Nightwing Rebirth #1
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Yanick Paquette
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Out of all the various secondary bat-allies that have come and gone over the years, Dick Grayson is the one who has gone through the most changes. Arguably he has gone through even more changes than Batman himself, and that is a pretty impressive feat when you get down to it. He started out as the original Robin before going off to help found the New Teen Titans. He reinvented himself as Nightwing in the middle of that run before splitting off from the team and adopted the town of Bludhaven as his home for most of the 2000s. He returned to Gotham to take the mantle of Batman during one of the periods when Bruce was dead. After Bruce returned to the Batman role Dick became the owner of the travelling circus he used to work for (clearly a brilliant idea in a city whose main villain is a deranged clown) before faking his death to infiltrate a spy organization. With New 52 now in the rear-view mirror Dick is back to his old Nightwing costume (not the original costume, but his most iconic one) and once more in Gotham. And that is all you need to know about Nightwing for now, whether or not you actually read this issue.
The thing about this comic is that even though Nightwing is front-and-center, this is actually about his allies that he has accumulated over the years. First there is Huntress, who is returning to that role (which she technically never had thanks to New 52’s reboot) after being the head of the spy organization Dick infiltrated. In a previous version of continuity Huntress and Nightwing had a romantic connection, so it is no surprise to see her here even though she will mostly be over in the Birds of Prey book when that launches. Next is Damian Wayne, who is best known as the son of Batman, but it is important to remember that for a large part of Damian’s early career as Robin Bruce Wayne was dead and Dick was actually the Batman who mentored him. They ended up developing an older/younger sibling relationship which has probably been one of the only worthwhile things to come out of the entire Damian story so far.
After Damian we get a brief interlude to see what will happen to the spy organization Spyral with both Dick and Helena (Huntress) leaving. I suspect we will still see that organization pop up from time-to-time, but it is also possible it will just flat out disappear after this. Then comes Midnighter, who is a refugee from the Wildstorm universe and got brought into the DC Universe during the New 52 (much like the Dr. Manhattan of Watchmen has been dragged into Rebirth). Although Midnighter was originally conceived as a darker parallel to Batman, he actually meshes quite well with Dick and they became allies at the tail-end of New 52. Interestingly enough the story ends with Lincoln Marsh and the Court of Owls, which is really the only part of the story that is meant to push Nightwing’s story forward by setting up the plot of the first story arc of the book (and probably beyond).
In a sense Nightwing Rebirth #1 is the first title from the relaunch that actually takes the “Rebirth” part seriously. Nightwing is born again as the character he is most recognized as. Certainly for me this is the version of the character I am most familiar with thanks to the excellent run by Chuck Dixon in the early/mid-2000s on Nightwing’s original solo title. So although there is little in the way of actual plot in this issue it does go out of its way to tie up a number of loose ends leftover from the book Grayson and re-establishes Nightwing as a vigilante in Gotham. You could view it as a step backwards since it puts him back in the shadow of Batman, but by the same token there was only so much they could do with his spy stories. That is not diminish the stories told in Grayson, which were quite good on the whole, but they often felt like they were written for a different character. Shoehorning Huntress into an administrative role just so they could hint at her (re)connecting with Nightwing was also a bit of a stretch, and seeing her also return to crime-fighting is likewise welcome.
This book ends up being in a rather interesting place when it comes to recommendations. For Nightwing fans, such as myself, it provides a nice cap on the New 52 era for the character and lets him (and us) move on from that period gracefully. For people who have not read Grayson or Nightwing prior to this it does serve rather well as an abridged introduction to the character and gets you up to speed on what you need to know about the character before starting on the series itself. Why I say this puts the book into an interesting place is because in terms of actual story there is not much going on here, and I cannot recommend it on that level. This is a character piece through and through, which will appeal to some and not to others. However, I definitely give it my hearty approval for longtime fans who want some closure to Grayson and a few other plots, and also to potential new fans who want to see what the fuss is about. If you have even the slightest interest in the character then I feel it is worth checking out, but just know what you are getting before you buy it.