By: Kyle Higgins (writer), Eddy Barrows (penciller), JP Mayer (inker), Rod Reis (colorist)

The Story: Who’d have thought they’d lead ya / Here were we need ya / Welcome back, welcome back…

The Review: You remember the particular mix of reactions you felt a couple or so years ago when Dick Grayson took over the Batman cowl?  While the changeover made complete sense (you could hardly let Azrael have the honors, could you?), every now and then you’d feel a little surprised the cute little joke wasn’t over yet and Dick was still Batman.  Now, even with Bruce back, seeing Dick as Gotham’s Dark Knight doesn’t register as strange anymore.

Which seems a perfect time to upend the status quo again and revert things to the way they were.  Jokes aside, seeing Dick return to the identity he forged himself rather than the one thrust upon him does warm your heart, especially since Higgins takes every opportunity to show how totally ecstatic Dick is to be back.  As Batman, he made adjustments not only to his vigilantism, but to his civilian lifestyle, too.  Now free to eat cereal straight from the box and leave his costume on the floor of his loft, Dick looks and sounds more at ease than he has for a while.

All this has put some new spring in his step—or kick, as it were.  Dick was never a slouch in the chops department as Nightwing, but his experience as Batman definitely shows, and the way he takes down one of Gotham’s garden-variety crazies in the opening highlights just how much confidence he has now.  Maybe a bit too much, really.  You just feel a little awkward listening to him praise his own abilities: “…my mechanics were always great…Now they’re flawless.”

But Dick has good reason to show off all that bravado.  After taking on Batman’s night job for that long, and having to deal with its excruciating level of stresses, the Nightwing patrol must seem a breeze in comparison.  In short, Dick has gotten used to challenges, which means Higgins has the opportunity to set upon him some really intense villains.

The first major rogue of the series doesn’t quite fit the bill.  Presumably a brand-new character, our antagonist is a good example of the kind of villain swarming the DCU these days: highly trained dudes slashing people apart willy-nilly with sharp objects.  Honestly, with so many of them running around, it’s a wonder Earth still has a civilian population left.  But at least our slasher comes with a loaded agenda: “…Dick Grayson is the fiercest killer in all of Gotham, and he doesn’t even know it.”  You won’t blame Dick for looking so taken aback, that’s for sure.

It also seems fitting at this latest juncture of Dick’s life to bring him back to his circus roots, which remains a strangely vague part of his background, despite playing such a huge role in his origins.  Considering Dick’s personality, it makes a lot of sense he maintains contact with his former ringside acts, though you don’t really get a clear sense of what these people mean to him.  That said, you have to love Jimmy the clown’s anxiety of wearing a green wig in Gotham.

Barrows offers some killer action sequences.  His sense of posture and movement are so strong that at times, Nightwing looks like he’ll fly right off the page.  Praise for Mayer, too; his glossy inks might make it look like Nightwing sprays his costume on every evening from a can of latex, but it also emphasizes Dick’s aerodynamic sleekness, in stark contrast to the bulkier appearance he took on as Batman.

Conclusion: A warm look at Dick as his own man, rather than the guy who took over all the Batman titles for a while.  No fancy frills here, but solid efforts from both writer and artists.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – “…my past isn’t my weakness, it’s my biggest strength—it’s what makes me who I am.”  That’s right, Dick, and remember—you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you.