Review: Nightwing Vol. 4: The Leap hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)


As has been true for a couple volumes now, Nightwing Vol. 4: The Leap feels like this book treading water until it gets to the place where something big can occur. I had been expecting this to be that place, given Nightwing’s 100th issue and also this volume lining up with Dark Crisis, but still there’s a sense of the story biding its time.

Tom Taylor continues to write a great Nightwing, and indeed some of my uneasiness with The Leap must also stem from our knowledge that Taylor will be wrapping up his run a few volumes hence. By the time he’s done, Taylor will have written around 50 issues of Nightwing, though still I wonder if he’s quite set enough foundation that the next team will be able to achieve the same tone. Among the characters here, there’s a lot of “this is what I’m going to do” planning, but it seems to be taking a while to actually do it.

[Review contains spoilers]

I don’t mind variety, but the four main issues collected in The Leap are particularly all over the place. There’s the first issue’s police procedural turned romantic romp; the second issue is comedy with elements of magic; the third issue sees Nightwing swashbuckling against pirates; and the fourth offers an epic superhero-infused prison break. All of these are ostensibly under the “Power Vacuum” storyline header, though each comes at it from a different and only loosely related angle — and indeed the second issue “Nite-Mite” story gets a wholly different title even as it’s included in “Power Vacuum”’s numbering.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

Which is not to say any of this is bad. Taylor continues to write a charming Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon pairing, and he does a particularly good job with that Nite-Mite issue, the most tonally different of the four here. But with maybe 20 issues left, I worry when Nite-Mite gets his own entire issue, no more or less space than the book gives Dick coming face-to-face with Tony Zucco, the man who killed his parents(!), and then there’s only a splash page teaser for the revelation of the Titans coming to Bludhaven.

The advent of the Titans is really what this run’s been leading up to all along; given scant issues left, I hope at least Taylor will continue on Titans even after he leaves Nightwing. The book’s Titans appearances so far have been blithely cheery, the Titans swooping in to save the day, reflecting none of the angst of Teen Titans Academy that’s ostensibly been happening parallel. (Further evidence of this disconnect is Beast Boy sporting an eyepatch here per the events of Dark Crisis but seeming otherwise none the worse.)

It seems unrealistic not to at some point show the “Well, should we move to Bludhaven?” conversation among the Titans or to at least acknowledge the Academy’s formal closing. I thought Taylor would have that here, but it seems he’s holding that for the next volume or for Titans proper, if at all.

Leap’s other big revelation, in the included annual, is the identity of central villain Heartless. It is in a sense anticlimactic — Heartless is Shelton, a kid from Nightwing Vol. 1: Leaping Into the Light but largely no one we know, just a murderous figure obsessed with Dick Grayson. But Heartless' real resonance is metaphorical — he too lost his parents, he too was raised by his butler (if, in this case, the butler killed the parents with Shelton’s blessing). We know now the battle of Nightwing versus Heartless will be the battle of Nightwing versus his own dark self (though unavoidably Heartless could as easily be a doppleganger for Bruce Wayne).

The 100th issue eschews short stories, as with other DC anniversary issues of late, in favor of one big one, though the annual fills that void. Rather than, for instance, a Chuck Dixon story or a Tim Seeley and Tom King Agent 37 story, the callbacks are artistic, with contributions from Scott McDaniel, Rick Leonardi, Eddy Barrows, Javier Fernandez, and Mikel Janin. I did enjoy these blasts from the past, though the in medias res pin-ups section felt contrived to me without any real narrative preamble.

In addition to the Heartless story, the annual has the aforementioned shorts starring Haley the dog (aka “Bitewing”) by Jay Kristoff and then a Nightwing/Jon Kent team-up by C.S. Pacat. If fine in their own right, each of these felt mildly flat to me; for instance, in the Nite-Mite story, we get a crime-fighting, talking Haley that adorably professes her appreciation to her owner, such that the run-of-the-mill “dog dreams she’s a superhero” annual story seems repetitious and lesser. Equally the Jon Kent story, the point of which seems to be that Batman was a terrible teacher and Nightwing aims to do better, is hard to reconcile with Nightwing’s emotional, appreciative conversation with Batman at the end of Nightwing #100.

With Nightwing Vol. 4: The Leap, my estimation remains the same — Tom Taylor, Bruno Redondo, and team are doing great with this book. It’s fun to read, fun to look at, and treats the characters respectfully. But here again, whether it’s demons, Heartless, or Tony Zucco(!), rarely is Nightwing in trouble, rarely is Nightwing in danger, and it still feels as though the book is teasing the big thing that hasn’t happened yet. Now, however, the clock is ticking; I hope Taylor finally gets there before his issues run out.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Rating 2.5

Comments ( 2 )

  1. > Beast Boy sporting an eyepatch here

    This gets addressed/resolved in "Tales of the Titans," but it's incredibly disappointing. It sounds like there was a good idea in there, but no one wanted to spend the time on that end of the story.

    I feel your anticipation of the bang , but I think Taylor is writing in the opposite direction. His strengths have always been in interpersonal relationships, slice-of-life characterization beats that deepen the characters and their world. When he tries for a "nothing will ever be the same" big event, it's usually a fizzle (cf., Beast World). And so I've been taking his Nightwing to be digging into Nightwing's place in the DCU, both among his friendships and within his home -- and what it means for Nightwing to be the best friend, to be the hero of Bludhaven, etc.

    Heartless is shaping up to be the big bad, it seems, but the run is almost more about those unique single-issue gems, like the issue told all in one scrolling image or from Dick's POV. In a way, it reminds me of Chuck Dixon's 90s Robin run... not exactly going anywhere, but worth going along for the ride.

    1. I was reading Lazarus Planet and I think Beast Boy's eyepatch switched sides. Shades of Young Frankenstein ...

      Interesting to see Taylor characterized as "not the big event guy." I do agree with your assessment of his Nightwing run (and I increasingly feel I need to lean into the run instead of continuing to hope it'll be something it's not), but this is Taylor of Injustice and DCeased fame. We ought I think be expecting world-changing from him; I wonder if this is an intentional move to alter his style.


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