Review: Nightwing Vol. 3: Nightwing Must Die! (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

There's a joyful irony in that the Grant Morrison Batman and Robin run that Tim Seeley's Rebirth Nightwing Vol. 3: Nightwing Must Die! celebrates could not have taken place precisely the way it did, at least as far as the DC Universe stands right at the moment. That's not to say Seeley shouldn't tell his story nor that Morrison's run shouldn't be celebrated; rather I imagine Morrison would appreciate this much ado about "nothing" (continuity-wise). Indeed the intricacies of how Final Crisis and Batman RIP took place in the Rebirth era are only the tip of the dimension-hopping this book does in its lead-ins to Dark Nights: Metal.

Seeley's Die! reminds of Scott Snyder's Batman: Black Mirror in its tribute to an elder Bat-story, though Die! only reaches back five or so years versus Black Mirror's twenty-plus years to Batman: Year One. Maybe that's too soon, though the original stories were good, and Nightwing and Robin Damian Wayne's wonderful relationship perhaps did need to be dragged explicitly into the present. Die! does nothing to dismiss the criticisms leveled at Rebirth for dwelling too much on stories past, but as with James Tynion on Detective Comics, I think Seeley does it well enough that I'd give him a pass; also there's a curious bit of past- and future-looking in this book dually serving Batman and Robin and also Metal.

[Review contains spoilers]

We've seen Professor Pyg a time or two since Grant Morrison's Batman run, but Dr. Simon Hurt was one of those villains who loomed so large that I imagine it was tough, if not inadvisable, to use him again. Though I've been critical of the use of some of those other characters (Doomsday, Bane, and Manchester Black, for example), I think Seeley gets the pitch right, bringing back Hurt specifically to pit him again against Dick and Damian. Also, there's a believable progression here (in its somewhat "un-belivable" magical realism) that after being buried by the Joker, Dr. Hurt makes his way to the edge of the Metal universe enough to bring something back with him. I was surprised to see Seeley doing so much work for a crossover event that doesn't seem to involve Nightwing all that directly, though my hope is that Seeley will specifically reference this story and tie the pieces together in Nightwing's "Gotham Resistance" tie-in issue.

Admittedly I knew most of what was coming before I read this book, otherwise I'd be screaming from the rooftops in a more excited manner that Seeley nods to Team Titans in this book, bless him. Deathwing of course comes from the latter parts of the Team Titans era in which the book was becoming perhaps more mature than DC knew what to do with, heralding its cancellation, but the number of Team Titans references we've had in the past twenty years have been slim-to-none, so I'll take what I can get. And neither do I sense that DC's post-Crisis/Zero Hour-era continuity has anything really to do with Metal, so Seeley's inclusion of the previous Deathwing -- even re-using the Deathwing name for the new villain -- is a lagniappe, kind of like some of the moments in he and Tom King's Grayson #12. It's one thing for Seeley to appreciate Grant Morrison's Batman and Robin or Chuck Dixon's Nightwing, but for me a Team Titans reference is a sign of true fandom.

I have liked the Defacer Shawn Tsang character that Seeley introduced, and I was glad for the sake of the story that Seeley hadn't just killed her off. She must unfortunately play damsel in distress for a good part of this book, but then Seeley lets her shine both as a superhero and as a guidance counselor. I found the pregnancy storyline troublesome because it posits a lot of angst for the characters likely to unfold along stereotypical gendered lines, though I do recognize in the main Seeley used it as a metaphorical parallel of Dick's "parentage" of Damian. Given the great unlikelihood that Seeley would actually make Dick a father, mercifully he doesn't draw the storyline out past this volume, though in that vein I thought having Shawn push Dick away seemed unnecessarily "angst-y" when a mature couple might otherwise commiserate. Speaking of "mature," Seeley suggests hilariously and quite shockingly some pregnancy concerns for a young Dick Grayson and Starfire, a sequence that's a little more on-the-nose and blue than we usually see in a Bat-family title (and I don't mean the hue of the narration box), even more so than Dick and Kory breaking 1980s DC Comics boundaries by waking up in the same bed together.

I was down on Seeley's writing of Dick and Damian in Nightwing Vol. 1: Better Than Batman mainly due to Seeley's depiction of Damian as a video game-playing, "regular" teen and also Damian's uncharacteristic unabashed affection for Dick. All of this is much improved here, as we get instead the familiar, tyrannical Damian with a head of steam over Dick's perceived slights. I don't deny that Damian does care for his former partner (and near-father), but seeing a less effusive (and more Shakespearean) Damian on the page makes it all more believable. Extra points to Seeley for the fact that Damian has enough League of Assassins-trained skill to move his organs around to avoid a stabbing injury.

The book ends with a Nightwing/Flash Wally West team-up by DC New Talent writer Michael McMillan. The story is not ground-breaking, though I appreciate that McMillan, in consultation I imagine with the creative team, does tie it in to the Nightwing ongoing story proper. Moreover, inasmuch as Wally West still being the time-lost New 52 version of himself versus the plight of the post-Crisis Superman still befuddles me, once upon a time we did see these Nightwing/Flash team-ups on something of a regular basis, and in a book full of nostalgia, there's plenty charm in this as a one-off, too. (Plus, bringing this review full circle, McMillan uses Tiger Shark, really a Nightwing foe, first introduced in Snyder's Black Mirror.)

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Nightwing Vol. 3: Nightwing Must Die!

If the goal of Nightwing Vol. 3: Nightwing Must Die! is to make me nostalgic to go read through Grant Morrison's Batman and Robin era again, then Tim Seeley succeeds in spades (omnibus when?). In two out of three volumes, so far Seeley's Nightwing has been an exercise in backward-looking -- and with Blockbuster around the corner, that seems unlikely to let up -- but I've been enjoying it immensely. I'm glad to see Javier Fernandez's sketchy lines return, giving this book just the right amount of grit. Looking forward to the next.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Nightwing Vol. 3: Nightwing Must Die
Author Rating
4 (out of 5)
Collected Editions 2017 Comic Book Gift Guide
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1 comment:

  1. The Nightwing books keep getting better with each volume, you see the nostalgia and references in each issue. I really like Tim Seeley his usage of characters made by others, he really does his homework before writing them and it shows.

    While the first volume seemed a bit rushed, mainly focused on closing story lines, Seeley shows here what he really can do, building a larger story on top of smaller story lines he writes and moving characters forward.

    This is easily becoming my second favorite Bat-title (Although I must confess I haven't read either of the 2 Batgirl titles or Super Sons).

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