After royally peeving off Batgirl with some unplanned shenanigans in the last issue, Nightwing and Raptor enlist the aid of Dr. Leviticus to help them infiltrate the Parliament of Owls. Will their subterfuge work against an organization that for years managed to elude even Batman? Or are they simply being pushed farther into the Parliament’s dark design toward their moral downfall?
Prior to Rebirth, Tim Seeley worked with Tom King on one of the most solid DC books of recent years. That series was Grayson, which like Nightwing features the adventures of DC mainstay and fan-beloved character Dick Grayson. Nightwing continues a lot of the plot threads that began during Grayson as well as the recent Robin War event. Chief among these are the displacement of Dick from hometown vigilante to globetrotting undercover agent, as well as the supplanting of the Court/Parliament of Owls from being primarily Batman’s villains to being Nightwing’s. The former may be a let down to those who haven’t fully embraced Dick’s role being expanded to this scale, while the latter is arguably the best move that could have been made to keep these recently created conspirators relevant yet also evolving them.
Nightwing #3 ended with a dramatic panel of Dr. Leviticus in a cage. Nightwing #4 starts with a lighthearted expository page depicting our companions sharing tea (and perhaps a beer?) with the previously imprisoned doctor. This first page is a good example of the juggling act this series is attempting, always walking a tightrope between drama and whimsy. For fans of Dick Grayson this is great as we never get pushed too far in either direction. The plot has yet to take itself too seriously (I’m looking at you New 52 Nightwing) while it also hasn’t devolved into something cringe-worthy or slapstick. Seeley also manages to fit an almost subtle flirtatious remark from Dr. Leviticus toward Nightwing on the very first page. Another showcase of his handle on Dick’s characterization and a joke that I can’t seem to get tired of. Seriously writers, always make characters hit on Dick, the more uncomfortable the situation the better.
As the issue continues, we see the culmination of the Nightwing/Raptor plot against the Parliament, more questions are raised about Raptor’s motives and agenda, Dick gets a blast from the past, and we are re-introduced to an underused but iconic villain under the implication that they will be showing up again soon. All of which is sturdy and substantial storytelling on the part of Seeley, containing all the kinds of things you’d expect from the wrap-up of a book’s freshman story arc. Furthermore, if Nightwing #4 really needed any more bonus points for great characterization/storytelling; there is a pac-man reference, Nightwing calls someone a turkey head, “Tony the” Tiger makes an appearance, Midnighter gets an easter egg of a shout-out, Dick and Damian share some welcome bonding banter, and Nightwing has a subdued ideological confrontation with the big bad Batman. Shut up and take my money DC.
In the midst of all this it’d be easy to overlook that Seeley has managed to create a fresh new character with Raptor. An individual already in his prime, hardly the usual angsty youngster in need of mentorship we’ve seen several times in recent years (Harper Row, Duke Thomas, or any of the We Are Robin cast). Raptor has an interesting perspective of the cape and costume crowd, viewing them as a brand that can be marketed to the public. Or in his case, a brand he can attach himself to as an extension, reaping the benefits by proxy. It’s a novel if not wholly unique concept for mainstream comics. Characters like Booster Gold have delved into this approach before but have not fully explored the waters, and especially not in the same way. Four issues in and Raptor already feels like a good addition. Whether he ultimately is revealed to be friend, foe, or money-grubbing mercenary, I am without a doubt interested to see what he does next.
Javier Fernandez supplied the art for this entire arc, which fostered a satisfying consistency compared to some of the other Rebirth books that have had more rapidly changing artists. There are some some notable aspects of the art, including the costume designs for both Raptor and Nightwing. Nightwing’s costume calls back to his iconic uniform in all the best ways, lending itself to that hard to achieve classic-but-modern aesthetic. Raptor’s outfit does a good job of portraying his views on superheroing as a brand by going after a trendier look, like something that beefhead you always see skulking about at the gym would come up with, and the design of his claw helps cement his place in the ever expanding birds/owls/clawed-creatures corner of the DC universe. While (so far at least) Nightwing isn’t likely to go down as career defining work for Fernandez, he more than gets the job done by admirably bringing Seeley’s script to life. I wouldn’t be surprised (nor disappointed) if Fernandez shows up more often and further develops into a standout artist.
If you read much DC or Marvel, chances are pretty high you’ve encountered Chris Sotomayor’s work before. Nighwing #4 is certainly a fine issue to add to his already expansive portfolio. Sotomayor employs a fitting and super effective color pallette for this book, heavily using neutrals throughout the book with a few touches of warm color tones, all of which serve to blow up those rich cardinal colors in the accents and emblems of the costumes. You might remember that I referenced this book having ties to Robin War; the fact that Sotomayor helped provide colors on that event makes it all the more appropriate for him to be on this team. Really, Fernandez and Sotomayor both have to be given kudos for making the art in Nightwing fit so well with the recent iterations of the expanded Bat-universe. Whether you are comparing it to the recent or current Batgirl, Detective Comics, We Are Robin, Grayson, or Gotham Academy, Nightwing feels right at home.
Nightwing fans rejoice! Tim Seeley is the writer Dick Grayson needs, and the one he deserves. The creative team of Nightwing #4 displays the deftness of trapeze artists with their solid storytelling and visuals. Don’t bother setting up the net for them though, they certainly know what their doing.
- The relocation of the Owls from Batman to Nightwing was a brilliant move
- Dick Grayson is rarely more Dick Grayson-like
- Raptor is a super interesting new character
- Some fans will still not be happy about Grayson being a globetrotter
- If you are tired of jokes about Dick being a ladies man, they don’t seem to be going anywhere (also, shame on you)