Who is Nightwing? – Bludhaven Begins

***As Nightwing’s public profile grows higher via the Titans TV series and the upcoming Gotham Knights game, “Who is Nightwing?” looks at Dick Grayson’s early solo adventures after stepping out of Batman’s shadow.***

TITLES: Nightwing #18
AUTHOR: Chuck Dixon
ARTISTS: Scott McDaniel, Karl Story (Inkers), Roberta Tewes (Colorist), John Costanza (Letterer)
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
ORIGINAL SELLING PRICE:
$1.95 per issue
ORIGINALLY RELEASED:
1996-1997
CURRENTLY COLLECTED IN:
Nightwing, Vol. 1: Bludhaven

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This is it. I’d argue these are the issues that would define Dick Grayson for the next two decades and beyond. And they’re good!

Pretty good, that is.

When a whopping 21 dead bodies float up river into Gotham Harbor, Batman and Nightwing trace them to Gotham’s sister city, Bludhaven. When the Dark Knight sends him to investigate, Dick Grayson quickly learns that in many ways, Bludhaven is worse than Gotham. What’s more, a mysterious new crime lord has seized control of the city. Thus, Nightwing must discover their identity and take on a city corrupt to its core. And he’ll have to do it on his own…

I credit Chuck Dixon as one of the more underappreciated architects of Batman’s world as we know it. So Dick was in great hands for his first ongoing series. As one would expect, Dixon spends a good portion of these issues laying groundwork. We establish where Dick is in his life, Bludhaven as a character in itself, his supporting cast, and by the end we have our main villain.

Long before the term “quarter-life crisis” was a thing, Nightwing was essentially a quarter-life crisis book. Not simply about a superhero in a new city, this book is about an early-20s Dick Grayson creating a life for himself without his mentor’s help. And we get to see him doing a lot of those “fresh start” things. He gets an apartment without Bruce Wayne footing the bill. He gets a day job as a bartender. He meets a cute girl. He explores his new city and learns to care about it. These are all things young, particularly college-age adults can identify with. Nightwing reached for a key demographic in ways that few superhero books do.

For the first 40 issues of Nightwing, our art team consisted of Scott McDaniel, Karl Story on inks, and Roberta Tewes on colors.  That’s a heck of a run. A downright historic one when you consider all it did for Dick Grayson.

Personally? I have no choice but to acknowledge this team got the job done, as the work still holds up more than 20 years later. But to be blunt: It’s never really been my cup of tea.

To me, Scott McDaniel’s art has always screamed, “Action!” If you want him to draw, say, a sequence where a helicopter takes off carrying a small building that has Nightwing and a bad guy inside, McDaniel is your man. He’s less suited, however, for quiet moments. A recurring nightmare sequence, for instance. Or a scene at Dick’s bartending job. Sometimes they work, case in point the scene in issue #1 where Dick gives a young would-be mugging victim some money to get the hell out of Bludhaven. But just as often they don’t.

What’s more, the coloring choices make the art hard to follow at certain points. For instance, look at the page below. I understand the effect they’re going for with the lighting. But the final product looks, quite frankly, like someone spilled lemonade all over the page.

On a random side note, it’s amazing to think the Black Mask character has lasted 35 years. Especially when you consider his original design looks like a Blue Man Group guy in a pinstripe suit. He makes a quick appearance in issue #1.

Robin/Tim Drake stops by for issue #6. It’s a fun exploration of the brotherly dynamic Dick and Tim have. It does more for Tim, which is a little bit backwards considering it’s Dick’s book. But putting Dick with the current Robin will always be interesting.

We’ll dive into who Bludhaven’s mysterious new crimelord is next time. It has its ups and downs, but the decision lasts almost 100 issues. So suffice to say it worked out for them. That’s emblematic of these first eight issues overall. They’re hardly perfect. But in the long run, they were exactly what the Dick Grayson character needed as he moved into the next phase of its life.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

A Nightwing #10 Review – Back in Bludhaven

Nightwing #10, 2016, cover, Marcus ToTITLE: Nightwing #10
AUTHOR: Tim Seeley
PENCILLER: Marcus To
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: December 7, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The cover may say “Welcome to Bludhaven,” but don’t be fooled. NIghtwing has been here before. It’s been about a decade. But these are his old stomping grounds…kinda.

Bludhaven (pronounced “blood haven”) was the setting for Rightwing’s original solo series, which first hit stands in 1996. Compared to Gotham, Bludhaven was poorer, dirtier, and at times more violent. As writer Chuck Dixon described the city in issue #1: “As bad as Gotham is, Bludhaven’s worse in a lot of ways. If it’s too coarse or too vile or too awful for Gotham, it winds up here.” Yikes. Now, after a hint from Superman (who, remember, is from that New 52 Earth), our New 52 Dick Grayson is checking out this world’s version of Bludhaven. As it turns out, not much has changed. Dick and Nightwing are making Bludhaven their new home, even though the city doesn’t look highly on those that wear capes and masks…

Tim Seeley is essentially using the formula for the old Nightwing book, with the New 52 iteration of the character. As an older fan, that’s a nice treat. We’ve got the Bludhaven name, the black and blue suit, and Dick is trying to “figure out who I am,” as he tended to do back in the day. He’s even got a new gig as a volunteer for teens affected by violence. How many friggin’ jobs did he have in that old series? He was a bartender, a cop, a gymnastics coach. A true renaissance man, that Dick Grayson.

nightwing #10, 2016, Marcus To, splash pageWe get a nice same-but-different vibe from the city. It’s not depicted as violent or dirty, thus far. But there’s a definite air of corruption and danger. What’s more, this is a Bludhaven that’s concerned about tourism. In future issues, Nightwing will apparently become a mascot of sorts for the city. That’s intriguing, considering he’s more of a covert-style vigilante. It’s certainly a far cry from people thinking he’s dead.

