Nightwing has been one of the most consistently well written titles in DC Comics strong stable of comic books. That is saying a lot with the quality of all the DC Rebirth titles but the last issue of Nightwing perfectly showed why this series is so strong. In focusing on developing the relationship between Dick Grayson and Shawn Tsang, Tim Seeley was able to make a romance that felt predictable when first introduced into something that fans can get behind. Now with a strong new relationship for the former Boy Wonder will things begin going south? And what exactly is Damian Wayne doing in returning to get on Dick Grayson’s bad side? Let’s find out with Nightwing #16.
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Javier Fernandez
Colorist: Chris Sotomayor
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: A few days ago Nightwing and Shawn Tsang are hanging upside down making out outside Shawn’s apartment. (About over a decade late on copying the Spider-Man kiss.)
Shawn breaks the kiss and asks Nightwing if he ever listened to how pilots always sound the same when making announcement. Nightwing thinks all of the blood has rushed to Shawn’s head. Shawn mentions that not all of the blood has hit Nightwing’s head.
Before they can move into Shawn’s apartment Nightwing hears an alert. Nightwing says he has to go stop some bad guys. As Nightwing swings away Shawn silently says she hopes to talk to him when he gets back.
Over at Titans Tower in San Francisco the Teen Titans are enjoying themselves in their new home. While reading some comments online Robin sees how everyone is talking about how Nightwing is the heir to the Batman mantle.
This pisses Robin off and he asks his Titans teammates who they think will pick up the Batman mantle. They all answer that it will be Nightwing. Robin breaks his phone and storms off to show everyone who is really Batman’s heir by going to Bludhaven.
In the present a gang called The Horsemen have stopped a Bludhaven transport truck. As they are about to steal all the material in the truck Nightwing appears and makes fun of the gang’s name. He then goes on to knock out all of the members of The Horsemen while continuing to make fun of their gang name.
Just as the final Horsemen gang member is about to attack Nightwing from behind Robin appears and knocks the final Horsemen member out.
Nightwing happily greets Robin. Robin on the other hand comments on the low-level bad guys is fighting now. Robin then asks Nightwing if he is on vacation from the (Batman) Family. Nightwing says he just needed some space.
Robin is not sure Nightwing taking up a day job in helping former villains reform is the best way to get “space” he is looking for. Robin then brings up how all of this is a poor showing if Nightwing wants to be Batman.
Nightwing suddenly gets a call he answers, leaving Robin to his rant. Shawn is on the other line and nervously tells Nightwing that she is “late,” and that it does not mean late for work. Shawn asks Nightwing if he can come over and to bring a pregnancy test.
Robin tries to get Nightwing’s attention to continue talking about how Robin is Batman’s rightful heir. Nightwing tells Robin he does not have time to talk and Judo flips Robin. He then tells a surprised Robin that he does not have time to deal with Robin’s lack of patience as he has to be somewhere.
Nightwing then leaves Robin, telling the young Boy Wonder to wait for the cops to pick up The Horsemen gang.
Nightwing rushes to Shawn’s apartment. As he runs through the city Nightwing thinks of how he did think as a teenager that this is how he would end up having a kid. He even remembers a scare he and Starfire had back in the day and how he is the same age when Bruce had Damian.
Nightwing enters Shawn’s apartment and notices that all the lights are out. He searches the apartment while yelling out some jokes to try to create a light mood. He finds Shawn’s phone in the hallway and when he turns to look in her office he sees one of Shawn’s paintings with “daddy” spray painted on it.
Robin enters Shawn’s apartment and says that they started their conversation on the wrong foot and once Nightwing apologizes they can move on. Robin quickly finds Nightwing on his hands and knees.
Nightwing states that Shawn is gone. Robin tries to make Nightwing perk up a bit by stating that he scouted the place before entering and that there is no sign of it being broken into.
Robin sees that Shawn is an artist and thinks she just left to make things more exciting for their relationship. Nightwing hands Robin “Merry Adventures of Robin Hood” and says he knows nothing as a kid.
After Nightwing leaves Robin is left wondering why Nightwing is acting odd. Robin finds the shopping bag Nightwing brought and finds a pregnancy test inside it.
Nightwing travels through Bludhaven thinking how coordinates were written inside his copy of the Robin Hood book he lent Shawn to read. The coordinates are for Fontevraud-L’Abbaye, the final resting place of Richard the Lionheart who was a real person part of the Robin Hood stories whose evil brother, King John, would rule while Richard was off fighting crusades since he had no heirs.
Nightwing is stopped on a rooftop by Robin, who says he is coming with Nightwing on his mission. Nightwing does not want Robin’s help. Robin reminds Nightwing of everything that has happened with their family losing Tim Drake, Duke now living at Wayne Manor and Robin himself living at Titans Tower. He continues to say even with all these changes Nightwing recklessly heading into situations will only get himself killed.
