Spoiler Warning: It should go without saying that there are spoilers in my reviews, so if you want to experience these stories and their surprises for yourself, maybe skip the rest of this article. Long story short: I’m hesitant about the new Nightwing comic – it could go either way!
A few years ago, I was really into Teen Titans, Titans, and Outsiders – some of the various team-based books featuring Dick Grayson (among others). In general, I’m a fan of the character. As the Bat’s first protégé, Grayson presented a lot of very interesting storytelling opportunities. He was an up-and-coming star in the superhero circuit, and as a rule of thumb, I enjoyed the stuff that he was in.
Now, with DC Rebirth going into full swing, Nightwing #1 is winging its way onto shelves to show us the direction the character will take with DC’s relaunch. Written by Tim Seeley, with Yanick Paquette as illustrator and Nathan Fairbairn as colorist, Nightwing promises to tell the story of the titular hero infiltrating the Parliament of Owls, a sinister cabal of shadowy power brokers, corrupt politicians, and other unsavory types.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I like to start with a discussion of the art, so I’ll stick to that format. Unfortunately, it’s not the most positive of notes to start off on, as I’m not a fan of Paquette’s style. In general, it’s overly simplistic, and I don’t really care for the ludicrously-sized chins sported by Grayson, Batman, and other characters. One thing I do enjoy, though, is Paquette’s depiction of Grayson in mid-fight. He’s usually suspended in mid-air, calling back to his trapeze-artist roots, and looks like he’s enjoying the heck out things in an aloof kind of way. It gives the character the distinct air of a swashbuckler, someone who appreciates the thrill of a good scuffle.
Similarly, Fairbairn’s coloring doesn’t appeal to me much either. It’s competent work, to be sure, but I’m not inspired or drawn in by it. Much of the coloring seems flat, and some hues are overused in a given panel or page, giving things a washed out appearance. This isn’t helped much by the fact that, other than a few set piece pages/panels, Paquette doesn’t put a lot of detail into a lot of scenes. This attempt at a “less is more” approach leaves Fairbairn to fill in empty space with random colors, and overall it doesn’t really work for me.
As for the story… It’s certainly got a lot going on. There’s a through-line of Dick Grayson talking with Damian Wayne (and later, Bruce Wayne) about the recent events that Grayson went through. Unfortunately, it comes off as clunky exposition, a sort of “Previously In Nightwing…” recap. And speaking of dialogue, in general it feels stilted and unnatural. Especially when it comes to Damian Wayne – a character that I roll my eyes at in every incarnation I’ve yet seen him in. I get that he’s a “super-serious assassin in a child’s body”, but even his uncharacteristic obsession with the Cheese Viking video game (which sounds awesome, by the way) doesn’t thaw the ice in my heart for this character.
I feel like there’s too much going on in this issue – the fight with the Madmen, the fight on the H.I.V.E. weapons platform, the attempt at reconciliation with Helena (aka Huntress)… Even though these things last for one or two pages at most, they prevent the story from reaching any kind of momentum. The too-frequent scene shifts knock me out of the story every time.
Now, it’s possible that this first issue is an anomaly. Certainly, Seeley has provide context and background for the current storyline, so maybe it just felt easiest to get all of that out of the way in #1, so that subsequent issues can focus on the arc ahead. I have to hope that’s the case, honestly, because otherwise I won’t be following along with Dick Grayson’s adventures, even if each issue does only cost $2.99.
What do you think about Nightwing #1? Comment below and let me know if you agree or disagree with my reaction to the issue!