without much of a middle or end and those thinking they will get a fully fledged narrative when buying this trade will turn to the last page with mild annoyance. However, those willing to dedicate time to a long-form story will find these six issues make for an extremely compelling beginning to Dick’s journey to save Blüdhaven. Many readers won’t even see this as a problem and understand that the first volume in a longer run is often just an introduction, a promise, for bigger (although not necessarily better) things to come. I’m a fan of Tom Taylor and I trust that his plans for the character will pay off in ways that are equal parts heartfelt and thrilling. It’s only a little unfortunate that Leaping into the Light focuses much more on pulling at heartstrings than manufacturing tension as Dick figures out the best way to help the citizens of Blüdhaven.
The importance of Alfred’s death and his relationship to Dick is apparent right from the first issue where Dick learns he has inherited Alfred’s vast fortune. This is the springboard for Dick’s journey in Blüdhaven. There is no action packed inciting incident. This time, the inciting incident is Dick reading a letter. There are villains, both old and new, who make their presence known through violence and intimidation, but they are not the focus. The narrative thread lies with this burden of wealth that Dick has suddenly attained and his internal struggle to figure out the best way to utilize it. Dick has often been a grounded character in recent years. His struggles most often reflect our own in practical matters. He’s a young man, perpetually stuck in that nebulous transition into adulthood where living on your own and forging your own path is only the start to becoming who you are meant to be. There’s a reason Dick’s love life is often a focus as readers relate and live through his search for a partner and have very strong opinions on whom he should end up with. This is why Dick’s new struggle of inheriting vast wealth is an equally intriguing and troublesome angle. I frankly can’t relate as much to this new version of Dick, even if I still recognize and enjoy seeing him tackle this new phase of life.
Leaping into the Light therefore operates as a way to establish Blüdhaven as a place and a symbol. For Dick, Blüdhaven is an opportunity for him to be a hero on a grander scale beyond “punching bad guys and then waiting to punch more”. These are Dick’s own words in describing his previous place in the world. When Barbara attempts to tell Dick his past heroics have amounted to more than just punching bad guys, Dick admits it’s an “oversimplification”. It’s in these moments that Taylor’s script feels incredibly self-aware. Dick’s complaint about not wanting to just “punch bad guys” is a common retort thrown by people who don’t like superhero comics, or by characters who don’t like vigilantes. For me, seeing a hero punch a villain isn’t quite so simple. These heroics are often a symbol for more than just a simple punch. It’s about sacrifice, putting yourself before others, and showing the world that standing up for what’s right is worth fighting for. I don’t like when Dick says he thinks Batman could have “done more as Bruce Wayne.” I don’t like the implication that previous books have never mentioned all of the charity work and organizations the Wayne Foundation has established to help the downtrodden. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Taylor’s decision to give Dick a fortune and to focus on that burden, but it’s being treated as if it’s a grand new idea.
There are some rough patches in Dick’s attempt to save Blüdhaven with his newfound fortune. I can’t tell if Dick buying a bunch of homeless people pizza is meant to be heartwarming or expose his naïveté toward the problems the downtrodden actually face. Nonetheless, his act of kindness brings him into the crosshairs of a new villain – Heartless. If you guessed that he steals hearts then you are correct, and Dick’s heart seems like a nice target. In Blüdhaven, kindness is a rare virtue and Heartless is there to take Dick’s “heart before he gives it to the city”. I would never accuse Tom Taylor of being subtle. Blockbuster is also in Blüdhaven, running the show and doing his best Kingpin impersonation. He, too, doesn’t have much to do in this first volume, and this is really the only true problem I have with the arc. I’m picky when it comes to political matters in comics, especially when they serve to remove the mystique and otherworldliness of comic book worlds and this includes “Earthbound” cities such as Gotham and Metropolis. Taylor makes the problems of our world the problems of the comic world in a 1:1 comparison. I think this approach often creates problems, which is why he has Dick mention his aspirations to do more than just punch people. However, I’m willing to go along with the surface level investigation into the average person’s problems Taylor’s scripts have Dick delve into. What I’m less endeared to is his narrative spinning plates as Dick works out what he wants to do with his money. Blockbuster and Heartless do have their action scenes with Dick, but both lack a coherent mission beyond amassing power…or hearts. To them, Dick is a mere nuisance and there is a certain lack of stakes that goes hand in hand with that.
