Monday, 20 January 2014

Nightwing Vol.3: Death of the Family (The New 52)


Nightwing Vol. 3: Death of the Family

Why so... not serious... okay, I need a
new line.
Writer: Kyle Higgins

Artists: Eddy Barrows and Andres Guinaldo

Collects: Nightwing #13-18, Batman #17  and an excerpt from the Young Romance one-shot.

Background:

Bat-family titles have continually tied-in to whatever Batman story is happening at the time. As a former Robin, Dick Grayson has a strong connection to Batman, and has appeared frequently in Scott Snyder’s stories.

Before we get too far into this review, it’s important to note that Dick Grayson’s story has revolved closely around his former home, Haly’s Circus. Haly’s was the place where Dick grew up and saw his parents killed by ambush. Dick has since come to own the circus and feels the responsibility of quite greatly.

Review:

Nightwing’s problem of late has been that it has yet to cut the cord from Snyder’s Batman series. The last volume was connected closely to Batman’s Court of Owls story, and now this one ties into the Death of the Family story arc. While I’m sure the Death of the Family story arc works really well when crossed over all of the Bat-books, but while reading the Nightwing element of this event, it only served to reinforce how badly Nightwing needs to step out on his own. Thankfully, this volume does allow for that to happen in the future and for that I am glad I read it.

So the Joker is back in town, and that sends up warning lights amongst every hero to ever work with Bruce Wayne. The Joker knows who everyone in the Bat-Family is and is out to make them pay for the years of continuity that saw him serve jail time and, at one stage, get his face removed. The Joker has very specific plans for how he’s going to torture everybody Batman’s ever cared for and for Nightwing,  that means attacking Haly’s circus.

The Joker works best when he gives off the vibe of a horror-story villain and Higgins has written him in just that way. Jokers tone in this collection is unsettling. Everything from his word choices when taunting victims to even the way the dialogue drags out words makes your skin crawl. Joker’s methods are also pack plenty of disturbing punch. I won’t spoil them, but it’s the sort of thing that has allowed Joker to stand out as one of those villains who will never get old no matter who plays him in the Batman movies.

If only Nightwing got the same chance to shine.

I came into this volume expecting Dick Greyson to beat the Joker’s sadistic trick on him, to not allow himself to be broken, and definitely to not need saving by Batman. That doesn’t happen here. Instead of being the heroic character that other volumes in this series have portrayed him as, here Nightwing is the damsel in distress along with the rest of the Bat-family; waiting for Batman to rescue them from their own inadequacies.  Batman #17 does an entertaining job, but it didn’t alleviate the sour taste in my mouth that came from knowing that the titular character in the book was written to be deliberately less cool than a character in another book.

The crossover issues are bookended by, at the beginning, a story that shows Nightwing encountering Lady Shiva. This two-issue story arc is mildly entertaining, but far too short to be satisfying. This only enforces my belief that Higgins needs to separate Nightwing from Batman if he hopes to do something great with the character. The Lady Shiva arc feels rushed; likely because Higgins knew he had to write a Death of the Family tie-in.

The worst part of the book, though, comes in the collection’s two concluding issues. In both of these, Nightwing does a lot of moping. The artist change doesn’t help these issues, as the change is made more sudden and jarring by the fact that these two last issues are just uninteresting.

Overall, though, I have high hopes for volume 4. This volume did what it promised. It killed the idea of the Bat-family and now we may see some Nightwing stories that allow Dick to really stretch his wings as he gains some autonomy and as his story no longer needs to be bound to Batman’s. It’s just a pity that the path to it left Nightwing feeling so disempowered. Death of the Family gets three out of five cut cords.

***

+ Joker is characteristically creepy.

+ Raises hopes for what will happen in the future.

- Nightwing is reduced to victim-status in a book where he should be the hero

- The last two issues are painfully dull.

Alternate Option: Nightwing: Night of the Owls

This is a cross-over volume done right. Nightwing gets the spotlight he needs without detracting from any other character in the Bat-family.