Benjanmin Percy just wrapped up his first major story arc in his new creative run on Nightwing. The ending was not as impressive as I had hoped. There were many little problems with the story that made it hard to care about the outcome. At the same time, Percy did show he understands how to write a great Nightwing throughout the first story arc. That is an important precedent to set as Nightwing, with help from Batgirl, was able to save the day from the new threat in the form of Wyrm. Now with that first story arc wrapped up Percy can focus on a new story for the latest annual issue for this series. Let’s see how this celebration issue goes by taking a look at Nightwing Annual #1.
Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artist: Otto Schmidt
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At Batgirl’s Clock Tower, Barbara Gordon straps Dick Grayson down and uses a special device to, painfully, remove the Phantasm Controller that was connected to Dick’s heart. Barbara tells Dick that she is going to keep the Bleeding-Edge Tech in order to analyze what the Dark Web is planning.
A week later Vicki Vale invites Nightwing to the Gotham Four News Headquarters. There she reveals to Nightwing that she has been tipped off to how the same cyber threat that hit Bludhaven is looking to strike Gotham City. Vicki shows Nightwing how lately the stations computers and broadcast have been corrupted with the word “LIES” spread across the screen.
Nightwing believes this is an inside job and takes a look at one of the news station’s intern desk. When he does he finds a flash drive that belongs to terminal. Nightwing chases after then intern who turns out to be a Terminal agent but quickly loses him mysteriously in the bathroom. Nightwing tells Vicki that the Terminal agent must of changed his appearance. He goes looking for the Terminal agent and tells Vicki to lock the news station headquarter down.
One of the security guards hears this and runs off to lock the station down. After doing that the security runs outside and transforms into an woman, revealing that they are the Terminal agent, to hide in the public.
As various news outlets run their nightly program they are all disrupted by someone named Karina Shifton from FEED, who calls herself the only source for news.
The next morning the only newspapers that get delivered around Gotham City are from FEED.
Nightwing sees this and talks to Vicki about how FEED has taken over every news outlet. While making small talk Vicki says there is no record of who Karina Shifton is outside of her being the face of FEED.
As FEED continues to be the news outlet reporting on TV, Karina interviews various people in Gotham City about what the worst thing they have done.
While Batgirl investigates FEED on her end Nightwing works on the streets to find out more about Karina and her possible connection to Wyrm.
Nightwing notices someone spray painting “FEED THE WYRM” and quickly captures him. Nightwing questions the guy about what he knows about the Dark Web crew. The guy says he doesn’t know anything and calls Nightwing out on Gotham City not being his home. Nightwing says the world is his home to protect and can hold the guy upside down all night.
The guy slips through Nighting’s rope and reveals himself to be a Terminal robot when he lands on the ground. Before he can run off Batgirl runs over the Terminal robot with a special semi-truck.
Batgirl shows Nightwing that she created a mobile Batcave since he keeps going between Bludhaven and Gotham City. She shows Nightwing the special features she added that suit Dick Grayson’s taste, including a cereal bar and Glutemaster. She then shows him that the mobile Batcave also has a new custom motorcycle for Nightwing to use. Nightwing thanks Batgirl for everything and promises her to pay her back in different ways. Batgirl adds to Nightwing’s list of ways to pay her back by telling him not to get killed and to help her dissect the Terminal robot she ran over.
Meanwhile Vicki continues to ask if the Gazette’s tech team has the website back up as FEED continues to put out fake news about politicians, weather, the school system and more. Karina suddenly shows up with two Terminal robots with her and says Vicki will now become the center of a news story. Karia gets close to Vicki’s face and asks Vicki to tell her everything in her head.
At the Clock Tower base while Batgirl dissects the Terminal robot she ran over Nightwing asks what happened to the Phantom Controller she took out of him. Batgirl says she put it in a safe place since Nightwing knows a lot of information that makes him a target.
Batgirl breaks into the Terminal robot and takes out a special device from inside it. The device’s security protocols wrap Batgirl in some wire. Nightwing breaks Batgirl free. Nightwing thinks they should create a neural blockchain in case Wyrm tries to enter either of their brains. Batgirl stores the device she took out of the Terminal robot and says she will start working on that.
Vicki calls Nightwing and asks him to come to the news station.
At the news station Karia broadcast a report that paints Nightwing as someone who interacts with other villains, gets drunk and punches nuns.
Nightwing shows up to confront Karina and says he already shut down her broadcast. Karina reveals that her real name in the Dark Web is Vire. She transforms into her real form to give Nightwing a “close-up.”
Nightwing and Vire start fighting. During the fight Nightwing talks about how he misses the time when they could trust news like when Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America. Vire states that the news may have done that in the past but now it more effective to use it to tear people apart.
Nightwing admits that he told Batgirl that they will need to adapt to combat the Dark Web. He goes on to reveal that he never actually shut down the broadcast and the camera’s have been recording everything, including showing everyone watching the news Karina’s real appearance.
Nightwing then demands to know where Vicki is being held. Vire reveals she is trapped in the same digital space Willem is being held in. Vire states Wyrm will find another way to win.
Wyrm then appears in front of Nightwing. Wyrm tells Nightwing that if he wants his friends back he will have to do something for them. End of issue.
The Good: The biggest problem with the Dark Web story arc is that it was filled with secondary characters that we were not given time to connect with. That is problem that Benjamin Percy quickly resolves by having Batgirl and Vicki Vale, two characters with long-term history, play major supporting roles. This greater connection with the cast in Nightwing Annual #1 made the entire Dark Web more compelling in this one issue that all the previous issues of this story put together.
