Of every comic book character “family,” I must say that Batman’s is by far my favorite, and thankfully, The New 52 elaborates on the Dark Knight’s extended with a book of Nightwing’s own, which will certainly include several satisfying cameo appearances as this series evolves.
This first issue, as it seems to be the overall trend thus far with The New 52, establishes the title character in a very “matter of fact” way. Dick Grayson’s reinsertion to Gotham City as himself and his chosen persona coincides with the return of Haly’s Circus (the one he was born into) as most of the book speaks as Grayson’s inner monologue. He does a fair amount of reflection concerning his experience as “Batman” and with his own family’s tragedy when he was a boy many years ago. Nightwing is at the top of his crime-fighting game, and despite a new level of self confidence he seems to exude, he is not above being taught a lesson by an unknown antagonist who bears a striking resemblance to a tech’d up, masked version of a certain mutant that is apparently the best at what he does.
Clearly, Higgins is going for as many parallels between Nightwing and Batman in this first issue, and this seems to be a potentially rewarding way to experience Dick Grayson’s story. Batman shall always be the consummate brooder, while Nightwing has an uncanny ability to see the silver lining. This fundamental difference in personality reflects in this first issue because Dick Grayson’s civilian life is still important to him and perhaps the driving force behind his vigilantism. He wants to get back in touch with his circus pals; he wants to be connected to the community he serves to protect. Bruce Wayne may make social appearances, but he has become consumed by his mission. This difference has been a point of contention between these two icons in the past, so hopefully this story does not revisit it without presenting an entirely new angle. I wouldn’t mind getting few candid panels of Damien Wayne chirping about which “Batman” he prefers to work with.
I enjoyed the art work by Eddy Barrows. Accentuating Nightwing’s acrobatic fluidity as he navigates Gotham via multi-phasing sketches within the same panel is an excellent choice. I also like the incorporation of red into Nightwing’s revamped costume which is reminiscent of Batman Beyond. The one thing I did find curious is the cover art, specifically the title graphics. Why is there a Batman symbol behind Nightwing’s name? He has his own symbol (which is now highlighted in red across his torso), so why not use that? Will Nightwing always be in Batman’s shadow?
Overall, Nightwing #1 is an average read. I like the concept of “getting into Dick’s head,” but this can also be accomplished with more interesting dialogue and dramatic panels that are dialogue-free. There is an interesting plot twist towards the end, but it has been used on far too many other comic book characters to be considered unique.