Author’s Journal | Pen Date 12.31.21 | TW: Language, Violence, Sexual References
WARNING: SPOILERS Throughout – This includes references to other material in the canon.
This isn’t the first comic I’ve cracked open, nor is it the first anthology I’ve ever tackled, but it is my first comic anthology. So, this review may be a bit ignorant of certain unwritten rules of comic book production.
That said, I friggen LOVE Nightwing.
For those who don’t know, Dick Grayson was the first of the Robins, the OG. But more importantly than that, he’s really the first to go off on his own and make something of himself.
Working under Batman, Dick sees firsthand that there is this darkness in Bruce and tries to reject that same darkness from himself. Instead, he embodies all the good – which can’t be said of the second Robin, Jason Todd – but that’s a story for another day.
Enough background, if you’re reading this, you probably know all that already.
So, we pick up with Dick returning from his stint as “Agent 37” – a James Bond type of unmasked persona he takes on while working for a covert spy agency – known as Spyral (eye-roll). But now he’s back. And he’s reclaimed his mantle as Nightwing.
This is how we kick off Dick’s “rebirth” saga, which boils down to a relaunch/reset in 2016 of the DC Universe as a whole.
At this point, new readers should know that we are now on Robin #4, Damian Wayne – son of Bruce and Talia al Ghul (Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter – think Marion Cotillard in The Dark Night Rises). Batman’s darkest Robin (#2), Jason Todd, is running around as the reformed Red Hood and Tim Drake is off planet but presumed dead. It’s a whole thing – comics man.
The first storyline features the Court of Owls and their successors the Parliament of Owls – which is better, I guess, because they wear black masks now, and are now more covert than they were before – is solid.
Nightwing infiltrates the Parliament and acts as a double agent due to a bomb that has been implanted in Damian. If he doesn’t serve The Parliament, Damian goes boom.
During this whole affair, Nightwing must work alongside a mysterious man with connections to Dick’s past. Masked and wielding a (magical?) can-do-it-all gadget called Suyolak, this man, Raptor, works to keep tabs on Nightwing for the Parliament.
Anywho, things honestly go downhill in the next arc, which SUCKS. Not the arc, just that it goes downhill.
The next arc “Night of the Monster Men” is a six-part multi-character crossover, featuring the a large portion of the Bat Family (Batman, Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Batwoman, Gotham Girl, The Spoiler, Orphan, Duke, and even Clayface).
We only get two issues from this anthology. It took me a while to realize because the labeling of issues is honestly pretty poor, usually occurring at the end of the issue. So, of course we only get the Nightwing Issues, foregoing the four other issues, which kills all continuity.
That in mind, these issues are great! But overall, only including two issues of a six-issue story, is rather annoying. Especially considering this saga has the entire Bat-Fam fighting Pacific Rim Kaiju-esc mutated monster-humans created by the notorious Bat Villain, Hugo Strange.
I was incredibly flustered to have flipped the page and find out we’ve skipped issues. Heroes have been turned into monsters and they’re fighting each other as well as the rest of the Bat-Fam. It’s jarring, and if you’re like me you’ll be thinking, maybe there will be a flashback? But, there wasn’t. Instead, the battle ends, and the heroes are turned back to normal. I about closed the book altogether.
Fortunately for us – despite a decent Inception-esc detour into Nightwing’s dreams to fight a nightmare grim-reaper-type monster alongside a Superman from a different universe (again, comics man) – things turn for the better when Dick finally moves to Blüdhaven. Not to be its hero, but to get away from Gotham and find himself.
He ends up being its hero anyway.
Think of Blüdhaven as the New Jersey to Gotham’s New York. Things aren’t as bad as what goes on in Gotham, but overall, there’s really nothing redeeming about Blüdhaven.
Well for Dick Grayson, there’s one redeeming thing. Or should I say, one person.
Normal, everyday Dick Grayson volunteers at a local community center, where he works for a confusingly familiar face in Shawn Tsang. There he learns Shawn and the center play host to a group of ex-Gotham villains led by The Defacer. I.e. an aqua-haired, spray-paint super-villain. She and her band of recovering villains, The Run-Offs are doing whatever they can to start over.
Soon thereafter, Nightwing is thrust into the mystery of why these former-no-do-gooders are being framed for murders around Blüdhaven. In the process, he tangles with a sentient gorilla (no not Grod, Grimm), a lady that has turned into a giant Killer Whale person akin to King Shark – lazily called Orca – and of course, some entangling between the sheets with Ms. Defacer.
This volume then ends on a cliffhanger, where Dick reveals to Bruce and Alfred how happy he is with Shawn (A.K.A. The Defacer) and how he’s building a life with her in Blüdhaven.
In the next frame, a looming shadow stands behind Shawn, her phone falls to the floor, and it looks to be that a mysterious figure has struck. Meanwhile, poor Dick is thinking about his Happily Ever After.
Fade to black
Overall, I really enjoyed the stories, and the artwork is fantastic. But, I’ve noticed that DC feels a bit more laissez-faire with their structure and layout. I admittedly have limited comparison with Marvel and other comics, but in my opinion, Marvel does seem to adhere to a classic comic reading style a bit better.
I also feel that the writing was a bit lazy at times. This may be due to the Rebirth Saga, which saw an increase in the production of DC’s lineup. Despite my feelings about the writing, I must come back to how much I enjoyed the artwork.
In the end though, my largest complaint centers on the “Night of the Monster Men” arc. It was rather disappointing to only get such a small portion, but I hope to read the whole of it at some point. Maybe if they’d included it, I could see giving this a 4-star rating, but I just can’t as things stand.
Ultimately, it’s a 3-Star for me dawg.
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