So why do I think Leaping into the Light is still successful and a must read for any fan or aspiring fan of Nightwing? Tom Taylor understands Dick’s character at his core and the Bat-Family as a whole. There is a deep emphasis on familial ties and the many ways these can establish themselves in one’s life. There’s the inclusion of Melinda Zucco as well, who looks like a villain on the surface, but holds a connection to Dick that further explores unconventional family ties in an issue dedicated to her backstory. I also love the emphasis on Dick’s various father figures and how they can all co-exist. There is a strange semantics to some of this as Dick refers to his biological parents as…parents and Bruce and Alfred as his two fathers. No matter what he calls them, Dick acknowledges the impact all of these people have on his upbringing and there are a surplus of powerful moments to go along with this. And while some of my complaints are geared toward Dick’s mission to create a safety net for Blüdhaven’s poor and needy, I do like that there isn’t a city destroying threat at play. The smaller scale ultimately works, even if I would’ve liked for our villains to have a more coherent, and intimate plan. The build up to Dick’s big moment at the end of the arc is profound as he checks in with everyone close to him. This includes the Titans, Leslie Thompkins, Lucius Fox, and Superman himself. Taylor understands that even the brave heroes of the DC Universe need to be able to lean on those close to them to fulfill their potential. It’s an important message to deliver and more importantly, a major key to what makes Dick Grayson who he is. On top of that, fans of Barbara Gordon will be happy with her prominence in this series, especially in regards to her romantic relationship with Dick.
There’s also the undeniable exuberance that Bruno Redondo and Adriano Lucas bring to the book. I wouldn’t call the series action packed, but when things heat up, it is sure to be a thrilling read under the guidance of Redondo’s pencils and Lucas’ colors. Fight choreography is clean and precise thanks to Redondo’s page layouts and his ability to pull away from a fight and establish a sense of space. Even the more comedic moments nail the landing due to Redondo’s expert ability in rendering character “acting” and portraying a sense of ease and comfort between Dick, Barbara, and Tim as they investigate the various criminals of Blüdhaven. Lucas’ colors are also tantamount to Redondo’s success as every choice he makes is perfect, especially the soft pink and purple hues of Dick’s apartment lighting, which adds a dash of romance to Dick’s solo scenes with Barbara. This aesthetic carries across every issue and makes each page a joy to pour over.
Newcomers to the character will find themselves given a great introduction to Dick Grayson and the Bat-family with Leaping into the Light. Since Taylor gives him a problem that can’t be solved by punches, this allows the series to reset itself and reflect on what type of hero Dick can and should be. The six issues within this trade don’t add up to a satisfying conclusion, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t satisfaction in seeing Dick assess a problem and figure out a way to fix it that doesn’t rely on brute force. In many ways, Leaping into the Light demonstrates how theme, character, and world building can often be as fulfilling and exciting as a tightly wound narrative that puts a character through the wringer. In a perfect world, an arc would have both, but Taylor makes a decision to cast a wide net and set a solid foundation to build on. Those willing to hitch a ride to Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo will very likely not regret such a decision.
- You’re a longtime fan who wants to see Dick Grayson treated right or a new reader who wants an excellent jumping on point.
- Bruno Redondo’s and Adriano Lucas’ work catches your eye and you don’t mind simply pouring over the art.
- You trust Tom Taylor to raise the stakes after using this arc to set the stage.
Leaping into the Light has a different goal in mind than most comic book arcs. It’s a soft reboot at its core, throwing Dick into a new situation and given a problem he can’t solve via his usual methods. Some readers should be aware that Tom Taylor uses this arc to set up a variety of plot threads and themes that are mostly not paid off by the end. This arc is about a man given an opportunity to fix a problem in a way he hasn’t tried before and figuring out how best to do it. You’re given an answer to that dilemma by the end, but the surplus of villains within these pages mostly linger on the fringes of the narrative. No matter the argument for how a story should be paced, Leaping into the Light is a captivating read for anyone interested in Nightwing as a character or for those who seek more than traditional fisticuffs in their superhero comic books.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.