Nightwing #30 review

Well, that was horrible. 

It's the final issue of Nightwing, but not really. In the 'grand' tradition of Justice League United #0 being #1 by any other name, this is actually Grayson #1, or #0 if we have to be all Marketing about it. Yes, we see exchanges between Nightwing and Batman about what Dick's going to do now the world thinks he's dead at the hands of the Crime Syndicate, but the characters and events of the last few issues are ignored. There are flashbacks, but not to anything from the previous 29 instalments - this issue is all about moving forward. 

On the basis of Nightwing #30, I think I'll stay behind ...

We open with Dr Leslie Thompkins telling Batman of a chilling encounter with a gang of assassins while she was ministering to poor children in the Congo a couple of months previously. She was rescued by mysterious organisation Spyral, but fears she's given up his secrets while drugged by them. 

In Wayne Manor, Alfred is almost a broken man, having lost Damian and Dick in quick succession. The lift to the Batcave is broken, apparently accidentally, so he can't get down to the Batcave. Below the manor, Batman challenges Nightwing to prove he still has what it takes to continue in the crimefighting game, having 'allowed' himself to be captured and brutalised. 

They fight. Boy, do they fight - and that's not a good 'boy'. Because this is one of the most horrible back and forths I've seen in a DC comic, with Dick 'winning' but winding up covered in blood and cuts. Being thrown into a glass case containing a Robin costume - how subtle - without your usual body armour will do that to you. Bruce is in a similar state, but Dick's win isn't convincing, it's more as if Bruce has made his point and allowed the fight to finish.  

And the point? That yes, Dick still has what it takes, and is up to taking on a tough assignment if he agrees. All he has to do is infiltrate Spyral to see what they know, allowing all his friends - Barbara, Jim Gordon, Tim and the rest - to keep thinking he's dead. Alfred, Bruce lets know by the close of the sequence. What a kind chap. 

Dick, being an actual human being with feelings, says no. No no no no no. 

And a page or three later, he's beginning his new mission, running around the world foiling members of Die Faust Der Kain - the Fist of Cain, the guys who murdered a village in the opening pages. And wouldn't you know it, he soon attracts the attention of an agent of Spyral who's not named but whose mini-crossbow, cross shirt and publicity interviews tell us is Helena Bertinelli, the Huntress of the last DCU continuity. And she's now black, bra-less and in a gimp mask because, well, DC New 52. 

This comic is incredibly frustrating - so much creative talent from the artists, imagination on the part of the writers obvious, and what do we get? Innocents slaughtered in front of us by blade-wielding thugs. A superhero beating up one of his two most-trusted allies rather than sit down over a cup of Alfred's tea and laying out options. That same Batman verbally Nightwing because he happened to get captured by villains far above his power level - like that's never happened to him. Alfred, cruelly kept out of the loop until Dick had agreed to Bruce's stupid mission. 

Stupid? Yeah, really stupid. Batman has already encountered Spyral in the pages of Batman Incorporated. They obviously know plenty about him, almost certainly his secret identity. And they're not using the information against him, supposedly they're out for justice too, but walking a different route. If they don't know the guy who shows up on their doorstep with Dick Grayson's face is Nightwing, recently exposed on worldwide TV, they'll put two and two together pretty quickly. As it is, the-woman-who-has-to-be-Helena calls Dick 'Nightwing' as soon as she meets him, and offers him a mission. 

So we have to take it that rather than simply contact Spyral, ask what they know, what they want, and come to an accommodation, Batman would put Dick in an awful lot of danger and allow good people to mourn needlessly?

If DC really wants Dick to be a super-spy, there have to be more convincing set-ups than this. As it is, Nightwing's not the biggest dick in this issue, it's the Batman. A few years' back Batman would occasionally be presented as so intense as to be cruel to his friends, and I was happy to see the back of that presentation. But here he is again, worse even, so fixated on his mission, his priorities, that others are pawns, to be brutalised physically and emotionally into seeing things his way. 

The issue is written by Tim Seeley and Tom King, and hangs together well structurally. It's the creative decisions with which I disagree - perhaps the actual Grayson book will be more palatable, but given their apparent love of carnage, and willingness to buy into the most twisted version of Batman family dynamics, I doubt it. Their final lines, after Dick ruminates on his history and roles, are: 'My name is Dick Grayson. I'm whoever you need me to be.'

