“Welcome to Gotham”
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Pencils: Eddy Barrows
Inks: J.P. Mayer
Colors: Rod Reis
Letters: Carlos M. Mangual
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
This first issue reads like it has no connection to the New 52 relaunch initiative at all. Instead, it reads like the latest step in the long-term plan for the Batman family of comics, restoring Dick Grayson to his Nightwing identity after an extended stint as Batman, filling in for his mentor in his time-displaced absence. Writer Kyle Higgins delivers an accessible first issue, establishing the title character’s new base of operations. When I read of the premise for this opening story arc — Dick’s reconnection with the environment in which he originally grew up with his late parents (the Haly Circus) — it piqued my interest, and that’s saying something, because it’s been a long time since I was interested in any Nightwing comic book. Overall, Nightwing #1 isn’t a poor comic book at all, but unfortunately, the creators’ efforts aren’t much more than capable, by-the-numbers genre work. The best thing I can say about this first issue is it’s pretty ordinary, which, in the world of colorful action comics, is far from a compliment.
After an extended run filling in as the Batman — even after the original returned from the dead and resumed his role as the Caped Crusader — Dick Grayson is ready to patrol the streets of Gotham once again clad in the guise of Nightwing. With a new loft in one of the city’s poorer districts, so as to ensure proximity to where he’s likely needed the most, Dick is ready to take on the world… but not quite so ready to face his past. Haly’s Circus, the outfit with which he travelled with his parents as the death-defying Flying Graysons years ago, is back in Gotham for an extended run, and Dick struggles with his urge to revisit with old friends versus the pain the familiar surroundings might evoke. Meanwhile, a skilled assassin arrives in Gotham, and his target is someone Nightwing knows all too well.
I was surprised to find the new design for the title character incorporates the Robin symbol from those awful Joel Schumacher movies. I don’t know it was the right choice, as the character’s name is meant to evoke a bat-like creature (as is the case in the cover logo), but the robin-red-breast design of this new Nightwing costume doesn’t connect him to the Batman family overtly. It seems odd Red Hood — a character who hates Batman and has cut ties with his old life as part of the Bat family — still carries a bat symbol on his chest, but Dick Grayson, who not only loves Batman but was Batman until recently, has a stylized bird draped across his outfit.
Artist Eddy Barrows has always boasts a detailed style, and it shines through in his well-rendered and meticulous cityscapes. Barrows’ characters’ faces are less exaggerated here than what we’ve seen from him in the past, and as a result, they’re more attractive. I also detected a hint of an Alan (Avengers Prime) Davis influence in his work here. The linework is a little loose at times, specifically when it comes to rendering tiny figures in long shots. That sketchy look doesn’t really fit in with the otherwise detailed artwork. I think what’s lacking in the art, though, is the energy and bustling nature of a working circus. The look of Haly’s in this comic is sparse and kind of laid back. Now, I realize part of the problem is Higgins didn’t introduce enough characters. His script has Dick reconnecting with only a couple of old friends. this circus looks as though it’s run by four or five people rather than a large, extended family.
Not only do the circus scenes fail to capture the atmosphere of such an operation (for an example of a successful attempt, see the first issue of Flashpoint: Deadman and the Flying Graysons, released in June), the creators don’t establish the strength of Dick’s connection to his childhood friends. Including some flashback scenes to show Grayson’s time with the circus rather telling the reader about them would’ve been nice, as well as a flashback to establish Dick’s time as Robin and journey to become Nightwing, especially for this introductory issue.
Barrows’ art is actually difficult to discern in an opening action sequence in which the title character takes on some kind of brutal killer. The nameless villain is cast in shadow the whole time, and the flow of the action is unclear. Barrows adopts an angular approach for the panel layouts across two double-page spreads. I get he’s trying to convey motion and the frenetic nature of the fight, but it doesn’t quite work. Furthermore, the scene seems completely pointless, and since it seems to serve no purpose, it comes off as excessive and gratuitously violent.
I know it’s a requisite of the super-hero genre, that the audience is asked to suspend disbelief for such elements as secret identities. I get that, and I’m usually on board. I can handle Superman disguising himself with nothing more than a pair of glasses, poor posture and a meek attitude. But a killer’s encounter with both Dick Grayson and Nightwing within a couple of minutes made me roll my eyes. This supposedly trained, deadly professional doesn’t connect a guy on the street with kind of shaggy, dark hair who skilfully dodges an attack with the super-hero with kind of shaggy, dark hair who appears a moment later to take him on? It seemed a little ludicrous. I know this sort of thing is common in super-hero comics, but something about this particular instance struck me as awkward and silly.
Fans of Dick Grayson’s solo adventures as Nightwing won’t be disappointed with what they find in this new series. Furthermore, the script serves as a fairly accessible introduction to the title character’s new status quo for new readers who may be drawn to this book given the popularity of the New 52 relaunch. I won’t be among this title’s regular readers, though. The storytelling is competent, but I just didn’t feel drawn in by the book. In fact, I was a little bored. Higgins and Barrows really don’t do anything particularly new with the character here. In the spirit of full disclosure and to be fair, that’s pretty much been my reaction to the last three or four titles in the Week 4 batch of New 52 comics, so I wonder if I’m just getting burned out. Then again, I’m likely leaving the comics I have the least interest in (at least from a reviewing perspective) to the end of each week’s batch as well. 5/10
Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.