NIGHTWING (Tim Seeley & Tom King, Javier Garron, Jorge Lucas & Guillermo Ortego) #30 is a conclusion to one of DC’s longest running New 52 titles!
I’ll admit right out of the gate; I dunno how keen I was exactly on DC moving the pages of NIGHTWING from Gotham to Chicago. It seemed like a move that another comic company, with a logo that’s a lot more red, would make. Nothing against The House of Ideas, but right around the same time a certain clone of a Spider-based hero was moving from New York to Texas.
When NIGHTWING moved Dick Grayson out of the streets of Gotham, it set him down in a little corner that’s been often unexplored in The New 52.
That much more street-level examination of Superheroes also gave Nightwing his own metaphorical wings to fly with, so to speak.
NIGHTWING and a few other books like it, have shown us more of the DC Universe than we’ve gotten to see in recent years. With Chicago we see a place that DOESN’T benefit from having resident super-scientists, or even superheroes. NIGHTWING under Kyle Higgins was almost a deconstruction of the kind of tropes we see in Superhero books, especially DC Superheroes. For starters, because of the past Chicago has in The New 52, the presence of a ‘mask’ is met with suspicion and hostility.
Nearing the climax of his run – though I don’t think Higgins knew it, he introduced the villainous Trickster. Each issue seemed to be dedicated towards his mounting as a threat more and more, and the series seemed to build him up as Nightwing’s answer to The Joker. If anything, NIGHTWING never banked on a huge supporting cast because the book was about the characters struggles in the city of Chicago. With The Trickster we got a single threat that all of the other problems Dick Grayson would have to face as Nightwing could be built around.
For that, The Trickster managed to be represented as a more credible and well-written villain than The Joker has in a long time. Mostly, because The Trickster was never around long enough in the series to gain that kind of villain invulnerability The Joker has had as a pop culture icon for the last few decades. I’ve always been of the mind that each new storyarc focusing on the interactions between Batman and The Joker are increasingly cheapened. The pages of NIGHTWING getting a villain like The Trickster only serve to highlight that fact.
Kyle Higgins, with characters like The Trickster and having Nightwing’s interactions being defined by where he was and what he was doing – but never who he was as a symbol, did something a little different in his run on the series. To me, Higgins was the most personally on point creator besides maybe Francis Manapul in all of the New 52 so far. Since he came to the character there hasn’t really been much in terms of low points in the entire story.
The biggest question then, on NIGHTWING #30’s mind is that if throwing all of that away is a good idea. Can the series continue to shine even if it changes focus and creators?
There’s no denying that the story was certainly headed to some interesting places by giving us things like a serial killer who only targets superheroes. If you compare issue #29 to this one, though, it’s very clear that Higgins hadn’t planned for where FOREVER EVIL was planning to take the character.
So, while we’ll have to wait and see if throwing everything away is worth it – how does this issue stack up as a send off for Nightwing?
This book makes no attempt to catch us up on where Kyle Higgins run was going; I list that as a positive for a pretty important reason.
Namely, in Comics as a medium, but more importantly in reference to long-running Superhero Comics, when one team exits and another team comes in, too often is there a poor attempt to shoehorn in an ending to whatever the people who came before were working on.
In most cases, it’s a tepid reference to X plot detail, or a single panel explaining what happens. NIGHTWING #30 doesn’t attempt to do that, and that’s a good thing.
It ties only into the events of FOREVER EVIL and the book is never beleaguered with the new creative team trying to make a send off to a story they didn’t write.
So the biggest thing NIGHTWING #30 has going for it is it’s not written as a send off to Kyle Higgins concurrent arc, but a send off of who Dick Grayson is and what Batman turned him into.
The crux of this book is a pretty stiff looking fight between Batman and Dick Grayson, sans costume (for the most part). While the action doesn’t flow as nicely as it does in something like DETECTIVE COMICS or even the main BATMAN run, what’s important about that fight is the context. The context of that fight is that for much of it, Batman spends his time talking down to Dick Grayson, while the collateral is much of the Batcave. Specifically, parts of the Batcave tied to Dick Grayson’s history. That, more than anything, gives the book the thematic weight a sendoff properly needs.
For the rest of this issue we follow Dick Grayson about the world, hunting down an ominous group of killers-for-sport that tie into the organization Spyral. I really like that Dick Grayson looks like Sterling Archer for the rest of this book in ways that you cannot imagine. That’s a bonus point, for the uninitiated. Parts One and Three are most definitely the best looking and paces areas of this issue, introducing us to the Spyral Organization and giving us details of how they operate, and kicking off the events that will continue in GRAYSON #1.
For as much as the important parts of this issue are the duel between Batman and Dick Grayson, I really wish someone other than Jorge Lucas we’re the one to realize it. Even on BATMAN: Incorporated, his art never really shined when it came to action sequences. The action in Part Two (where he takes over duties) doesn’t flow very well at all.
Just two pages in when Dick and Batman actually start trading blows, the action completely breaks down and following the movement of the characters for several pages becomes impossible.
I don’t think Jorge Lucas could draw a convincing punch if his life depended on it, and I don’t think that’s something only I take away from his art. The other two parts of this issue are handled by different artists, which makes the mood of the issue a little schizophrenic. Changing the atmosphere up for a book like WORLDS’ FINEST works, but here it just leaves me wondering exactly what I should be feeling about Dick Grayson being ‘dead’ and how that’s going to affect the rest of the Bat-Family.
What really bothers me about the most important part in this issue is that the dialogue doesn’t line up with the action. The conversation between Batman and Dick isn’t more stressful or important because of the action taking place in it – the way the dialogue presented this could’ve easily been an exchange over one final dinner as father and son. Maybe it’s because too much of Dick Grayson’s relationship with Batman can be summed up in fighting.
What I really hate most about this issue is that it sets Batman up as a man who refuses to learn from his mistakes. He’s already seen where lying to the people closest to him does, and now he’s got Dick Grayson fully willing to make the same mistake. Batman’s never been the world’s best dad, but he’s starting to become one of the world’s worst.
NIGHTWING #30 is tantamount to sitting at your brother’s funeral while his boss gives the eulogy. It accomplishes was it needs to and is, if nothing else, an accurate summation of the person’s most important relationship. It shows us a small part of the world Dick Grayson is about to start inhabiting compared to the world he used to be a part of, and for that it’s a good send off of the character.
Maybe when the fascination with The New 52 staying eternally, well NEW, ends, we all will get a return to the story Kyle Higgins wanted to tell in the pages of NIGHTWING. Until then, Rest in Peace, Dick Grayson, but long live GRAYSON.