Review: Nightwing Vol. 1: Leaping Into the Light hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)


After a long drought of good Nightwing material, Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s Nightwing Vol. 1: Leaping Into the Light is exactly what the character needed.

It treads very lightly; Taylor’s Nightwing Dick Grayson is always in the right place at the right time, makes the right decisions, says the right things. I’m left to wonder — rarely do we see things go this right for our heroes without precipitating some major fall, but that seems too cruel even for DCeased’s Taylor in this context.

So, I’m curious what Taylor has up his sleeve, what the legacy will be of this Nightwing run, whether the sunniness of Light is a mission statement or a feint. Either way, given what this title has just been through, I can surely appreciate some levity as we get back to basics.

[Review contains spoilers]

Light as a whole aside, I think it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate what a perfect first issue this book contains. Start with the first four pages, young Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson protecting the innocent, a microcosm of the story as a whole. Taylor’s got command of the book right away, embracing its seriousness and its absurdities with lines like “Let’s face it, you need a thick skin to go through life named Dick”; Redondo’s DC house style with extra smoothness is perfect throughout. Fifth page, Taylor throughly brings Nightwing into the modern era when Dick tells Alfred he’s “never gonna be cool” with being waited on; sixth and seventh pages are a poster-worthy splash. And the tenth page, again we see Taylor embracing the whole of this character, rough edges and smooth, with a hilarious extended riff on cab driving and amnesia.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

And that’s just a sampling of the prowess found throughout this book, Taylor distilling all the best and often disparate parts of Nightwing’s history into a whole. Blockbuster is back, of course, with no discussion as to where he’s been or what he and Nightwing’s history is now — he’s just there, same as he ever was at his evil best. Dick simultaneously used to be “Ric Grayson,” cab driver, and he also used to be a Bludhaven police officer(!) and he and Barbara Gordon both have law degrees (Dick quips, while also wearing a “Black Canary” band T-shirt)— I’m pretty sure that’s modern, post-Crisis, and Silver/Bronze Age histories all rolled into one there.

Not to mention the modern touches — Dick has a “fur baby” now, in the current parlance, and the Bat-sidekicks share a group chat. Not only does Nightwing have his Escrima sticks, but they contain a grappling hook and lasers, basically a Nightwing utility belt, which also conveniently turns into a bo staff when Robin Tim Drake comes to town. Which raises another “new classic” nod, having Nightwing, Oracle, and Robin Tim Drake all back together again on a case like something out of Batman: Murderer/Fugitive. The feel-good vibes are turned up to full blast.

Whether that precipitates a fall or not, I’m curious to see. I have a lot of faith in Taylor, whom I believe is a good steward for these characters. In a lesser writer’s hands, no doubt that Dick’s burgeoning relationship with Barbara and the billions of dollars he’s about to funnel into a charity would end in a broken engagement and a penniless Nightwing on the run. Certainly, Taylor must bring in some drama, certainly all has not been told with the apparent arrival of Dick’s long-lost sister, but counterintuitively it seems almost too predictable for Taylor to wreck things in that manner.

Indeed, going to some of the ideas I espoused in reviewing Steve Orlando’s idealistic Justice League of America, we more often see superheroes planning to “do things differently” than we actually see them doing the different things — affordable housing and a guaranteed living wage are a lot easier to talk about than to dramatize. But I’m hopeful we can see Taylor follow through with what he’s set up for Nightwing. Obviously if Dick cleans up Bludhaven tomorrow, the story’s over, but it would be interesting to see a hero actually achieve access to employment for his city rather than ultimately find the challenges insurmountable.

(An other obvious next step would be to see Dick become mayor of Bludhaven. It’s on the table, though only mildly, in the fact that his sister Melinda Zucco is the current mayor, and we’ve certainly been shown the extent to which the mayor is expected to interact with Bludhaven’s corrupt underbelly. I’m not as excited about a West Wing-esque Nightwing-in-politics story as I think I might be on another day, but sure if Taylor writes it I’ll read it.)



All of that said, Nightwing Vol. 1: Leaping Into the Light brings us Heartless, a villain with a creepy Phantom of the Opera look but whom Nightwing is able to defeat rather easily; the daughter of bad guy Tony Zucco who turns out (perhaps) to be Dick Grayson’s heroic sister; and a shoot-out with Blockbuster where Nightwing manages to flip himself into a helicopter. Life is not bad for Nightwing. Should life be bad for Nightwing? Maybe Nightwing is the sunny, everything goes right Bat-family comic. Curious what Tom Taylor will do next.

[Includes original, variant, and second printing covers, character designs and sketches]

Comments ( 8 )

  1. I really enjoyed the reset that Tom Taylor gives Nightwing - especially considering it's been years since I last really enjoyed a Nightwing story. I can't help but think that all this will be built up to then be torn down by Taylor as the story progresses. For now though, I thoroughly enjoyed this first arc both with the story and artwork by Redondo - whose work I really loved in the Suicide Squad book that Taylor and Redondo had worked on. Plus, finally....finally Dick gets some updated gear! One would think that being at one time Batman's protégé would mean that Nightwing would have developed his own set of "toys" beyond the Escrima's about time.

    1. AnonymousMay 10, 2022

      Yeah, this has quickly become the best Nightwing run since the end of the Seeley era. The only weak spot so far has been the Fear State tie-in.

    2. Interesting ... I'll be curious to see where Fear State goes wrong.

    3. AnonymousMay 12, 2022

      Taylor's tie-ins are very late-90s/early 2000s-era Batman in terms of his narrative getting hijacked to service the larger franchise demands.

      It's really more of a spotlight focus for Barbara rather than Dick (as Batgirl had been cancelled after Joker War) and there are some good character moments.

      But it's really at the mercy of the main Batman book (given Barbara's role in the core book), as Taylor's weaving in and out of Tynion's second half (and the buildup to BATGIRLS).

  2. I just got the fear state hardcover.......but am not expecting much from it......I've heard a lot of mixed things about the story.

    1. AnonymousMay 12, 2022

      Here's my personal beef with Fear State.

      In pre-release interviews, Tynion made some good points about Crane. He's one of the oldest villains in the rogue gallery, but he's not in the top tier. There really isn't a defining Scarecrow story in the same way with, say, Joker (Killing Joke), Two-Face (The Long Halloween), or Catwoman (Brubaker's run).

      So Tynion's goal of doing a defining Scarecrow story isn't a bad idea on the surface. And the lead-up was especially good, especially tapping into the existential dread of January 6th and the pandemic.

      But it's the same problem as Joker War. It quickly becomes generic, boring, and he just didn't stick the landing either for the event or as his Batman swansong.

    2. AnonymousMay 12, 2022

      In my opinion the definitive Crane story is either fear of Faith. In that story Crane drives a community into pure paranoia and hysteria and he does it without his fear gas. It finally presents Crane as a huge threat and his characterisation is very fascinating.

    3. AnonymousMay 16, 2022

      Ooh, yeah, I'd forgotten all about "Fear of Faith".

      I didn't always agree with Devin Grayson's storytelling choices, but that arc remains one of the highlights of NO MAN'S LAND.

      It's probably my favorite installment of the event behind Rucka's "Jurisprudence" (Harvey Dent cross-examining his own Two-Face personality) and 'Falling Back' (Bruce and Gordon's reconciliation).


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