Review: Nightwing: Knight Terrors trade paperback (DC Comics)


I ... didn't hate it. This alone will be a controversial take for some on Nightwing: Knight Terrors, but perhaps because of the so much bad press I'd heard going into this book, I was expecting much worse. I have read embarrassingly bad comics and this is not an embarrassingly bad comic. Ill-conceived and in that way kind of mind-boggling, yes, but not embarrassingly bad. Maybe that's the best one can hope for right now.

[Review contains spoilers]

Knight Terrors tells the story of an amnesiac Dick "Ric" Grayson who doesn't want to go back to the hero life, a team of Bludhaven first responders who become "Nightwings" in his stead, and how Dick begins to realize that his extraordinary gymnastic and fighting abilities mean he must get involved against the Scarecrow — that with great power comes great responsibility, in essence. Writers Benjamin Percy initially and then for the greater part Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza deliver a Dick Grayson who's circus childhood is all he's known, and so conceivably what you get is a "what if" tale of Dick becoming a superhero without ever being raised by rich guy Bruce Wayne. It's an earthier, grittier take on a pseudo-Elseworlds Dick Grayson, and that's interesting at least for a short spin. A bunch of strong art by Travis Moore, Chris Mooneyham, and Patch Zircher, among others, also helps considerably.

But is story about a Dick Grayson who's not a member of the Bat-family and who doesn't have the relationships with the other heroes of the DC Universe and his trademark "everybody's best friend" compassion really a story about Dick Grayson? In Knight Terrors, "Nightwing" still fights the Scarecrow, so in that way it's like a Nightwing story, but "Ric" Grayson is pretty far from his former self, and with no real mystery as to how he got this way, one could kind of squint and see this as a story about some other new reluctant Bat-hero. That's fine (though the Batcave, at this point, grows a little crowded again), but it's hard to figure why do this under the auspices of the Nightwing title.

Obviously Dick won't remain "Ric" forever, but perhaps because of some of the creator issues behind the scenes, this storyline feels more ephemeral and stopgap than most. When Azrael replaced Batman in Knightfall, that was at the culmination of a long and epic storyline; equally Jim Gordon replacing Batman in Scott Snyder's Superheavy also brought to a close Snyder's extensive run. J. Michael Straczynski's Wonder Woman: Odyssey did seem temporary, but it had enough of Wonder Woman's fantasy elements and the mystery of what had happened to still seem an authentic Wonder Woman story. Knight Terrors strays so far from this title's norms, and apropos of nothing, that it seems unlikely "Ric and the Nightwings" will ever be referenced again a year or two down the road.

The Scarecrow threat is particularly soft here, too, which doesn't help. The writers shoehorn in that Jonathan Crane is particularly obsessed with Robin/Nightwing because Dick seemed fearless, to the point where a beastly Robin haunts Crane and he carries around a Nightwing figurine. Way back when, when other writers posited Two-Face as the Robins' arch-nemesis (see Batman: Prodigal), it made a certain amount of sense because of Two-Face's presence in the origins of Jason Todd and Tim Drake, at least. Using Scarecrow similarly seems repetitive and implausible; obviously this change isn't going to be reflected in the Batman titles; and seven issues of the Scarecrow making mayhem all for the purpose of drawing out Nightwing seems a thin conflict to hang a story on.

Among elements I liked here, however, seven issues about a Dick Grayson who isn't Nightwing leads to a lot of material where "Ric" bums around Bludhaven, drives his taxi, squats in people's houses, and flirts with a bartender, the kind of character stuff that it shouldn't take amnesia to allow through. The writers avoid stereotyping or pigeonholing the new "Nightwings" characters; one carries a gun, but they're not extreme or bloodthirsty or unlikeable in ways that make the book a slog to get through. Again, Travis Moore draws hairy-chested, roustabout "Ric" really well, bold and clear, and Chris Mooneyham brings a nice edgy sketchiness, with perhaps the barest hints of Scott McDaniel's early definitive work with this character.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Nightwing: Knight Terrors

A final element that bothers is that Bludhaven is largely unrecognizable in Nightwing: Knight Terrors. It's good at least that the book uses Detective Svoboda from the Rebirth Nightwing run, but in terms of the casinos or the city's new super-technology from earlier books, none of it is mentioned; there's not a reason Bludhaven couldn't be Gotham this time around. Given how bad I thought this all might be, I'm really relieved, but it's details like this that also demonstrate all of this as temporary, a Nightwing story that could as easily be lifted out and forgotten. It looks like this storyline is going past 12 issues, but hopefully not much more; I don't mind trying something different but this feels like playing around.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Nightwing: Knight Terrors
Author Rating
3.5 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 3 )

  1. Was it just the edition I was reading or did some of the pages seem out of order?

    Echoing the overall sentiment here. Expected a trainwreck, think it's the best the title has been since Seeley left.

    Also are Percy's techno stories ever going to get resolved or is that dead in the water?

  2. Was the previous volume's stories concluded?

  3. I love the idea of Dick Grayson getting to live life outside of the costume drama (but still getting dragged back in). Here's a dude who never really had the chance to rethink a decision he made as a kid. I mean, just renaming himself and putting on a different costume seemed like the biggest decision he could ever make! But in some ways, it's like the Renegade era all over again, or even Spyral, a chance to see what Dick would be like with a truly fresh start.

    For me, this arc doesn't evoke anything so much as Geoff Johns' post-"Blitz" arc, "Ignition," which was the first time I really admired Johns's work.


To post a comment, you may need to temporarily allow "cross-site tracking" in your browser of choice.

Newer Post Home Older Post