It can’t be stated more about how important both Batgirl and Vicki Vale were to the success of Nightwing Annual #1. Both characters being directly involved in pushing the story forward was crucial. Their interactions with Nightwing alone made the scenes they were in have a sense of importance as they had a shared history that readers can grab on to. It’s something that gets developed over time and something the the first Dark Web story arc did not have with Willem, the Russian Sisterhood or the company that launched Bludhaven 2.0.
Percy did a great job using Nightwing’s interactions with Vicki Vale as a way to show readers he has long-term plans with the series. In “The Bleeding Edge” arc Vicki was introduced as more of a background character covering the Bludhaven 2.0 crossover. Using that establish sub-plot made the explanation as to why Vicki would call Nightwing rather than Batman or another Gotham City superhero make logical sense. It also offered up a unique opportunity to see what it would be like for Nightwing and Vicki to interact with each other, something we haven’t really seen in a Batman comic.
Similarly, Percy continues to handle Nightwing and Batgirl’s relationship extremely well. Any time Nightwing and Batgirl are on screen together there is a spark between the two. In both the opening scene and the later scene at the mobile Batcave there is an enjoyment in seeing them interact with each. That enjoyment comes from how well they know each other better than anyone else. And as we’ve seen in a lot of recent issues involving the two, Percy is able to run a delicate balance of how strong of a friendship they have while teasing that there is more between the two.
At the same time it was good to see how Percy shows how Nightwing and Batgirl see each other as equals. They both know what the other’s strengths are. That knowledge helped further show how well they know each other as they understand the burden they share as Nightwing and Batgirl. It made how quickly they worked to save the other come off even better.
With these interactions Percy was able to show how Nightwing can balance between light and dark tones for his story. There are various times in this issue were we get to see examples of this. Early on we see this with how Nightwing goes from light heartedly flirting with Vicki Vale to immediately going after the Dark Web agent that was attacking the news broadcast. That flip of a switch is a strong distinction with how, as Vicki Vale points out, is different from Batman’s way of normally interacting with everyone.
It showed how Nightwing can flip the switch between how he interacts with his friends and allies to how he interacts with antagonists. It makes it so you are able to take Nightwing serious when he was interrogating the guy that turned out to be a Terminal robot. There was a very Batman-esque tone to what he was doing while still being Nightwing.
This was taken further to how he was able to trick Vire to reveal her true form by convincing her that he turned off the broadcast. After all the damage that Vire did to the trust normal people had with the media, those around them and Nightwing himself as Karina Shifton this was a satisfying resolution. In the end it gave Nightwing a win and a loss at the same time that continued the build of Dark Web story to develop into something even bigger.
Vire was also a much better villain to have Nightwing face off against than Wyrm or the Terminal robots. Just as Karina Shifton, Vire was able to do a lot of damage before even doing anything physical. Karina’s development moved Wyrm and the Dark Web to be an even bigger threat as they find different ways to act as an agent of chaos. Even with Karina’s reveal as Vire not being a surprise her appearance was unique enough to make her standout as a menacing villain.
The strong development for Vire elevated Wyrm and the Dark Web as villains, something that both desperately needed. Tapping into the whole fake news era we are in right now Percy does a good job balancing on a tightrope to show how reporting is handle can paint a picture that is not reality. It actually makes Wyrm come off as a bigger threat as we are seeing how they are using every facet of the digital space to gain more power and create chaos in the world. That power grab makes the reader wonder what Wyrm and the Dark Web are planning now that they have Nightwing doing a job for them after imprisoning Vicki Vale in their digital prison.
While Otto Schmidt artwork does not completely fit with the street-level tone of the normal BatFamily comic he did a good job with Nightwing Annual #1. His work especially stood out with the light hearted scenes. He nailed how Nightwing normally interacts with others through the scenes with Batgirl and Vicki Vale. Schmidt also got over how creepy of a character Vire looked when she revealed her real appearance to Nightwing and the public.
The Bad: One of the things fans normally expects from an Annual issue is that it will be a one-shot story that could be a good entry point to a series. That is not what Nightwing Annual #1 is as this issue acts more like a prelude to the next chapter in the great Dark Web story that Percy is telling. So there is no way for new readers to jump on without feeling like they are missing a good chunk of the story with all the references to “The Bleeding Edge” arc that was dropped throughout Nightwing Annual #1.
As for the story itself, while Nightwing and Vicki Vale interactions were fun it was a bit odd to see them flirt with each other. It is understandable for Vicki since she only knows that Nightwing is part of the Batman Family and not that he is actually Dick Grayson, one of Bruce Wayne’s adopted sons. Though Nightwing is known to flirt with woman he has never done so with Bruce’s love interest especially since they do have more of a big brother-little brother relationship now. For Nightwing to act that way with Vicki did come off as bit out of character, specifically when he casually took a sip of Vicki’s coffee.
Overall: Nightwing Annual #1 was exactly what the Dark Web plotline need to create interest in the bigger story Benjamin Percy is telling with his run on this series. From beginning to end Percy is able to make Vire, Wyrm and the Dark Web come off as viable threats that Nightwing and the entire Batman Family must watch out for. The hook ending of Nightwing Annual #1 propels the next chapter in the Dark Web story with great moment behind it.