Written by Kyle Higgins
Art by Eddy Barrows
The two crossover comics for Death of the Family I read before Nightwing, Batgirl and Batman and Robin, were fairly good. They kept the creepy atmosphere of the event and managed to keep an atmosphere of psychological horror. Nightwing’s is easily the most questionable of the bunch, though, thanks to some flinch-worthy decisions and poor writing.
As before, this book contains the Death of the Family-related comics, along with two side-stories from before and after, and we’ll start with the meat of it. And as before, Nightwing is a book I haven’t been reading up to this point, but it’s pretty simple. Nightwing’s/Dick Grayson’s life is going pretty good, with him hanging out with his old circus troupe and rebuilding Amusement Mile in Gotham as a permanent home for Haly’s Circus. And then the Joker comes along. And…well…what happens after that becomes indicative of a greater problem at DC, and it has to do with Dan Didio saying that superheroes aren’t interesting unless they’re filled with angst. And maybe this is something that works better if I’d been reading the book up to this point, but in this case, it’s a tragedy that feels all too expected. Things are going good for Nightwing, oh look, the Joker comes and messes things up and everything is bad again. There’s a difference between the inevitable tragedy and the hurricane that just randomly comes into the hero’s life, and this is a hurricane. And Joker is a force of chaos, but this just feels unnecessary. Especially since, ultimately, the payoff of what it’s building up to gets cut off with that conclusion chapter from the main Batman series, and just kills the momentum entirely. I don’t know. I find the idea of Nightwing travelling with a circus and protecting them as a hero while working with them as Dick Grayson interesting, and this book just kills it.
The other two stories are OK, but both crumble under writing problems. The pre-DotF is about an assassin, Lady Shiva, coming to Gotham, and Nightwing has to figure out why she’s here and who she’s after. It’s not bad, but rather forgettable, and feels like it’s really part of something that was going on in Detective Comics, not a Nightwing thing. The DotF aftermath story has The Dealer, a black market seller interested in artifacts of Gotham’s villains, taking something personal from Dick Grayson, and Nightwing retaliates to get it back. It’s the most interesting story here, but there’s those writing problems. In particular, the book relies on exposition way too much, and what might be tolerable with a month between issues comes across as ridiculous in a collection. Every issue reminds you that Sonia Branch’s father killed Dick Grayson’s parents without adding anything more to the conflict between the two of them. It even constantly uses footnotes to point out what events happened in which issues, making it read like a Silver Age comic. And for the aftermath story, there’s the fact that Damian Wayne’s death comes into play (and as DC thoroughly spoiled this on their main site before the issue even came out, I’m not considering this a spoiler – at this point, you either know or don’t care). And maybe that’s a problem with the Batman line at DC right now. They went from Night of the Owls to Death of the Family to Robin’s death, and there’s little room in here for Higgins to actually breathe and do what he wants to do. It’s all cleanup for somebody else’s story.
This will likely be the last DotF crossover I review, and I did not save the best for last here. Expository writing, unnecessary superhero angst, and very little that actually makes me want to read Nightwing past this.