Nightwing Annual 2013 by Kyle Higgins (Comics Review)

More than two years into the New 52 line-wide reboot and we finally get a Nightwing Annual, something I’d been looking forward to for quite a long time. That this annual didn’t come sooner is a missed opportunity on DC’s part, in so far as the relationship between Nightwing and Batgirl goes here, because it was an excellent topic to explore, and at this length no less.

Kyle’s work on Nightwing has made him one of my favourite writers and while the title has had a few ups and downs, it has been a fairly strong title, something that ranks up there with the best in the New 52. Kyle has put Dick through the ringer several times and he has always been a character who has had little time for personal interactions. With this Annual, Kyle has changed that around, pausing the larger ongoing narrative to focus on Dick and Barbara.

New 52 - Nightwing Annual 2013This issue, for those who are interested, is set just before Dick leaves Gotham for Chicago to hunt down the man responsible for his parents’ death and is part of the Wanted arc from Gail Simone’s Batgirl. As such, it is a really interesting time since both Barbara and Dick are going through a very rough phase of their lives, dealing with their own personal demons and more besides. What this means for the issue is that the story is very emotional and it explores their character and posits what kind of a relationship the two of them could have had, if only their lives hadn’t become so drastic over the years.

There’s something very cheerful about this issue. That’s how I felt when reading the story. It is light-hearted and funny in places, which is quite unlike most of the comics set in Gotham since the city is a dark and dreary place with very little… joy in it. It is a city where its guardian dresses as a bat and where his sidekicks are kids raised up to his ideals. An over-simplification for sure, but a necessary one since this is what Gotham is. The banter between Dick and Barbara is full of the cheer that only two good friends can have, friends who have gone up against some really terrible things in their lives, and have come out with their core intact. And danger breeds… affection. What Dick and Barbara had, well they were always an item it seems. There have been small hints of this in the early issues of Nightwing and perhaps even Batgirl, not sure, but this is the issue where it is all laid bare.

This is an introspective issue framed against the two heroes searching Gotham for a serial-arsonist who has also killed a few people. The circumstances that turn this individual into a villain somewhat reflect the situation that Barbara and Dick find themselves in and Kyle hits those beats pretty well, playing both plots off against each other. This story has heart, it has cheers, and it ultimately has a lesson to teach: don’t ignore a good thing for too long and talk, always talk, with the person you have… affections for.

I’d hazard to say that very few issues of any of the Bat-family titles have had this much talking between the protagonists, the kind of talking where they are talking to each other, and are listening to each other. Kyle’s Nightwing feels true to his characterisation across twenty five issues that have been out previously and his Batgirl is in a similar situation. This consistency was a big part of why I liked this title so much.

Overall, the story could have used a touch more excitement, and the circumstances surrounding the villain here could have been a touch more compelling, but all the same, I enjoyed this story.

Where the art is concerned, there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen unfortunately. Jason Masters, Daniel Sampere and Vicentue Cifuentes are on the pencils with Chris Sotomayor on the colours and Dave Sharpe on the letters. It is unusual, in my experience for an issue to have three internal artists on it and there are certainly various places in the issue where the art appears inconsistent and even a little wonky. I don’t know what necessitated this creative team make-up, but I think that this could have been easily avoided. Still, in the main, there are some gorgeous panels throughout the issue, and Sotomayor’s colours really bring the visual experience out in all its glory. He’s one of the best colourists in the business for a reason and this issue is proof of that.

Now, the only thing I’m wondering is when we are going to get more of this kind of an issue, something with personal stakes and an exploration of Nightwing and Batgirl’s relationship like this.

Rating: 9/10

Posted on October 31, 2013, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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