I am not sure if Javier Fernandez is the right artist for the reborn Nightwing series. His style, with its slightly rough lines and blurred details, is somewhat reminiscent of Alex Maleev or Tim Sale, although the color palette chosen by Chris Sotomayor, a color scheme heavy on cool, even icy, blues and bloody reds, evokes the unsettling garishness of a classic horror comic. That would be fine for Batman, or perhaps a slightly older Damian Wayne. But it seems somewhat out of place for the brightest member of the Bat Family.
On the other hand, Nightwing #1 and Nightwing #2 explore the grimmer aspects of Dick Grayson. Writer Tim Seeley brings the themes of espionage and moral compromise that informed Grayson, but rather than the muted exposition seen in that successful run, he handles the problems explicitly, rounding them off with a few of his trademark eerie scenes and ghoulish vignettes. In these two comics, we see Dick delve deeply into his existence after leaving Spyral, a life dominated by two decisions: donning the Nightwing identity once again and infiltrating the wealthy and vicious Parliament of Owls. The latter brings him into partnership with Raptor, a cocky thief and murderer who aims to show Dick the weak points and shortcomings of Batman’s methods.
Seeley is usually at his best with character and interaction, and these issues show his strengths clearly. After a rocky beginning in Nightwing Rebirth #1, his grasp of Damian Wayne’s voice has improved, giving this series great promise for the the renewal of one of the most beloved relationships in the modern DC Universe. Seeley’s command of Barbara Gordon’s voice is much more assured, and the half-tragic, half-comic romantic dance of errors between Dick and Babs harkens back to the pre-Flashpoint era, albeit without the dark and often sour overtones that once marred those passages.
The most important relationship in Dick’s life, however, is not with Damian or Barbara, but with Bruce Wayne, and here Seeley navigates a tricky path. The entire history of the DC Universe can, in some ways, be traced through the permutations of Dick’s back-and-forth with Bruce. The last thirty years or so have been replete with tense moments and downright battles, but Seeley successfully emphasizes the trust and respect between the two. Yet, that presents problems, as Seeley also wants to establish grounds for thematic separation of Batman and Nightwing. After all, one of the greatest questions within the DC Universe has long been how Dick can be his own man while carrying the flag for what is, as Raptor observes, a younger and hipper extension of the Batman franchise.
Nightwing #1: B; Nightwing #2: B+
It is probably on the character of Raptor that this arc will succeed or fail, which plays to Tim Seeley's strengths. He has set up a number of mysteries surrounding this anti-heroic athlete who wears a costume suspiciously similar to Nightwing's save sketched in orange and white rather than blue and black. Other aspects hint at a hidden link between the two men, including the fact that Raptor's main weapon is an alchemical gauntlet named after an evil Roma wizard. Could Dick have a cousin he has not yet met? It wouldn't be the first time the former Boy Wonder's supposed family has appeared to complicate his life. The last such relative is a zombie assassin. Raptor, for all his faults, at least appears to be alive.