Friday, 27 September 2013

Nightwing Vol 1: Traps and Trapezes (The New 52) *Updated*

Nightwing Volume 1: Traps and Trapezes (The New 52)
What says dangerous? Hard liquorice sticks!
The Facts:

Writer: Kyle Higgins

Artist: Eddy Barrows

Owned as trade paperback.
Background information:
Nightwing (or Dick Grayson by day) has a pretty expansive history in the DC universe. We first got to know him as Robin: the orphaned circus boy adopted by Bruce Wayne to become his sidekick in his battle against crime. When Dick came of age, he graduated from the red, yellow and green costume to become Nightwing. He's led a group of young heroes known as the Teen Titans, and has frequently served as the rational side to Batman's occasional psychotic mindset. The character became such a important part of the Batman mythos, that when Bruce Wayne went missing for a year in the old DC universe, Dick was the one to take the mantle of the bat, defending Gotham with Bruce's son as Robin.

In 2011, DC essentially rebooted their entire universe in a movement called the New 52; a proactive bid to draw in new readers who would have otherwise been lost in the sixty-year mythology of certain characters. This means that now is a pretty good time to get involved in DC comics, as you're likely to know as much as anyone else does about the new DC universe.

Okay so there’s a few things you need to know about the new Nightwing. Firstly, it’s written by Kyle Higgins, who until now has been known for two things: his work on the Deathstroke comic series (also part of the New 52) and introducing the character of Nightrunner to the Batman universe; which gained controversy on account of the character’s Arab heritage. Regardless of your opinion on either of those characters, it’s pretty clear that Higgins has a firm grip on the kind of stories that surround the Bat-Family.

Secondly, the artwork is by Eddy Barrows, who has also had enough time to get his feet wet in some pretty solid DC titles: in titles like Superman: Grounded, Barrows showed us that he could draw real emotion in characters- the kind that actually gives us a look into the souls of DC characters. He also did work on the absolutely stellar 52 event/series/whatever-it-is-it-took-four-paperbacks-to-collect. And he carries that skill over to Nightwing’s stories. The panels ooze with personality and the action is paced near-perfectly (with one exception, really).

Thirdly, being a New 52 trade, you really don’t need much in the way of background knowledge to get into this one. Traps and Trapezes gives you just enough background story to get you familiar with Nightwing, without having us go through another origin story (and really, doing Nighwing’s origin story up to this point would be a loooooonnnnnnngggggg one).

And I think it’s that lack of origin story that made Traps and Trapezes fun for a new reader like me. This is the first DC trade I’ve ever really bought (the second trade that I’ve bought, period) and at no point did I feel like there was something cooler happening before I picked this up; which is nice when you’re new to a series. What’s even better, because this book didn’t waste too much time on Nightwing’s origins (take notes, please, hollywood) I found myself feeling like I was actually reading the story that the series had been leading up to- an awesome way to hook readers into the story.
So about that story; after returning to his guise as Nightwing, Dick Grayson decides to visit Haly’s Circus while it’s in Gotham. That’s a big moment for Dick, as he hasn’t really seen them in Gotham since his parents were murdered there. Not long after seeing them, he’s attack by a killer named Saiko- A Wolverinish-looking (by that, I mean he has claws) assassin who calls him the fiercest killer in all of Gotham. Hence the stage is set for a mystery that finds Nightwing digging deeper into his own history, as well as that of the circus.

The whole story plays out like a weekly crime drama: one big overarching story with the occasional distraction in each issue. It’s an entertaining structure that sadly fails to deliver occasionally (see the issue entitled Til Death Do Us Part for an example), but for the majority, it’s an interesting romp; if for no other reason than each issue reveals something new about the Saiko mystery.

And at that point, I can mention probably my only real criticism of the story: the villains. There’s nobody here that really stands out as iconic; Saiko’s no Deathstroke, and supporting villains like Feedback, Spinebender and the straight-up weird Acheron don’t look like they’ll be making any big splashes soon. Reading the trade, you find yourself begging for Nightwing’s own Joker, or Lex Luthor. That’s not to say that any of these villains are bad (well, except maybe Acheron) but there is definitely no sense of awe in this rogues gallery.

Be that as it may, there’s plenty to enjoy here with New 52 Nightwing. And the end leaves you with a cliffhanger that will likely make you desperate to read the second volume.
Nightwing gets a total of 4 out of 5 long origin stories.


+ Great story structure

+ Art captures the essence of Dick Grayson and the supporting cast

+ No origin story.

- The villains don’t scream iconic

- Til Death Do Us Part is pretty sub-par

Alternate Pick: Nightwing: Year One

Another Nightwing story that takes Dick Grayson back to the circus (okay, so it’s only for a little while, but what do you do?).

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