Nightwing has been on a role since Tom Taylor took over as the writer for the series. Now after everything he has built with Dick Grayson starting his direction to help make Bludhaven a better place and working with the Batman Family to save Gotham City from Fear State. Now after everything that has gone on Taylor’s Nightwing series is going to celebrate with a new Annual for 2021. Based on the cover it looks like Dick Grayson will be teaming up with Jason Todd. What exactly brings Nightwing and Red Hood together for a mission? Let’s find out with Nightwing Annual 2021.
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Cian Tormey and Daniel HDR
Inkers: Cian Tormey, Raul Fernandez, and Daniel HDR
Colorist: Rain Beredo and John Kalisz
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Somewhere in Gotham City Red Hood forces a car with a rich socialite named Mr. Lineker. Red Hood then kills Lineker. One of the passengers reveals they are an FBI agent and Red Hood just killed three other FBI agents in the crash.
All of this is caught on camera which Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon watch. Dick decides to go find Jason Todd since he turned off his tracker.
Flashing back to years ago Dick is called back to Wayne Manor by Alfred Pennyworth to spend time with Jason. Jason isn’t very receptive to Dick’s return as he doesn’t like being compared to the original Robin. Dick says he understands living up to Bruce’s impossible expectations. He then offers Jason a chance to team-up.
Nightwing and Robin then take the Batmobile to go on patrol. They find someone who had their son stolen.
Robin quickly finds the guy. After Nightwing knocks the guy against a wall Robin beats the guy until he is stopped by Nightwing.
Back at the Batcave, Nightwing reminds Robin that while he understands Jason they have to be better than the evil people. Nightwing he’ll keep this from Bruce since as brothers they keep each other’s secret.
In the present, Nightwing finds where Red Hood is hiding out. Red Hood says he didn’t kill anyone. Nightwing believes it and asks Red Hood to take off his shirt. Nightwing notices none of Red Hood’s wounds correlate to where the footage showed “Red Hood” being shot.
Nightwing and Red Hood then investigate the scene and find a bullet used during the previous night by “Red Hood.”
Nightwing and Red Hood then sneak into Wayne Mansion (the former home of Bruce Wayne) and get into the Batcave. They use the computer to find residue from Clayface on it. Oracle then calls the pair to report that “Red Hood” has been spotted at one of Lineker’s restaurant.
Nightwing and Red Hood confront the fake Red Hood and force him to transform back into Clayface. Clayface tries to disguise himself as Batman but is quickly defeated by Red Hood and Nightwing.
Nightwing and Red Hood then store Clayface in a freezer to question him. Clayface reveals he has been going after FBI agents for Wolfgang Bylsma. Hearing that name pisses Red Hood off enough to freeze Clayface completely and shatter him, knowing Clayface will eventually reform.
Nightwing questions Red Hood on who Wolfgang Bylsma is. Red Hood reveals that Wolfgang Bylsma was a drug dealer who disappeared years ago after he killed 83 people from overdose, including his mother. Red Hood believes Clayface likely got hooked on drugs given to him by Bylsma.
Hearing this Nightwing calls Oracle to get her to do what she can to stop Bylsma’s plane to give them time to get to the airport.
Minutes later Red Hood uses the Batmobile to cause Bylsma’s plane to crash before it takes off. Red Hood runs in and starts beating Bylsma for his crimes. Nightwing is able to get him to stop. Red Hood tells Bylsma he is going away for a long time for his crimes.
Later as the police arrest Bylsma, Red Hood admits it is sometimes better seeing criminals brought to justice so their power and freedoms are taken. Nightwing and Red Hood then agree to keep it a secret from Batman how the Batmobile got so damage. End of issue.
The Good: Nightwing Annual 2021 is a good example of how to tell a complete story in one comic book. There isn’t prior bigger set-up that was done to lead up to this story. It is simply a story where we see Nightwing and Red Hood teaming up with Tom Taylor taking that as an opportunity to explore the brother-relationship between Dick Grayson and Jason Todd.
It was honestly refreshing to see Dick Grayson and Jason Todd teaming up together without the other Batman Family members. Normally these two don’t team up alone as they normally share time together along with Tim Drake or another Batman Family member. And up until Nightwing Annual 2021 we’ve only seen Dick and Jason fighting against each other back during the Batman and Robin days of Grant Morrison run.
Throughout this annual Taylor does a good job at showing how much Nightwing has grown as a character that he understands his place as the big brother of the Batman Family. Even when he goes to find Jason it is not ream him out for the footage showing him killing someone. Instead Nightwing goes to Red Hood and immediately shows his belief that Jason was not the person in the footage. That made for how Nightwing got Red Hood to let him confirm that suspicion come from a place of being an ally rather than being antagonistic.
This also made how Taylor updated Dick and Jason’s relationship from back when Jason was Robin a great way to show why there would be this trust between the two. Even though they always haven’t had the best relationship at the core they do have a familial big brother-little brother relationship. And like a good big brother Dick protects Jason when he knows they should keep secrets from Bruce. Having that baseline trust adds to why in the present they would have more of a banter-like relationship now that they are both adults who moved past some dark periods respectively.
The conflict with Clayface using the Red Hood identity to work for someone from Jason’s past was a good way to tie everything together. Jason’s past is unlike that of Bruce or Dick as his family life wasn’t at all a bright one. He comes from the darker corners of Gotham City. Tapping into that backstory for Jason was a good way to quickly establish the stakes in Nightwing Annual 2021 that got the reader invested.
The story also wrapping up with Nightwing making sure Red Hood doesn’t cross the line due to seeing pure red while beating Wolfgang Bylsma was a great way to conclude things. Red Hood not stopping until Nightwing screamed “ROBIN” was a nice touch. It further drove home how they have this bond as former Robins that extends into the rest of the Batman Family.
The comedy in Nightwing Annual 2021 also worked very well. The banter between Nightwing and Red Hood was honestly the standout of this issue. Specifically talking about the superhero codenames was a great way to poke fun at each other. Its this type of stuff that makes you want to see Nightwing and Red Hood team-up on a more consistent basis.
The artwork by Cian Tormey and Daniel HDR was solid. They worked well enough together that there wasn’t much of a difference in their respective styles. That allowed the story to be told in a way that the pacing always moved forward. Daniel HDR flashback scenes in particular worked to be a different Gotham City from way Cian Tormey drew the present day scenes.
The Bad: The only thing that did not completely work was how Clayface story felt like there was more to it but just didn’t have the time to properly develop his arc. There was a dismissive nature to how Clayface turned out to be hooked on drugs at the moment. That is a bigger story that could tell an intriguing story of how Clayface has gone between hero and villain in recent years. Hopefully that is a story that is explored in some Batman Family title as it just didn’t get the attention it should’ve in this issue.
Overall: Nightwing Annual 2021 told a very good story featuring a team-up with Red Hood. Tom Taylor tapped into the big brother-little brother relationship Dick Grayson and Jason Todd have to tell a story that shows these two should team-up more often. If you are a fan of either character this is definitely a comic book to not miss out on.
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