This review is based off a volume that collects Nightwing: Rebirth #1 and Nightwing #1-4, 7-8
Thanks to writer Tim Seeley, Nightwing is back with a vengeance in the first volume to collect his Rebirth exploits, Better Than Batman. And in addition to finding that subtitle has multiple meanings throughout the course of your reading experience, I can assure you this series is better than Batman (those italics used just now were quite deliberate).
Before I delve deeper into my critique of this tome, I want to say that it’s great to see Dick Grayson once again donning a Nightwing costume with that of a black and blue color scheme. I’m well aware this may seem silly to some, but I’m not alone in saying this. Some of you out there may have preferred the black and red look from the New 52 and, while I fully admit that it was pretty cool, the black and blue just feel right. My only misgiving is that Javier Fernandez, who illustrated six-sevenths of this book and did a fine job of it, draws the bird on the chest way too small.
Anyway, this collected edition begins with a prelude one-shot that’s beautifully brought to life by the distinctive artwork of Yanick Paquette. Knowing how busy he is these days and how he most commonly does cover art, seeing him devote his time to an entire issue of Nightwing interiors is indeed a treat.
Furthermore, this introduction bridges the Grayson and Nightwing eras rather nicely, allowing characters such as Tiger and Midnighter to get their proper sendoffs, while also serving as a springboard for Huntress’ adventures in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. Suffice it so say, this transition had to occur and that fact that Seeley happened to co-write most of the Grayson series makes it evermore smoother.
And if all that weren’t enough, the Parliament of Owls – an international offshoot of the Court of Owls – are positioned as one of the primary antagonistic focuses of this arc. Seeing as how they’ve distinguished themselves by donning black owl masks, I think it would be wise for DC to eventually release a book and mask set for this particular volume down the line that includes the new façade. Sure, it’s a simple color change from what has already been offered in the Batman: The Court of Owls collector’s set, but I, for one, would double dip if this notion became a reality. Still, if I could offer some advice to the affluent secret society, it would be to consider a name change when you come to realize their acronym is “PoO.”
As Dick returns to the superhero life after a few years of playing super spy, he embarks on a deep cover mission, attempting to bring down the Parliament from within. The narrative, while being pretty rock solid for the most part, sparks a bit of indifference within me. After all, when I pick up a book titled “Nightwing,” I expect to read about the escapades of an urban vigilante, not an international man of mystery. If anything, this opening arc retains a little more of the Grayson formula than I originally expected. Some fans may not mind this as much, for they’ll follow the character anywhere, but there are probably at least a few of you out there who will agree with me.
On a side note, it’s interesting to see how supportive Batman is of Dick’s new endeavor, as we all know how stubborn and untrusting the Dark Knight can be. Speaking of which, I can’t help but juxtapose his approval with his habitual second guessing of anything Jason Todd does. But, then again, the original Robin has a much more sterling reputation.
When it comes to the Nightwing-Raptor dynamic, one could say it’s the backbone of this book. Dick’s Parliament assigned partner seems to think he has some sage advice for our hero as they continue doing the shadowy cabal’s bidding. It just so happens that the two have more than a few things in common as neither are exactly thrilled with their employers. All throughout, Raptor insists the Batman’s teachings were wrong, making me somewhat liken this relationship to that of the one Damian Wayne shared with Nobody in Batman and Robin: Born to Kill or, if animation is your thing, Damian and Talon in Batman vs. Robin.
Without a doubt, the coolest leg of the journey has to be what’s originally published in the pages of Nightwing #3. In it, Batgirl joins the two gentlemen as they traverse the labyrinthine residence of the world’s greatest maze maker. Should you be a lover of puzzles or video games rife with deathtraps, I figure you’ll find much to dig as well.
After witnessing ‘Wing and Raptor give the Parliament (but not Funkadelic) their just desserts, complete with boss battle, you may notice issues #5 and 6 have been left out of this collection. But don’t worry, you’re not missing out on anything crucial to this tale. You see, those two were part of the Night of the Monster Men crossover, which is set to receive a trade paperback of its own in the near future. So, should that story interest you as well, be sure to keep an eye out for it.
That being said, the book is capped off by a two-issue arc that serves as a final showdown (for now) between Dick and Raptor, the latter of whom shows his true colors and reveals his connection to the former’s past. Not to spoil much, but it gets a little Saw-like, if you know what I mean.
You know, now having re-read this material in the collection that is Nightwing Vol. 1: Better Than Batman, I’ve developed a greater appreciation for it. But should you find yourself not liking the titular character’s globe hopping, I advise you to stay on board, as he finds his way to the streets of Bludhaven not long after this.
Although it may not be quite what you were expecting, Better Than Batman returns Nightwing to his proper place in the DC Universe along with revealing a few surprising details about his past.