Seeing Marcus To on this book makes me smile. Years later, I’m still bitter about the Red Robin book he worked on being cut short. He’s worked for DC since then, but having him back on an ongoing Bat-book feels like justice of sorts. He and colorist Chris Sotomayor give us an awesome Nightwing. What’s more (as Meg Downey pointed out on Twitter), To gives us subtle variations between Dick as Nightwing, Dick in public, and Dick in private. The way he dresses is obviously different, but the way To plays with his hair is the great part. As Nightwing it’s a bit wilder, in public it’s styled neatly, and in private it’s unkempt. Sadly, you don’t always notice that kind of thing the first time through. But I give To a lot of credit for it. His character acting is also very natural, and again, subtle at times. Case in point: The page that strictly consists of shots of Dick sitting in a chair talking. To makes each of them different, while other artists might go for panel duplication.

The issue starts out with a one-page scene (shown below) in which Batgirl and Robin briefly talk about Dick. We also get a shot of Batman. It’s not immediately apparent why this is in this issue. Though when you take into account the talk about Dick finding himself, it makes some sense. In this scene we see Bruce, Barbara, and Damian. But the trio used to be Bruce, Barbara, and Dick. And of course, when beginning a new chapter in Dick’s career, beginning with a Robin scene always seems fitting.

Nightwing #10, 2016, page 2Seeley does give us one groaner of a line. Via Dick’s inner monologue: “You gotta keep it sexy and exciting… Like Nightwing.” I’m far from a sexiness expert. But the truly sexy don’t have to tell us they’re sexy, do they?

But all in all, this is cool. Putting Dick in Bludhaven doesn’t inherently make this a good book, but it’s a nice treat. On its on merits, this Nightwing book has been fairly strong. That doesn’t look like it’s going to change in the near future.

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A Nightwing #9 Review – The Adventures of Superman and Robin

Nightwing #9, 2016TITLE: Nightwing #9
AUTHOR: Tim Seeley
PENCILLER: Marcio Takara
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: November 16, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The dynamic between Superman and Dick Grayson has always been interesting to me. In most continuities they meet each other fairly early, as Dick is just starting out as Robin. As a youngster, he’s still in a position to stand in awe of the grandeur of Superman. But in a way, they’re also peers. They fight a lot of the same enemies, and both have their own unique relationship with Batman. As such, they have an inherent chemistry that people tend to forget about.

Nightwing #9 taps into that chemistry to establish Dick’s relationship with the new Superman (new to him, at least), and set him on a new course: Bludhaven. (Again, new to this Nightwing. Ugh. This is needlessly complicated…)

Keep in mind, the Superman we’re seeing in all this DC Universe Rebirth stuff is the pre-New 52 Superman. He’s married to Lois Lane, has a son named Jon, and has all sorts of memories of things that happened before the New 52 reboot. Nightwing #9 shows us he’s actively on the hunt for enemies that existed in his reality, but haven’t shown up in this one yet. One such enemy is Doctor Destiny, a supervillain who can turn dreams into reality. Using Kryptonian tech, Superman detects his old enemy haunting Dick Grayson, and comes to his aid.

Nightwing #9, 2016, SupermanThis issue puts Dick on a path toward the city of Bludhaven. Longtime fans recognize Bludhaven has the setting for the original Nightwing series in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Once again, DC is appeasing some of its older readers by restoring certain pre-New 52 elements. I don’t know how much bringing Bludhaven back does to entice readers. But in theory its fine. What I’m not a fan of is how it’s done.

I’ve talked before about the downside of having the old Superman back. It’s a thrill for fans who’ve been around for awhile, but it also makes things really convoluted. I love the way Dick has been influenced by both Batman and Superman (the Nightwing name originated in a Superman story), and I give this issue credit for continuing that tradition. But Dick only learns of Bludhaven’s existence when Superman shows it to him in a dream, and tells him about the connection with the pre-New 52 Nightwing. That’s a cheap shortcut. Tell me a story and take him there organically.

While I didn’t appreciate the way it was facilitated, there’s promise in Nightwing heading back to Bludhaven. In the ’90s, Chuck Dixon and his cohorts gave that city it’s own  feel and identity. It would very much behoove this team to do the same thing, whether it’s a similar feel or not.

As much of this issue takes place in a dream, it’s fitting that artist Marcio Takara and colorist Marcello Maiolo’s work has a sort of soft, dream-like vibe to it. Takara’s characters are very expressive, which helps tremendously when Dick gets a little help from some old friends. In one panel he’s downright overjoyed, which is something we don’t see too often from our friends in Gotham. We also get a really nice splash page of Dick and the wide array of DC heroes he’s connected to in some form.

nightwing #9, 2016, Superman, Marcio TakaraThat’s really the theme of Nightwing #9. Dick Grayson may have been raised by a notorious loner, but this little adventure with Superman reminds us he’s hardly a loner himself. He and Batman are so much alike, yet so different. Tim Seeley gets that dynamic, and it’s one of the reasons he’s had such a solid solo run with Nightwing thus far. This wasn’t his best issue. But there’s a lot of intrigue on the horizon.

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