This latest DC Rebirth one-off isn't what I expected, but it's precisely what it should be. I expected Dick back as Nightwing from the get-go, his Grayson adventure behind him, off to the land of entertaining footnotes. But that's not what writer Tim Seeley and artist Yanick Paquette give us - this is a smart done-in-one bridging the just-finished Grayson series and the new Nightwing run.
The book opens on a stunning splash of Dick vs Sixties throwbacks the Madmen, then flips back and forth over the last three days, tying up loose ends so our high-flying hero can move onward and upwards. We see Dick say temporary goodbyes to Spyral's Helena Bertinelli, recent spy partner Tony the Tiger and Batman-with-a-grin Midnighter. Linking the flashbacks is Dick's day out with Damian Wayne, while an aside shows us what the Parliament of Owls is up to. There's also some set-up for the coming Batgirl and the Birds of Prey series. Busy, busy, busy...
...but not messy - Seeley and Paquette give us a relentlessly breezy tour through Dick's life, showing us who he is, where he's been and where he's going.
The character dynamics are terrific, relationships have meaning - they're there to be mined. Damian, in particular - so easy to get wrong - is just the right blend of superior snottiness and warm respect. And the action, which comes in short bursts, is glorious. Seeley's fight dialogue, Paquette's choreography, it's joyous stuff. Paquette isn't handling the regular book - Javier Fernandez has that gig - but what a treat to have him here, with his terrific storytelling, and attention to detail, whether it's backgrounds (the Gotham streets have rarely looked so real, with their bridges and zebra crossings) or people (Madmen nipples!).
Paquette's art would look great without colour, but Nathan Fairbairn's hues add extra life, whether it's daylight in Gotham or twilight in the Alps. Carlos M Mangual's lettering is nicely neat, while Fernandez and colourist Chris Sotomayor's cover bodes well for things to come. Where Fernandez's image is darkly moody, the alternate cover by Babs Tarr is a simpler affair, one for the many Nightwing's bum obsessives.
I enjoyed this issue hugely, with my only worry being that it seems to be throwing Dick into another undercover operation - Grayson was great, but I'm ready to see him put down some roots again, as a genre-crossing superhero. Seeley comes so close here to canning the dangling Robin War crossover ending that had Dick supposedly joining the Parliament of Owls, but no, it looks set to be a major part of the new Nightwing book. I'm so tired of Owls.
But let's see where it goes. Seeley has done some lovely work at DC, not least involving Dick, so he's earned a spot of trust.
Now, who's for a game of Cheese Viking?