It's a testament to how well his Batman stories were written that so many perceived Dick Grayson's return to Nightwing as a demotion. Before he spent a significant chunk of time in the cowl, Nightwing was one of DC's ultimate tales of growth. Dick went from a goofy sidekick in a pair of green hotpants to a competent, respected hero (who also made some questionable fashion choices). The last run of his solo title lasted 153 issues, which saw Dick become the protector of Blüdhaven, spend time on the police force, and develop a rogue's gallery of his own.
In the new Nightwing #1, writer Kyle Higgins takes the character back to basics while keeping his recent past up front and center. Dick acknowledges his time as Batman on the issue's very first page. He's clearly glad to return to his Nightwing role, but seems grateful for his time in the batsuit, saying that it taught him a lot about himself. But as Dick strives to move forward, his past pulls him back as Haly's Circus makes a return to Gotham. I think reintroducing Dick's circus past right from the get-go is a smart move. It's one of the things that differentiates him from the many other street level heroes in Gotham, and it's something that writers haven't played with in a long time.
|I miss you, fingerstripes.|
This story doesn't feel like a rehash, but it does feel like a return to the old. Artist Eddy Barrows experiments a little, but in general, his style seems very much in keeping with the look the last Nightwing run. Even the new Nightwing costume looks incredibly similar to the suit Dick sported as undercover supervillain Renegade. Fans of the old run should be thrilled, but those who never got into the book before may be a little less enthused. Thankfully, Higgins keeps this tale away from the angst the old series was often drowning in, even though he does give Dick plenty to worry about. I wish some of Dick's last Batman tales had a little more of a presence here, but it makes sense to keep this as new reader friendly as possible.
Nightwing #1 succeeds in doing everything that it needs to do. Readers are given necessary backstory, we get some nice character moments, and several chances to see the character in action. The story ends on an interesting hook that appears to tie it into the story going on in the main Batman titles. But with so many other titles coming out, many of them great, I just wish Nightwing had done a little more to push itself to the head of the pack. There are some bits I really love here- Dick eating cereal out of the box while his crumpled costume lies on the floor, his acknowledgement of his weakness for redheads- but this issue just didn't get in my head the way that some other titles this week did.
Right now, I think Nightwing is still finding its feet. The book is off to a good start, but I don't think it's really hit its stride yet, and I think we'll see some pretty great stories when it does. Right now, I'd recommend this book to any longtime Nightwing fans, those who want to learn more about the character, and anyone really craving a street level superhero title. If you didn't enjoy Nightwing in the past, but grew to love Grayson while he was Batman, I'd recommend waiting on this book a bit. Nightwing is usually a pretty easy title to jump into, and waiting on his first great story is the best way to assure you remain a Dick Grayson fan.