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Nightwing Volume 2: Night of the Owls (The New 52)
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Eddy Barrows.
Owned as Trade Paperback
In case you’re not sure, Nightwing used to be Robin. The last volume revealed that Dick Grayson/Nightwing was meant to be an assassin for the Court of Owls. It also saw Greyson take leadership of Haly’s Circus, the circus that used to be his family until his parents died there in an ambush.
Nightwing’s first adventure in the New 52 saw Kyle Higgins establish a fairly solid Dick Grayson character, but Traps and Trapezes was by no means perfect. One of the issues in the last volume didn’t really live up to the rest of the story, and Saiko, while intriguing, wasn’t exactly the most endearing villain.
While it goes a bit far to say that Higgins fixes these problems perfectly, it’s clear that he’s taking steps to resolve those issues. Is this a better volume than the first? No, but it’s no worse, as for every mistake Night of Owls fixes, it add a new one.
The book is divided into three parts: a two issue Night of the Owls tie in, a three-issue story that sees Nightwing framed for the murder of two young men (as we first saw in the previous volume), and one issue devoted to Nightwing’s origin story as Robin.
The Night of the Owls tie-in is what attracted me to the book in the first place, and there’s no real disappointment there. We get a glimpse at the origin story of William Cobb, but these two issues are an elaborately prepared battle scene, in all honesty. It’s a scene that Higgins writes well; both Cobb and Nightwing are shown playing off each other perfectly as the latter desperately tries to find a way to immobilise the former (pretty hard, when the former has healing powers ala Wolverine). What’s more interesting here, though, is the way that Higgins plays on the nature vs. nurture theme. In both Cobb and Grayson’s case, nurture wins; but it’s the impact that nurture has on both these men that makes this battle so intense.
The problem is that this arc seems to have no impact on the other stories in the volume. The second story sees the introduction of the first real Nightwing villain to feel like a major player in the series; Paragon. A manipulative revolutionary, Paragon has all the makings of a great continuing villain; he controls a vast army of followers known as the Republic of Tomorrow, and exhibits this interesting philosophy about the damage that reliance on superheroes can cause. It’s an undeveloped philosophy that Higgins seems to take no time to explain, but it’s still a delicious mix of rationalism and insanity that really makes me want to see this guy come back (even though I haven’t heard of him doing so in the near future). What’s better is the way that this story ties into the previous volume. I won’t give it away, but details that you didn’t expect to crop up again do so in a big way.
Nightwing’s origin story seems to be the low point in this collection, but that’s saying very, little. When it was announced that Dick Grayson would be sixteen when he became Batman’s protégé instead of twelve, there were some concerns about how that could change the character into something that didn’t “make sense”. Rest easy; Dick Grayson’s new origin story perfectly fits into the New 52 universe, and it’s an entertaining story to boot, showing Grayson’s ability to read others and actually perform some fine detective work on his own. Some experienced readers may feel the loss of continuity with this story, but new readers shouldn’t worry- it’s entertaining enough.
Now I’ve mentioned very little about the art here. That’s because the art seems to take an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. It’s still just as good though, and improved writing from Higgins has allowed Barrows to really impress with huge action scenes. A great example is the beautiful two-page spread in the fifth chapter- the action looks brutal and is really easy to follow.
Night of the Owls improves on the effort made by Traps and Trapezes by cutting the awkwardness of certain issues and giving us a villain to watch. Unfortunately the story arcs don’t really combine well and that villain to watch may only be worth doing so because he’s currently underdeveloped. It gets a perfect four and a half out of five owls.
+ A villain that hopefully crops up again.
+ Story makes you reference previous volume.
+ Art is consistently good.
- Villain is still underdeveloped.
- Story arcs don’t really mesh that well.
Alternate Pick: Batman: Court of Owls