And there I thought Dick was the boy hero who grew up to be his own man, made his own decisions. Here he's simply the plaything of the Bat, his own identity subsumed  to the Mission. 

The book has four artists, two doing full illustrations for their chapters, while a penciller and inker complete the issue. The Leslie Thompkins sequence with which we begin looks superb, with the splash being a tremendously fun, dynamic image. I wish Javier Garron, who has an elegant line and a real talent for character design, wasn't then tasked with drawing aid workers being murdered as terrified, sick kids look on. 

Jorge Lucas can't tap into the vein of whimsy Garron does in that first moment, as the Batcave sequence is sadness and cruelty all the way. He has ability, and does what's asked of him, and may have enjoyed choreographing the fight, but I can barely look at the pages, so-off kilter is the characterisation. 

Mikel Janin, who has given us nearly three years of fantastic Justice League Dark art, has jumped ship to be the Grayson artist. Literally, in this chapter, as Dick fights aboard a flying pirate ship over St Petersburg. He also takes Dick to Tokyo, Amman and Kampala, and the art is clean and open and dynamic - just what I'd love to see in a Nightwing comic. I'm less sure I'll enjoy the globe-spanning, high adventure dramatics in Grayson if they come with a side of slaughter. But Janin's sequence, inked by Guillermo Ortego, is the best advert for a Grayson book yet, and it's a shame getting here is such a narrative slog. 

Jeromy Cox colours, Carlos M Mangual letters, and both turn in their usual excellent work. Cox seems to relish being asked to hit the various mood notes required by the script's emotions and locations. 

The cover by Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira and Marcelo Maiolo is a weird one. It's Dick's mask, lying in a pool of blood - again, because DC New 52 - and it looks for all the world like it's selling a Batwoman book. 

So, this comic is a terrible way to end the Nightwing series. It's a terrible way to begin Grayson. I'll give Grayson #1 a look - half out of morbid curiosity, half for my liking for Janin - but it's on a very short lead. 


  1. So sorry to hear this. Grayson has always been one of my favorite DC characters (as you can tell from some of my books. Son of a huge hero, trying to get out of his shadow?). Batman has not, because of those eras you cite. So sad to see DC dragging ALL its wonderful heroes into the mud. This is why I've been happy we haven't seen Donna Troy... yet.

    1. I've this horrible feeling DC will stick a new Donna into the Five Years Later/Future's End stuff, for shock value.

  2. This is sort of an improvement on the usual Nu52, Martin, as up until now we've had to make do with their ripping off Image books of the 1990s - copying Marvel's Winter Soldier era of Captain America at least sees DC doing what their competition has been doing THIS side of the millennium.

    1. Hmm, wonder if they'll start copying Inhuman?

  3. Here's an opinion about the design that I think is enlightening:

    Yeah.... that's not her real design. That's blending in with the craziness. The final image of her is the real design.

    1. Oh I know, but really, DC didn't have to make Helena look quite so out there in her first on-panel showing, they can't blame people for the reaction - they're probably loving the publicity.

    2. That was all Tim Seeley's doing (he wrote the first part).

      I wasn't even that big fan of the issue itself (I said 5 out of 10 in my official review on Adventures in Poor Taste) and just wish it was all just the last part with Mike Janin doing art. It was the best part of the book to me personally.

    3. Thanks for the info. I was at the live recording of the latest House to Astonish podcast in Edinburgh today, where we had a 'dramatisation' of scenes from this issue - the show should be up Monday or Tuesday, I recommend a listen!

  4. I quite often don't agree with some criticisms of the last few years of Dc comics having entered at a time when Jason Todd was back and violence was the norm. However this. was. atrocious. I mean just every single character beat didn't ring true. What the hell was Batman doing?????? What the hell was Nightwing doing???????? One of the reason Nightwing was so good in the new 52 AND as his brief time as Batman is he had a soul, he wouldn't sacrifice his humanity to be Batman he was his own man. At no point was there a good reason for him to in this book, at literally no point did they make it convincing that he would act like this!!!

    1. Thanks for dropping by Ned, and yes, what were they thinking? I really would like to see this issue's Batcave scene Mopeed out of existence.

  5. Dick Grayson has been ruined by the new 52

    When he became Nightwing it was him stepping out of a Batman's shadow and becoming his own man. However in the new52 the title to his comic has the Batman symbol on it. He was still living in Gotham and was basically an adult Robin.