Nightwing sees Robin’s point and says he may need a “Batman” by his side. Nightwing then notices that Robin has the Batmobile they used when they were the Dynamic Duo.
Elsewhere Deathwing, wearing a variation of Nightwing’s red costume, has killed a bunch of cops and The Horsement gang. End of issue.
The Good: Even though Nightwing exists under the Batman umbrella it does not mean that he can’t carve out his own corner of the DC Universe that is his own. That is exactly what Tim Seeley continues to do with each passing issue and Nightwing #16 is a perfect example of this. Even with Robin’s involvement this new “Nightwing Must Die” arc still feels very much like a Dick Grayson story.
As much as Nightwing as a series has solidified itself as connected to everything going on with the entire Batman Family it has been able to create its own identity. What makes the identity that Seeley has created for this series so strong is that he is grounded it with all of Nightwing’s established history, going back to his Robin days. It was especially cool to see Seeley bring up Nightwing’s previous relationship with Starfire, which isn’t brought up much in the current DCU. In using that relationship to frame Dick’s current relationship with Shawn we are able to see how much he has changed since first becoming Robin.
The use of Dick’s history also gave us a better understanding of where everything fits in the new DCU timeline, specifically for the Batman Family. Learning that Bruce and Talia conceived Damian at around Dick’s current age, which is around 22, means that the conception may predate Batman given that the current heroic age of the DCU is only about 6 or 7 years old now. It’s a small tidbit that as a Batman fan I find incredibly interesting as there may now be a new story about Bruce meeting Ra’s, Talia and the League of Assassins during his training that could be explored in the future.
All of this use of history was a good reminder that Dick and Damian were formerly the Dynamic Duo when the latter first became Robin. The dynamic between these two has always been fun since Grant Morrison first paired them up in Batman & Robin. Seeley continues that sense of fun by reminding us that at least in Damian’s mind there is a rivalry between Dick and himself for who is the true heir to Bruce’s Batman mantle. Seeing how Seeley was able to stoke that fire by having everyone around Damian believe Dick will become Batman made his surprise involvement in the current story be more than just a guest appearance.
At the same time, while the rivalry between the two was at the forefront it was great to see Damian living up to the Robin role by bringing Dick back to his senses with Shawn’s disappearance. It’s a good reminder that for whatever issues the two have they do have a big brother-little brother relationship. Having Damian steal their Batmobile when they were Batman and Robin was some nice use of nostalgia for fans of Morrison’s run.
Deathwing’s appearance was shocking in the fact that he is a character that he has seemingly been forgotten in time. And though Deathwing is an alternate evil version of Nightwing there hasn’t been a big connection between the two outside both being part of the Titans history. Given that reason it was interesting that Seeley would re-introduce Deathwing as a new addition to Nightwing’s growing rogues gallery. Given what we know of Deathwing’s previous version and his current design it’ll be very interesting to see what direction goes with Deathwing, especially with how much he knows of Nightwing.
It’ll also be interesting to learn if Deathwing has any sort of involvement with Shawn’s kidnapping. From the looks of it Seeley seems to indicate that there is second threat that Nightwing and Robin will have to deal with. Since we just saw some of Shawn’s own backstory in the previous issue, particularly her relationship with her family, there is a possibility that it is connected to that. What that connection may be and Deathwing’s possible connection with Shawn makes what happens next very intriguing.
Javier Fernandez has a great grounded style of artwork that works well with Nightwing now that he is based in Bludhaven. He gives the city its own sense of something happening underneath the city that is different from Gotham City. At the same time, he does a solid job keeping up the fun of this series with how he is able to draw character reactions from the comedic to serious dialogue. Those shifts in tones bring the entire issue to life and make the Deathwing reveal have a bigger impact at the end.
The Bad: This is probably more my paranoia whenever it comes to introducing pregnancies in any form of entertainment that has been going on for a while but I’m not 100% behind this pregnancy angle for Dick and Shawn’s relationship. We have seen this type of story not turn out well to many times, especially when it comes to Batman related characters. It would’ve also been better if this was something we dealt with after a story arc or two where we got more time with them as a couple and let this Deathwing story be the main focal point.
The timing also seems off given how we saw the kidnapping of Shawn take place while Dick was having dinner with Bruce in the previous issue. Here we learn that it actually happens when Dick, as Nightwing, is at an investigation. This also does not line-up with how Shawn was kidnapped during a serious conversation with her former mentor, and how she was not in an emotional state then. The lack of cohesion between the timeline just felt off, especially given that there was very little time between when Shawn talked to Dick in this issue and when he headed straight to her apartment.
Overall: Nightwing #16 is a strong kick-off to the new “Nightwing Must Die” arc. Tim Seeley is able to tap into the potential that always exist whenever Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne team-up. This latest team-up played well with the re-introduction of Deathwing into the DCU as the latest addition to Nightwing’s growing rogues gallery. How Deathwing’s appearance relates to the current events with Nightwing’s relationship with Shawn Tsang provides this new arc with a lot of interesting possibilities.