Nightwing and Superman’s two-part crossover has begun with a bang, as this gorgeous issue feels jam-packed full of amazing character work and plot elements as the two characters have such an easy rapport. Big events are fine, but these are the types of crossovers that are amazing to see more of in comics again.
There are a great number of things that are joyous about shared comic book universes where the stories of the various characters are ongoing (often racking up decades of continuity) and intertwined. One of the things that came from 2020’s Dark Nights: Death Metal event was a version of the DC Universe where everything that had ever happened to the comic book characters was true, no matter when it happened or how it happened. In many cases, we haven’t fully seen that at work, as most stories are focused on present-day events, but recently through a lot of flashbacks, we’re starting to see what that can do for a story.
In Nightwing, it allows for a melding of New 52 as well as Rebirth and this new Infinite Frontier era that allows for unseen prior events such as the time where Batman and Nightwing (clad in his red New 52 era suit) help find a missing Jonathan Kent when he was still a young Superboy figuring out his powers.
Tom Taylor writes these characters so well because the care and love he has for them are visible in every single issue. This book is not just a celebration of Dick Grayson/Nightwing but about the DC Universe as a whole, through the connections that Dick has to so many characters (since he is one of the hearts of this universe). Often crossovers between two titles, especially ones that are written by the same writer, can derail what is happening in both books while other times it builds naturally off what is being done there. Here we get the naturally building version as this picks up on the promise that Dick made to Clark/Kal-El Superman to check on his son Jon the new Superman on Earth.
Despite not having actually read anything but the first issue of Superman: Son of Kal-El (something I need to rectify), I did not feel lost here because not just because I know Jonathan Kent as a character well but also because Taylor lays everything out so well that these two different character’s worlds feel more than compatible.
Somehow every issue feels like there is a ton happening within the same number of pages and none of it feels rushed or shortchanged. We get moments of Jon struggling with his place as Superman, time for relationship moments between Jon and Jay as well as Dick and Babs, the untimely death of a former Teen Titan that furthers the overall plot, the meeting of Dick with Jay and Jon, Nightwing and Superman meeting up to deal with the death of Risk, a great appearance by Aerie and Wink from the former Suicide Squad book, and even plenty of fun moments. All wrapped up in a gorgeous package.
That’s because everything that Bruno Redondo and Adriano Lucas do with this book is beyond words. There is so much life and personality within the world as they bring it to life, with Blüdhaven and Metropolis looking nothing alike other than both being cities. The same can be said from the brief glances we get of cities in Brazil and Spain where they look so different than the other cities making sure everything has its own colors and style as it should be.
Also, I have to say I appreciate the little touches that are put into this book all the time such as Babs wearing a Teen Titans Go! shirt or Dick wearing Batman logo sleepwear as they are fun little references that bring a smile and deepen the world.
Blüdhaven is a city that has a deep darkness to it but unlike Gotham on the exterior, it appears ‘brighter’ and more appealing because the rot is so deep within. Metropolis though is a gleaming shining beacon of a city that just seems to radiate hope and goodness as the home of the Supermen and their family. On the page, this is one-hundred percent evident as there are small things that are done through Lucas’ color use that makes their lightness similar but vastly different.
Another aspect that feels like it gets overlooked so often in many books is how natural the night elements appear here. Many times darkness is lighter than it might be in reality because of visual choices or aspects, but here the scenes at night or early evening truly feel like one walked outside at those times of day. It’s a ‘small’ thing but a truly great thing to see.
It’s great to see Wes Abbott back handling the lettering work of the issue, bringing the full team back together again. Abbott has a deft ability to make the dialogue flow so easily within the panels, never intruding too much on what is going on but also making sure it has a central space where it can easily be digested. Within those words though, just like the rest of the art, there is a ton of emotion and personality on display through small changes to font or ways that characters speak. Much like the aforementioned comment about natural night darkness, it’s much appreciated that Abbott makes sure that yelling and whispering and regular speech are all distinct from one another just by changes in the font’s size or styling.
Nightwing #89 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.