Nightwing: Year One (2005)
Writer: Scott Beatty, Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Scott McDaniel
Inker: Andy Owens
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Letterer: Phil Balsman
I have a somewhat embarrassing confession to make.
I have a crush on Nightwing. But my sister totally does too so I’m not going to let it bother me.
I don’t know what it is because I haven’t read too many Nightwing comics but there’s something about that costume. And perhaps the fact that he was voiced by Neil Patrick Harris in “Batman: Under the Red Hood” (which if you haven’t watched yet, watch it).
So because of this fangirl crush, I picked up Nightwing: Year One but also because of the fact that I really enjoyed Batman: Year One and Batgirl: Year One. Year One comics are just easy to me for some reason.
Anyway, this is obviously an origin story of the hero Nightwing aka Dick Grayson aka the first Robin who grew up and shed the Boy Wonder schtick. Pop culture likes to rag on Robin but I really like Dick Grayson in the comics though it completely depends on the strength of the writer to make a partner to Batman seem plausible. Beatty and
do a pretty decent job here, exploring the tense relationship between Batman and Robin as Dick gets older and more independent. I really enjoyed that they didn’t shy away from Batman being condescending and overbearing as a mentor, which he obviously must be. Dixon
Angry at Dick for something or other, Bruce fires him and throws him out of the Batcave. Dick, like any other young adult after graduation, spends a few months trying to find himself and even returns to the circus that he grew up in, which frankly drags the narrative. While there, the idea to become an all new and independent vigilante comes to him. He returns to
Gotham as Nightwing and spends some time introducing himself unpleasantly to the major villains of the city, even stopping by the Joker’s cell at Arkham Asylum to punch him in the face.
The strength of this comic laid in the characters. The plot was pretty weak and insubstantial. Dick’s voice, however, felt authentic to me: he was likable and someone worth rooting for. I also loved the supporting role of Batgirl (though it always pains me to admit her role was supporting) and found her portrayal clever and strong. Batgirl/Barbara Gordon is one of the reasons why I love Batman but I am often disappointed with the way writers handle her. She’s often simply depicted as cutesy and “spunky,” as if it’s supposed to be amusing and endearing that she’s a vigilante. Though Nightwing: Year One was not the best depiction of Batgirl I’ve ever seen, it was definitely satisfactory and did clearly demonstrate her integral role in the Bat family.
Jason Todd. Okay, everyone hates Jason Todd. I get that. I’m not crazy about the kid either but that’s part of his charm as a character. He’s supposed to annoy you, right? Well, that’s what he did here. To be frank, I was shocked to see Jason Todd in this comic. I was not expecting Bruce to be so quick in replacing Dick and also, I honestly found it a little creepy. Though I never had a problem with the concept of Bruce Wayne having young wards, I was as shocked as Alfred to see Bruce had brought yet another lone kid home. Also, Bruce came off as extremely cold and single-minded in this comic, which I wasn’t crazy about. I understand that as a Nightwing comic, Batman has to take a back seat but he seemed particularly vindictive against his first Robin. But the contrast between Dick and the smart-mouth, annoying Jason was new for me so that’s always good.
Alfred, however, was the saving grace of this comic. He was awesome. He was funny, caring and completely aware of all the tension and stupid decisions Bruce was making and not afraid to tell him so. I dug that. His importance to Bruce and all the others often gets side-lined with a single quip and a raised eyebrow and that’s it so it was great to see him really take center stage here.
Along with a decent Superman cameo and alright fight scenes with Clayface and Killer Croc, I have to say I enjoyed Nightwing: Year One. It wasn’t particularly deep or dark; in fact, it was pretty light, like a decent pop song. I definitely liked it though I did side-eye the inclusion of a completely unnecessary scene with scantily-clad models posing for what looks like a porn and a brief foray into a strip club. I get that those scenes were meant to be funny and were essentially harmless. I just always sigh whenever I’m reminded that unless you’re a masked vigilante, you’re either a victim or a stripper or prostitute when you’re a woman in comics. Hopefully as I read on, I’ll see less of that.