‘Nightwing Vol 1: Leaping Into The Light’ is a beautiful ode to Dick Grayson and the world he inhabits, giving the character a refocused rebirth as the actual heart and soul of the DC Universe. Friendly to new and old readers alike, this creative team proves that they not only love this character and this world but know just how to pay tribute to everything that came before while adding their own additions to such a solid foundation. Truly a gorgeous, heartfelt, emotional, surprising, and just all-around fun book that retains a serious/sharp edge to it with the threats and real-world issues faced.
Nightwing is not Batman. In fact, he’s better than Batman. He’s more fun, more personable, more empathetic, and he’s so much more connected to the whole of the DC Universe that many accurately call him the heart of the DC Universe.
This is not a controversial opinion though, as in-universe it’s a view that Batman/Bruce Wayne himself has endorsed for years. He knows that the path he chose is shrouded in darkness and knows his limitations while being fully aware that each of his young charges and allies has the potential to be far greater than him.
While Nightwing has had a lot of parts to play over the years, his special place within the DC Universe has at times become muddled or lost with him sometimes being treated as a Batman-lite instead of who he truly is and should be. Tom Taylor, Bruno Redondo, Adriano Lucas and Wes Abbott remembered who and what Dick Grayson truly is and have returned Nightwing to his heartfelt glory with their first arc of his solo title collected as Nightwing Vol 1: Leaping Into The Light.
Within the realm of comic books, the ideas of a “back-to-basics” approach or returning to a previous status quo is just commonplace. Especially when one is talking about the very long running shared universes of DC and Marvel Comics, where the same heroes have been on the job for decades. Often its debated whether this approach is needed and if this is actually more harmful than beneficial to the characters/industry because it can play into the frozen in amber situation that sometimes plagues these long-running books. Sometimes though, it’s a very necessary move as this series is proving.
This is not to disparage the previous creative teams and their work, but as stated above there was a bit of time where Nightwing didn’t feel like the character so many had fallen in love with over the decades. At the same time, while this creative team is rekindling those fires that make Nightwing so special, they have created that seemingly rare thing that ensnares readers new and old alike. Within the first issue of this collection readers are brought up to speed on who and what Dick Grayson is as a person. Past and present beats are used in succession, both dealing with bullying, to cement a through-line regarding important traits and relationships within Dick’s life that have shaped him over the many years since the loss of his parents and entry into Bruce Wayne’s world.
It’s not all about just reviving Grayson as a hero though through these six issues. The city of Blüdhaven gets a revival making it a brighter but, in a way, more corrupt counterpart to Gotham City. Blockbuster is thrust back onto the scene as the massive threat he should be, taking up a major role in Dick’s own rogues gallery. New characters like Melinda Zucco (a character with a shared past connection to Dick beyond the Zucco name), the villainess Heartless and the true star of the show Dick’s new puppy Haley/Bitewing are introduced to flesh out this world even more.
Despite killing him repeatedly in various alternate universe versions of DC, Taylor has proven that he has a firm grasp on just who and what Dick Grayson/Nightwing is, both as a hero and just as a good human being. While Taylor does what he does best here with the character, that’s only one part of what makes this series and issue so good. Redondo, Lucas, and Abbott are just truly amazing beyond words with the art of this book. Every single page is gorgeous in its own distinct way and just flows so beautifully.
There is a ton of depth and care given to each and every panel and character (love the large number of close-up shots), the emotions are wonderfully showcased, and the characters are all distinct and feel real. Every single page flip is just a delight as everything is so detailed, bright, colorful, and gorgeous to behold. Every living being on the pages feels unique and has a life of their own, whether it’s newly formed characters or the far more iconic ones that make appearances throughout the issue. Everything is so fluid that character/dialogue moments slide seamlessly into action scenes and vice versa. These moments are enhanced and even elevated by the lettering that is both serious and more fun when needed within the world just like everything else.
Abbott nails making all the dialogue flow and fit within the panels in the best ways to really showcase the artwork but also handles SFX great. There are many schools of thought when it comes to SFX in comics, and none are really right or wrong because it all depends on the book. Abbott does them spectacularly by going for the big bold ones in the action scenes and then hewing closer to use them when really needed in the quieter scenes (like a phone ring or such). They are also just colorful and fun in their design which always makes things even better.
It’s not just the SFX though, as the other lettering work also shows off so much character and emotion to it. There is a scene where Dick actually becomes quite angry and the constant shifts in the size and font of his words show off that anger which quickly moves to shock leading into one of the effective cliffhanger moments of the story arc.
Another really neat thing is the bright and bold colors that Lucas brings to the book. Not only are they deep and enhance the images a ton, but they also provide an interesting comparison to Gotham. While Gotham is a city that is known as being dark down to its core, therefore much of the art and colors also embody that in books, Blüdhaven is a city that is just as or maybe even darker at its core but on the surface seems bright and peaceful and better. It might be that Lucas’ style just is this way and it works with this book, but sometimes one can find deeper meaning in even choices that seem simple on the surface.
One also cannot forget the stellar work done by former Nightwing artist Rick Leonardi who joined the art team alongside fellow penciller Neil Edwards and inkers Andy Lanning and Scott Hanna for a retconning flashback issue. Sometimes when there are numerous artists involved there can be instances where the art clashes and it’s clear that there are art changes in a way that takes you out of the issue. Honestly, this wasn’t one of those cases. Everything was so engaging and energetic that upon first reading of the solo issue I totally missed that there were switching artists till checking out the credits.
My brain noticed the change but also didn’t notice the change, as the scenes were flashbacks it just made sense to my brain that they looked different from the present-day scenes. This is readily helped by the way Lucas changed his colors for the past. Rather than just making them faded like is often standard for depicting past set pages, he turned to the Ben-Day dot process (confirmed by editor Jessica Chen). This instantly gives it that older look that instantly feels right to the brain and pulls on that nostalgia in the best way possible.
Overall, what this entire creative team has created is something truly special and fun and just sings harmoniously. It’s a testament to what can be accomplished when there is genuine love for not only the characters and world but for comics as a whole. Having gotten a glimpse of what is coming next, it’s very easy to say that the present and future of Nightwing is in the best hands possible.
Nightwing Vol 1: Leaping Into The Light is now on sale in hardcover print and digital formats from DC Comics.