Last month, DC Comics kicked off the start of its Rebirth initiative. After a wave of criticism surrounding the way they have treated their characters’ rich histories since 2011’s New 52 relaunch, DC has decided to rebrand. They hope that by restoring their characters’ pasts, they will restore readers’ faith in them as well. Do they succeed? That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu and entertainment editor Kyle Pinion are here to discuss. Book by book. Panel by panel.
Welcome to month two of DC Reborn!
Note: the review below contains **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on this book, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Nightwing: Rebirth #1
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Yanick Paquette
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Letters: Carlos Mangual
Kyle Pinion: Nightwing: Rebirth marks the return of Dick Grayson to his Nightwing persona, long awaited by fans ever since his secret identity was revealed to the world thanks to the events of Forever Evil. I, for one, was a big fan of Tom King, Tim Seeley, and Mikel Janin’s work on Grayson, which I thought outclassed just about every comic starring the character this side of the Wolfman and Perez Teen Titans or the Morrison scripted Batman & Robin. It was a fun romp that took an action cinema approach with the globe-trotting spy concept, while also taking the time to tell more idiosyncratic one-offs. I could have read 100 issues of it, but as soon as that creative team dropped off, so did I. I come to this Rebirth issue, scripted by Seeley, feeling slightly out of the loop. I’m not sure why Helena Bertinelli is suddenly donning the Huntress costume (other than the fact that she’s about to star in another series, which might be all the answer I need), and I’m only peripherally aware of why The Court of Owls – or I guess now the greater Parliament of Owls – is so hot for Nightwing. I missed out on “Robin War” completely, so much of my confusion is on me, or the latter will be a question best answered by continuing to follow the series.
That minor quibble aside, I thought this was one of the better Rebirth issues. Whenever I think about the division of labor in Grayson scripts, I tended to think of King as the formalist, while Seeley brought a bit more humor, and they likely provided good counterpoints to one another in influence. This solo run at the character for Seeley
highlights those strengths he brought to Grayson’s world, particularly in character interaction. Seeley sends Grayson on a whirl-wind tour of his closest confidants in recent years from Damian, to Agent 37, to Tiger King, to Midnighter, and finally landing back in the world of Gotham, effectively shutting off his international spy days in a
lovely little set of good-byes. Seeley has a particularly strong handle on the inter-family dynamics of Dick, Tim and Bruce, which produced my favorite stretch of pages. I’m such a sucker for the Bruce and Damian team though, and I desperately wish they were still Batman and Robin, forgive me. Given just what a good time I had with this
issue, I tend to believe that Seeley’s sensibilities will be a great fit for the “laughing young daredevil” Nightwing and this might just very well fill the void in my life that was left when Mark Waid wrapped up his run on Daredevil.
It’s worth noting the contributions of Yanick Paquette, who drops in for a guest spot on the interiors here. Throughout the pages, you can see that Paquette’s holding back a bit from his more extravagant layouts, though I may just have Wonder Woman: Earth One on the brain. His pencils and inks on Nightwing Rebirth even seem subdued in comparison to what he offered up on Swamp Thing. That’s not a bad thing per se. Much like a writer can get in the way of letting the art tell the story, sometimes going as simple and clear as possible is a good move for an artist, and I think it works well here. There are a few panels where I think perhaps the publishing demands may have gotten in the way of some of the smaller details being fleshed out, or at least that level of intricacy that I’m used to from an artist of Paquette’s calibre. But I also wonder where I might draw the line between a rush job and someone just simplifying their work to match the subject better. Sometimes I like that, and I think I like it here.
In all, I think this is the best Rebirth book since Green Arrow Rebirth, but what do you think, Alex? Did you get stuck on any of the plotting to do away with the Grayson persona? I can’t remember if you read the previous series or not.
Alex Lu: I didn’t follow King and Seeley’s run on Grayson through to its completion, but I did enjoy what I read. Overall, I feel like Nightwing: Rebirth was a solid entry point into the story of Dick Grayson’s life. Indeed, I would agree that this book was the best Rebirth one shot since Green Arrow: Rebirth, but I don’t think that says very much for its merits, as I was not particularly high on Green Arrow in its Rebirth one shot either.
As you mentioned, Paquette is notably restrained throughout this issue. His figure work and sense of scale remain solid, but there is no moment where this book feels distinctly his own. As someone who is a big fan of experimentation in layouts, the lack of such ingenuity throughout Nightwing: Rebirth was ultimately a bit of a disappointment. The story in this book feels very paint-by-numbers, and the uninspired layouts only further that sensation.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call Paquette’s work in this book unfinished, but there are certainly points in the story where I feel like Paquette felt rushed to get the book finalized. Some panels are little more than awkwardly positioned talking heads, placed to fill space and convey a small of amount of dialogue to chug the plot along. These moments stand out because they are surrounded by other panels that feature greater levels of detail and more visual interest. It’s one of the perils of releasing a periodical on a tight production schedule, but it leads the reader to believe Paquette really cut things close to the deadline in this book.
That all said, I did enjoy myself while reading this book. Seeley has always had a solid handle on the characters that surround Grayson, so it’s nice that Nightwing: Rebirth features a sightseeing tour that gives the reader time to spend with each of them. From the snarkiness of Grayson’s scene with Midnighter to the heartfelt emotion that fills his talk with Batman, Seeley does a great job of showing us who is important to Dick and why. This makes the book a great jumping on point for readers who were not interested in spy Dick, but like his character in a more general sense. I have some issues with the way Seeley writes Damian, as I feel like Seeley turns the smarm on a little too much, making Batman’s son sound like Young Loki. It’s a minor quibble though, and I can’t say that Seeley’s Damian didn’t make me laugh in spite of the off putting sense of deja vu I got while reading his dialogue.
I’m a little miffed that Owlman was seemingly executed in this issue, as I feel like he was one of the most underutilized characters that came out of the New 52. If he wasn’t going to get a place in Snyder’s run after The Court of Owls arc, perhaps its best that he was dispatched, but I can’t help but feel there was more story to tell with him. That said, the introduction of the Parliament of Owls’ new look and firmed resolve to turn Grayson into a Talon makes for an interesting forward thrust for the series to come.
Ultimately, I think it’s wrong to expect too much from any of these Rebirth one shots, as they are designed to act as prologues rather than first acts. Taken as such, Seeley and Paquette have done a great job of transitioning from the old era of Grayson into the new age of Nightwing. They make sure Dick’s recent past has real baggage and real consequences as evidenced by the jaunt he takes with his former Spyral teammates and his strange romance with Huntress, but also make sure to set up a future path for him that simultaneously brings him back to his Gotham roots while unleashing his full flagrant candor out upon the world.
Do you feel the same way I do about Dick’s future, Kyle? Do you think Seeley has set up a straight thru line with the Parliament of Owls or will things turn out to be less straightforward?
Kyle Pinion: Tsk, tsk, Grayson was one of the best comics DC was pumping out the past couple of years. I highly recommend going back and giving it a look-see if you ever need a new back issue habit (or feel free to jump in on the current 99 cent Comixology sale). As for Dick’s future, I feel pretty good about it. He’s certainly in good hands with Seeley scripting him, and I get the sense that the rollicking fun of Grayson will continue here, which sounds a good deal more appealing to me than the somewhat more dour Nightwing comics I’m used to. As for the second part of your question, that remains to be seen, but I’m looking forward to how Seeley addresses this long-hanging plot thread. This looks like, any quibbles aside, we’re both in agreement that this is one of the “buys” of this week.
Final Verdict: Buy
Check back for our reviews of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps: Rebirth, New Super-Man #1, and The Flash #2!