The Bat Brothers Ride Again: Reviewing ‘Nightwing 2021 Annual’ #01
by Scott Redmond
Nightwing’s latest annual is a simple tale built upon the undeniable familial chemistry on display between the two heroes that headline the show, which makes it just the right amount of fun. Past and present collide within, brought to life by a whole slew of artistic contributors, making the book a delight across each and every page.
While they are superheroes through and through, truly one of the best things to see when it comes to the members of the ‘Bat-family’ is when they get to live up to the family part of that moniker. There is a reason that the WebToon Batman: Wayne Family Adventures series is so popular.
Dick Grayson/Nightwing and Jason Todd/Red Hood have quite a history together. That history wasn’t as deep in the past when Jason was the second Robin and was killed off just over a year after he took over the role. While the often-maligned New 52 brought a lot of stuff to the comics that were hit or miss, one of the things it did best was how the bonds were forged between the four men that were Robins, making them actually feel like brothers and sons of the Batman.
We get to see that in action within the pages of Nightwing 2021 Annual #1 as Tom Taylor brings the brothers together and puts them on the case of a Red Hood impersonator. There isn’t anything revolutionary about this plot, one of the many Clayfaces (I’ve lost track of how many there are) is pretending to be Red Hood in order to pull off a hit against a witness to protect a massive drug kingpin (who has ties to Jason’s mother’s drug problem). There doesn’t need to be anything revolutionary though, because the chemistry and moments between the brothers (and between Dick and Babs) are the selling points and foundation of this story.
What really worked through was the flashback pages, depicting a moment early on in Jason’s Robin career where the two were able to forge a brotherly bond, thanks to Alfred. Also, quick note, while the books in the bat-line are great right now they are nowhere near as great as they could be because the loss of Alfred is a giant unhealable hole in this world.
Thanks to this book and a lot of the others lately, I’m actually coming to like Jason Todd more. Now that he’s out of the gun-toting bad boy anti-hero always against everyone sort of mold. I prefer the bat-family to have their issues and disagreements but at the end of the day have one another’s backs, as a family.
We’re given to very distinct, yet somewhat similar, sets of visuals here between Cian Tormey and Daniel HDR on the pencils while Raul Fernandez joins them both on inks and Rain Beredo and John Kalisz bring the colors and Wes Abbott the letters. There is a heavier and darker tone and edge to what Tormey delivers in the present-day pages, while HDR’s work is lighter but still has a lot of depth to it and just sort of flows in a different way.
Color-wise there are a lot of bright pops here and there alongside the shadows, maintaining these across the whole issue while making sure to shift them between the present and the past sections. There is more darkness within the modern stuff, befitting where Jason is as a character now, while the past is lighter speaking to the “simpler” times sort of aspect.
Abbott brings in a lot of fun SFX along the way and handles the wealth of dialogue that peppers the pages too. The font and the size for the dialogue feel smaller and a bit different than we usually see in books but it’s not bad or off-putting. It actually works for this issue in a way.
Overall, this is a fun little romp between bat brothers, nothing too serious or line changing or affecting, which is generally befitting of what annuals are for.
Nightwing 2021 Annual #1 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.