Reviewer: Kevin S. Mahoney
Story Title: Nightwing Year One, Part Six: First Flight
Written by: Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon
Penciled by: Scott McDaniel
Inked by: Andy Owens
Colored by: Gregory Wright
Lettered by: Phil Balsman
Editor: Nachie Castro (No really, that’s the name given)
Publisher: DC Comics
There are certain combinations of creators that have become renown for their work on a single project: Lee and Ditko’s Fantastic Four, Wolfman and Perez’s Teen Titans, Byrne and Claremont’s X-Men, Busiek and Anderson’s Astro City. Two great talents occasionally come together to produce something better than the both of them. So it is (as most fans of the series will tell you, vociferously) with Dixon and McDaniel’s Nightwing. The pair added so much to the mythos of Dick Grayson: a new home, a real career, a new financial situation, new antagonists, and finally a sensible love interest. The stories were excellent updates of the noir hero paradigm, the art bold and impressive. It was lightning in a bottle, and just as dangerously temperamental.
Unfortunately, comics are a business with more ebb and flow than most. McDaniel left after forty issues. Dixon moved on after seventy. And fans scattered to read the various titles the two separately produced while grousing at various volumes at the reduced quality of Nightwing. Those same fans probably returned in droves for the story arc that concluded this issue, which reunited the two talented comics professionals.
The story was a glass of the old hard stuff. It can stand shoulder to shoulder with all but a few stories in the series’ first four years. But there are important differences. The entire arc is set in the past, and therefore based in Gotham not BlÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¼dhaven. It’s a origin story, not an unseen adventure as much as it is an examination of a shift in Dick Grayson’s character. The story also examines Grayson’s relationship to Jason Todd, the now extremely dead initial successor to the Robin mantle. (Lots of readers want nothing to do with Jason Todd at any level.) And fans of Dixon’s work will realize this is essentially a miniseries interrupting a monthly series; Dixon already wrote Year One tales for Batgirl and Robin (I), but they were published outside of their respective monthly series. Those concessions are a paltry price to pay for a well-poured draught of excellent characterization and potently paced action. The waterfront battle action of Dick, Jason, and then Batgirl Babs Gordon is a classic team-up.
The art in this issue is the fizz that reminds action fans what a real bender can look like. Dramatic angles, visual allusions to previous epics in the Bat canon (Nightwing # 25 and DKR to name a couple), attention to detail, and moody yet clear backgrounds make this and the other issues of the arc a joy to imbibe. Special kudos goes to McDaniel’s interpretation of a far younger Alfred Pennyworth while a blot on colorist Wright’s artistic record should be entered for his gaffe of Leslie Tompkins’ hair color. That small oversight is certainly outweighed by a Titans’ splash page that concludes the story and a few more inspired smaller details (nurses, teddy bears, and disco duds, oh my!) within this installment.