Before the New 52 Universe, the idea of my buying a Nightwing book would have been hilarious. Friends would have been looking for pods in my basement. Others might shine a light in my eyes to check for a concussion. I've always hated Nightwing.
Nightwings and Flamebirds
I liked the Kandorian Nightwing — both Superman and Van-Zee — and I liked Robin. My animosity toward the character also wasn't founded on the idea that Robin became an adult. An adult Robin saved Batman from the machinations of Hugo Strange, and he was awesome.
No, Nightwing marked a change in attitude between Batman and Robin that I absolutely hated. Whenever Nightwing appeared in a Batman book, he unloaded on him. He blamed every lousy thing that happened in his life on Batman and his lack of feeling while essentially pretending to be a father figure.
Yeah, Yeah, Walk It Off, Hamlet
That was a Batman I never knew or read about. You might as well have suggested my own father was a reptilian, unfeeling bastard instead of the loving, unselfish man he was. So, I denied that continuity created by writers that appeared to have Daddy issues, sided with Batman as always and designated Dick Grayson Nightwhiner. Very few books suggested otherwise. So, what's different? It's a new comic book age. Barbara Gordon, crippled for 22 years, now roams the mean streets of Gotham as Batgirl. As a result, I no longer boycott DC books, and Batgirl guest stars in Nightwing. Reason enough to give this book a try.
To be absolutely honest, I had some idea that the New 52 Universe had healed the artificial rift between Batman and Robin as effortlessly as it did Babs' spine. Batman and Nightwing, disguised as the Joker, exhibited the quintessential Dynamic Duo in Batman, and he acts like the Dick Grayson I knew from long ago in subsequent issues. Nightwing dropped in on Batgirl in her own title, and he exhibited extraordinary feeling toward others that I didn't see from the self-centered dickweed in the Post-Crisis.
Batgirl, now with a win against the Mirror under her utility belt, drops in on Nightwing ostensibly to apologize for cleaning his clock.
Robin or Nightwing, I never, ever liked the Batgirl/Dick Grayson love affair that was forced upon the characters during the Post-Crisis. Pre-Crisis. Babs was older and way out of Robin's league. In the New 52, the tables turn somewhat. Nightwing's the elder, but Babs is still out of his league. They never had a relationship other than a flirtatious platonic one. Bingo.
Writer Kyle Higgins does something I never thought possible. I've been saying that a lot since reading the New 52 titles. He creates a Dick Grayson that's likeable and decent. Dick's mature and at ease with himself. This is the self-confident adult Robin I always wanted to see. This is how I imagined Nightwing would comport himself. How could he not? He had two great fathers. Three if you count Alfred. Dick doesn't blame Batman for anything, and he recognizes the greatness in being a part of the Batman Family, which includes of course Batgirl.
In the past, the male heroes tended to patronize their female counterparts. That changed during the late silver and early bronze ages. After the post-Crisis, the male chauvinism quickly rose up, and Nightwing was guiltier than most. There isn't a hint of anything but respect in Batgirl's and Nightwing's relationship. In addition, he also treats Raya, a fellow circus player and liberated lady, with dignity and as an individual.
I actually don't mind Nightwing having sex. Previously, I thought he deserved a good drag through a cactus patch, but this decent, upstanding Nightwing really does deserve some happiness in his life. Nightwing got some action. Good for him. Anybody expecting a catfight between Batgirl and Raya will be disappointed. Batgirl's not interested in Nightwing that way, and Higgins uses the opportunity to strengthen Dick's relationship with the lady in question.
Barbara's a Class Act
You can also set aside any hope of seeing Nightwing and Batgirl at odds. Instead, they combine forces to bring the beat down on a new shapeshifting villain called Spinebender. Higgins employs their experience to eschew the cliches of doppelgängers, and he ties in the crimes with New 52 cohesion.
Not the Same Old Shtick
Artist Trevor McCarthy throughout creates an ebullient sense of friendship flourishing in the face of crimefighting. Babs and Dick are youthful and energetic throughout. McCarthy equivocates their athleticism, and when the characters are out of uniform, McCarthy creates body language that suggests an easygoing relationship. Frequently, his work reminds one of Brian Stelfreeze's illustration, and Guy Major's colors evoke a wonderful night-time playground set off by purples, Nightwing's reds and Batgirl's gold and scarlet. You know, I never thought I'd say this, but I might just try the next issue of Nightwing.
Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups, where he reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.