Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Nightwing: Year One review


Nightwing: Year One

"I'll even let you swing first."
Writers: Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon

Artist: Scott McDaniel

Collects: Nightwing (2005) #101-106

Background Information:

In the 1980s, we got Batman: Year One. Though technically an elseworlds story, it’s considered the definitive, canonised origin of Batman. Well, once that happened, we wanted more Year One stories. And we got them. Wildcats, Green Arrow, Huntress, Robin and Batgirl all got stories that explained their origins for new audiences. Amongst them, Nightwing got a solo title all to himself.

Review:

Origin stories are always difficult; they need to be succinct, yet broad enough to be believable; somehow convincing us that heroes don’t happen overnight without boring us. And thankfully, Nightwing: Year One nails it.

Bruce auditions for Horrible Bosses.
So, Dick Grayson hasn’t been doing so well as Robin. Between the Teen Titans, his job as Batman’s sidekick and his own studies, it’s fair to say he’s stretched a little thin. Now Dick’s been late to the fight one too many times. Batman’s had enough, and now Dick has been fired from the role as less-cool sidekick. Lost and alone, Dick must find a new purpose. And sure, a new, fancy costume wouldn’t hurt either.

One thing you’re bound to notice about Nightwing: Year One is just how character-focussed the story is. Dick isn’t fighting a single villain in this one (I mean, he fights Killer Croc, but he’s more of an afterthought to the whole process), because that isn’t the point. The point is the character’s journey from boy to man, and that journey is a joy to read. Dick exhibits everything that there is to like about him; his joking attitude, trust of others and hopeless romanticism all come to play here. It’s less of a superhero story, more of a personal journey, and that brings a surprising level of depth to a genre that’s often criticised for being shallow popcorn-munching stuff.

There’s still plenty of popcorn-munching stuff, though. Nightwing flips around, dodges bullets and that final battle with Killer Croc balances fun and intensity perfectly. Like I said, the action is hardly the point, but it’s fun to see a few kicks to the face every once in a while.

Along with Dick’s transition to Nightwing: Year One gives us the origin of Jason Todd as Robin. Jason is in many ways the perfect foil for Dick. Angry, overly cocky and verging on criminal himself, Jason and Dick engage in near-perfect banter and the difference in their style becomes immediately apparent. The eventual respect that comes between feels rewarding because of it, and you can’t help but feel that Dick is vital to the Bat-family.

Batgirl also makes an appearance here, and it’s here that we revisit an oft-discussed part of Dick’s character- his love life. This arc makes reference to Dick’s relationship to both Barbara Gordon and Starfire, scoring an excellent double-whammy. The issue that highlights this may feel like a diversion, but again, this is about character development, not the defeat of a villain.

I'm pretty sure the first rule of that costume is "keep your
legs together."
Before I go on to talk about art, I have to mention continuity. Originally, Nightwing’s first appearance was in a Teen Titans story called The Judas Contract. Interestingly enough, writers Dixon and Beratty don’t retcon this story away; rather, they integrate it into the narrative. Reading the two stories together, it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that these stories happen in tandem to each other- even to the point of explaining how Dick ended up with one of the most ridiculous males costumes ever conceived for the Teen Titans story. And to emphasise how impressive that is, there’s a difference in publication date of around twenty years!

The art is just about what you’d expect from a comic that’s ten years old. Not bad by any means, but definitely dated. I didn’t mind the cartoonish style, nor the sometimes over-thick outlines of characters. In fact, they help to give Nightwing a certain “bounce” about him- which, for a character who grew up as an acrobat, is a definite plus.

Nightwing: Year One is a book that no Dick Greyson fan should miss. It gets a four and a half out of five ridiculous male costumes.

**** ½

+ Works well within previous continuity.

+ Fantastic character study.

+ Excellent interaction with Bat-family.

- Art a little dated.

Alternate Option: Nightwing: Bludhaven

Start the same Nightwing volume at the beginning.