Story: Benjamin Percy
Art: Otto Schmidt
Nightwing’s hunt for Wyrm brings him back home to Gotham, where a new villain, Vire, is taking Wyrm’s plan a step further. It’s not just about obtaining as much information as possible anymore, it’s now also about making people reject the information you want them to reject. With help from Batgirl, Nightwing is getting closer (and somehow further) from putting an end to it all.
Nightwing Annual #1 has its good moments and aggressively-meh moments. To be honest, I was left a little underwhelmed through some of this issue. I look forward to Annual issues because it’s usually a fun story that may or may not have anything to do with the main arc. You may get a 26 page story, and a bonus story or two at the end. It’s a good pallet cleanser during longer arcs, which this current arc seems like it may be. I feel like this chapter of the arc would have been better suited for issue 48, next week, and this Annual could have been used to break up the story a bit, without completely disregarding it.
The thing I found most interesting about this issue, and what ultimately took me out of a lot it, was how it changed tonally depending on what lady was currently taking Grayson’s attention. The issue sucked me in right away with a fun back and forth between Babs and Grayson. It’s familiar, playful, and enjoyable to read. These pages got me excited to read the issue, because it’s a dynamic we love to watch. They are dealing with an issue that arose during the arc, but it feels like it’s going to be Babs and Grayson hitting the streets of Gotham. Who wouldn’t want to read that?! No matter how far they go, Gotham is still their home. It’s where they became who they are now. I’d love to see a self contained Annual issue that shows Babs and Grayson protecting innocents in the Narrows, or having a race across the roof tops, or even just them taking down a c-level villain like Condiment Man (ok… maybe not that ridiculous, but you get it).
The parts of this issue that have Babs in it are why you should pick this issue up and read it. It’s not just that it’s Babs and Grayson. In fact, Babs steals this issue. Nightwing shines brightest when he’s around her. The best panels in this issue have Batgirl standing around somewhere. Like I said, the banter at the beginning is playful and enjoyable to read, but it only gets better when Batgirl delivers Nightwing’s surprise. Everything in it has a purpose, and shows how much she truly knows about Dick Grayson. The best panels in this issue are after that, when Babs plays Robo-butcher. Look at that panel alone and ask yourself, “Have I ever had this much fun doing anything?” I think it will be very hard to say yes. The only thing I wish, when it comes to Babs, is that we got more.
On the flip side of this tonal coin, is Vicki Vale. The first thing you notice are the colors in the panel. There really isn’t much. What color there is, is pretty muted (aside from Nightwing’s suit). I honestly got kind of bored during these chunks of the story. Even the dialog bored me a bit. Sure, Grayson is flirting with a pretty girl. What a shock. The thing is, I struggle to call what happens in these panels “flirting”. It felt a bit shoe horned in, and awkward. Also, for Vicki to be a reporter, she sure has a hard time noticing things that aren’t really spelled out to her. Not every journalist in comics needs to be Lois Lane, but it seems like Vicki has no real awareness unless it’s screaming at her. I just couldn’t find a thing to latch onto in these chunks. I didn’t really care about Vicki, or Grayson, or even the story itself.
Speaking of the story, I was over it rather quickly. That not to say it’s poorly written or anything like that. It is a logical next step. It brings in our current issues regarding the media and how that distrust leaves people relying on their one news source and article headlines they see on Facebook. I enjoy seeing art imitate life. It’s a powerful tool for creators. I think it was smart to use this as a plot point with this arc. I also still feel like it would have been better utilized in issue #48. I love comics because it provides an escape. All we hear and see where ever we go now is “Fake News!”. You can’t escape it out there, but I want to be able to from time to time. That’s why I was excited to read an Annual this week. It was going to be a break from this story, and a break from the all the noise in real life. I think that you could have pulled most of the Vicki Vale stuff out and cut down Nightwing’s Batman moments (the panel of him on a Gargoyle is way too much Batman. Even if Grayson was in the cowl, too much Batman), you would have a tight, entertaining, and exciting single issue.
Final gripe about the story and then I will wrap it up. Batman. Does he need to show up in every story that takes place in Gotham? No, not at all. Would Batman show up if all the news in Gotham (print and broadcast) was hijacked by an anchor who looks like the manipulative sister of Mileena from Mortal Kombat? ABSOLUTELY! I get staying away from using Batman just because your story is in Gotham, but if you’re going to do that (and still acknowledge the Bat is around), the conflict can’t be so far reaching that it becomes unbelievable that Batman wouldn’t show up.
While I love what Percy is doing with Nightwing in the short amount of time since he took over this title, this Annual was just a misstep for me. Throughout the issue, I felt like we ran into 2 or 3 storylines I would have rather seen play out. I just finished the issue feeling a little disappointed. Still, we did get a new villain (who is the stuff of nightmares), the Babs/Grayson relationship, and Grayson has got a new toy I am very excited to see get used a lot in the near future.
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