“Better Than Batman Part 1”
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Javier Fernandez
Colorist: Chris Sotomayor
The more things change the more they stay the same. Dick Grayson might be back to his high flying Nightwing persona, but he is still doing undercover spy work in his new series. He had originally been blackmailed by the Court of Owls during the New 52 with threats that they would kill the current Robin, Damian Wayne, if he didn’t do what they want, but that threat was removed in Nightwing Rebirth #1 a few weeks back. The Court doesn’t know that yet, so Dick will continue to work for them and try to uncover their plans. Of course, the Court isn’t too happy with his lack of commitment so this whole undercover thing may not last long. Which I am fine with.
For the time being, though, Nightwing continues to live a dual life. Half of this issue is him reconnecting with members of the Bat family, and the other half has him going out on assignment for the Owls. Each half is interesting in its own way, and the interweaving story works fairly well here. They also contrast each other as the sections involving the Bat-family all tend to skew towards a nostalgia angle, both for the characters and for us, while the Owls dwell on what is to come. So far the Rebirth titles have had a patchy track record of balancing separate story arcs within their comics, but Nightwing seems to hit it squarely.
Although the Bat-family side of things is good it is the weaker of the two running stories. The main issue is that Batman seems to still be written as his New 52 variant rather than the more socially aware version we have gotten since Rebirth. In fairness his points to Dick are valid, but I feel the newer Batman probably would have been less of a jerk about it. That aside there is still plenty to praise in these sections. As always it is good to see Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) and Dick interact, and all the more so because we are currently at a point where they don’t hate each other. The joke about meeting for a “date” on the top of a bridge may fall a bit flat, but otherwise their banter and conversation is as fun as ever. I may not be 100% behind getting them back together as a couple (and neither are the writing or editorial teams by the look of it), but they are more interesting characters as partners.
Over in the Owls half of the book we see Dick having a meeting with the Court, now wearing black masks instead of white, where he is assigned a job in Russia, and with a partner. That partner ee meet later in the issue (we readers get a preview of him at the beginning), and he may well prove to be a capable foil for Nightwing in this series. It is too early to tell, and we know little about this new character, Raptor, but so far what we do know is intriguing. I am not entirely sold on his apparent shtick that his gauntlet is sentient and that it judges people, but we’ll see where writer Tim Seeley is going with this before passing judgement.
Art comes from Javier Fernandez and Chris Sotomayor, and it is good, solid work all around. There has been a tendency in some of the Rebirth titles to forego background details, but that has not been the case of this book so far. There are a few awkward facial expressions in parts, but nothing so jarring as to pull me out of the story. It is not the prettiest book Rebirth has seen, but it gets the job done and looks good on the whole.
Nightwing is going to be a book that is not necessarily for everyone. By Rebirth standards it is fairly heavy on background continuity, although it does a good job of not making knowledge of that continuity mandatory (looking at you, Superman). Even adding in the caveat that readers should expect to get a bit of an info dump here I would still recommend it to most people. The action is good, the storytelling is solid for the most part, and most of my complaints are minor or nitpicky. I do wish that we could get Dick past the whole undercover thing already, but the story does seem to be indicating that the Owls aren’t going to put up with him for much longer. I am interested to see what the plan for Nightwing and Raptor is, and I will definitely be continuing to pull this title moving forward.