    To me leading the titans is essential to his character it's where he grew up and became his own man. Leading the next generation of heroes just like Superman leads the first. The training of Batman and the optimism of Superman in one hero Nightwing. Everyone one knew him as he had served with the League and the Outsiders. In the New52 he's a nobody (I heard any mention of a previous titans team was taken out of Red Hood and Teen titans vol. collection) otherwise then he is Batman's sidekick the Crime Syndicate capturing him and torturing him isn't all that a big deal to other heroes. This isn't the guy who faced down master assassins, devils and Gods. Who had befriended the entire DCU and proven himself just as capable if not more so then his mentor. This was Robin the boy hostage

    This book frustrated me two things 1st continuity.
    So did Batman inc. even happen because Spyral knows who Batman is or is He just being paranoid? The opening pages made it seem like Spyral was just now investigating Batman and none of the Kathy Kane a Batwoman stuff happened.
    Not to mention Dick mentions he was Batman but since Final Crisis didn't happen what reason did he have to become Batman? Did knight fall happen? Did prodigal? Batman has only been around what 6 years?

    2nd Batman: doesn't the justice league know Nightwing is alive? Soooo what's the point in the rest of the bat-family not knowing he's dead? Seems pretty pointless to me

    I am looking forward to Grayson but this issue points out all the problems I have with Batman comics right now and why I plan to drop them except Grayson as it'll be off in its own corner.

    1. Hello Sam, and no argument here, DC have gutted Dick like a kipper. One of the richest characters in their universe is now a confused mess with no place comparable to the one he had. I hope he's not entering a period of being shaved from pillar to post in the search for a direction that sticks.

    2. it seems to be the idea for a lot of their characters.
      i'm worried the writers on Doomed won't be able to stick the landing (unless Pak writes it)

      whats going to happen to Wonder woman when her creative team leaves?

      its like dc doesn't know what to do with any of its characters and i cant tell if its editors or writers. Dick like all 7 members of the original league is meant to be a pillar of the dcu and its like dc doesnt know that when his rich history and popularity shows it!

  6. After reading Nightwing #29, I wouldn't have expected to see a finale to the old series here - Higgins wrote the retrospective and ending you're looking for there, in March. All that was left for Nightwing #30 was to point the way forward and make the transition, which is why it got put on hold until after Foreverandever Evil was finally over.

    The biggest problem with Higgins's run was that every time he managed to build up a supporting cast and an interesting way forward it got cut off at the knees by the next Bat-crossover. I'm not sure if he was just over-eager to please and throw his own series under the bus to prove he was a team player, or whether it was editorial mandate, but it damaged what was otherwise a quietly competent little series. I really regret that we didn't get to spend more time in the series's mid-period, where Amusement Mile was being regenerated, with the folk of Haly's Circus as its centrepiece. It seemed to have a lot of potential for plots, but it ended almost before it started.

    The second biggest problem is, of course, that Dick was probably the character most devastated by the New 52 reboot. Technically his history is still the same, but all the connections and depth are gone. He doesn't have any status to show, only to tell, because everything and every way he earned it has been wiped out of continuity.

    So, while the "sell" for Dick staying dead to the bulk of the Bat-family is somewhat flimsy, I can't help but view it as at least keeping the character safer from editorial continuity hijacks than he has been since the New 52 started. They'll find out he's alive and interact again in due course, but I'd like a decent run of uninterrupted stories first, please. And the spy setting is quite an appealing idea, as is (presumably) bringing back the real Helena Bertinelli, whose identity Helena Wayne nicked. Hopefully we'll get Kathy Kane and various of the Spyral cast that Morrison created for Inc as well.

    Just keep King away from the dialogue. I understand he was responsible for it in the middle section, which was hard work. The first and third sections flowed much better, so by all means have him and Seeley co-plot, but Seeley should at the very least do a final dialogue pass and polish on everything in Grayson.

    1. Hiya Jules, and yeah, Nightwing #29 was it. I have the issue, and believe this issue was meant to be by James Tynion IV or someone, until it as decided to make the whole thing a Grayson taster. That'd be fine, but in that case, don't call it Nightwing, go for that clean break.

      I'd be good with Dick being kept away from Gotham madness for awhile, but can't see it happening, he's still too valuable a player in terms of name recognition. The entire Grayson premises is plugged into Batman paranoia. Ah well, let's see how long this move lasts.


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