Review: NIGHTWING #0

NIGHTWING #0
Written by Tom DeFalco and Kyle Higgins
Art by Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira
Release Date: September 19, 2012

Dick Grayson is an incredible character. He’s been a leader, a sidekick, and a hero in his own right. He’s probably the only character to really be able to fill Bruce Wayne’s shoes as the Batman, and he’s done it twice. He’s been called the heart and soul of the DC universe. He’s also one of just a handful of characters who has been allowed to grow up in continuity, spending his childhood with Batman as Robin, his adolescence as a Teen Titan, and striking out on his own as an adult as Nightwing. In a world of misfits and the maladjusted, Dick Grayson was the one who seemed natural, because the life of a superhero was where he fit, was what he’d known his whole life. You almost couldn’t help but be friends with Dick Grayson. He had a kind of comfort in his own skin that made the people around him feel a bit more comfortable with themselves.

The New 52 has largely succeeded in giving readers a Dick Grayson who still feels like Dick Grayson, which is extraordinary since, as Nightwing #0 makes clear, nearly everything about Dick’s past has been changed. He’s still a circus boy, an acrobat whose parents are killed in a mid-performance “accident” after the circus refuses to pay off a small-time enforcer named Tony Zucco, but the New 52’s compressed timeline means that Dick Grayson is an adolescent when he’s orphaned. His personality is largely shaped by the time he becomes Bruce Wayne’s ward. (And then there are the revelations from the Night of the Owls crossover, which don’t figure directly in Nightwing #0, but inform Grayson’s entire now-extended circus childhood.)

I’ve read Nightwing #0 half a dozen times, and I’m still astounded at the way that classic Grayson elements — the way that the art shows him flying through the air, literally in more than one place at the same time, the way that his sense of justice is driven by his parents’ deaths, but also that he moves on in a way that Bruce never could — are mixed with elements from more recent junior members of the Bat-family. A dash of Cassandra Cain’s ability to read gesture and body language, a pinch of detective work that echoes Tim Drake’s introduction, and a potential mentor at the end who used to have connections to both Cass and Tim.

But, ultimately, somehow, Dick Grayson still works. It all feels right. To everyone except Dick, apparently, who from the start says that “Robin would be anything but permanent.” Which is no surprise, really. He’s outgrown the cape by the time he gets to put it on.

Verdict: 8.0/10

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2 Comments

  1. ScarlettMi said:

    The only change that really gave me pause was in Dick’s living arrangements. While it makes sense for Bruce to not immediately bring this child fully into his home, it does feel like a bit more distance has been added there. Although that’s not to say he didn’t eventually bring him to live with him, we just didn’t see that part of their lives.

    Otherwise, I think the changes have been subtle enough to be distinctive and new, without really altering who Dick is and the uniqueness of his place in the Bat-family.

    I wouldn’t really characterize how Dick learns the truth as detective work. This isn’t like the more analytical and pointed investigation that Tim had undertaken in his original origin. He didn’t set out to learn the truth. He found the truth through a personal connection & through circumstance. The truth found him.

    I think the fact that the discovery is kept to that level is what makes it distinctly Dick. Batman brings him into the cave without completely knowing that Dick knows who he is. It’s partially a choice on Bruce’s part because he does suspect that Dick knows. The personal, human connection is what allows him to know and that is Dick’s wheelhouse.

    As for the body reading, perhaps that is a nod to Cass. Although I would think he comes by it fairly honestly as a child raised on the trapeze. Certainly being able to anticipate the movements of those who are responsible for catching you and your life depending on that knowledge of when to jump would be a carefully honed skill. But Lady Shiva was clearly impressed by him and considers him special. That does lead the mind to a very Cass place.

    What really made this story work for me is that psychological distinction made between who Bruce is and who Dick is and how their childhood tragedies will and won’t shape their lives. That, along with the way they really found each other, was what made me enjoy this origin.

  2. Gavin Craig said:

    I’m totally with you — especially that when Dick realizes that Bruce is Batman, it’s essentially an act of observation rather than detective work on its own. I call it “a pinch of detective work” more because I think that DeFalco is specifically pulling an element out of Tim Drake’s old origin as a way to imply some detective ability in Dick (in conjunction with putting him in front of the computer in the boys’ home to dig up Bruce’s past and find Zucco) rather than to describe the specific action. On the whole, I think it’s a good move on DeFalco’s part — Drake was my favorite Robin largely because he was by far the best detective.

    I’m not surprised that some people are finding a lot to be annoyed with in Nightwing #0, but hopefully it’s apparent that it seems to me that DC is doing a great job of setting up each of the Robins as a distinctive member of a sometimes messy family. I’m looking forward to Teen Titans #0 next week, and hope that Tim Drake will get a similar chance to shine.

    Thanks for commenting. 🙂

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