Friday, June 19, 2015

Nightwing "Year One"

The retconned telling of how Dick Grayson went from Robin to Nightwing, Jason Todd became the new Robin and somehow Batman got away with being a creepy jackass.


It's mostly told through Dick Graysons' eyes although we don't see until the end that he's recalling his thoughts and feelings via a tape recording to be sent to Bruce. There are a lot of good things to be found in this story, after seeing all Dick has suffered in recent years it's nice to see a story where he grows into his own hero and is actually happy. Yes there's his angst with Bruce and even a bit of distress over his relationship with Barbara Gordon (more on that later) but it's a fairly upbeat story.

The first thing Dick does when he's lost after losing the Robin title? He goes to Superman. Their scenes together are sweet as Clark inspires Dick with the legend of a hero from his world named Nightwing. This version of the story is about a man who was kicked out of his family and wanted to prove them wrong. He fought for the innocent and weak become a legend. There's also a cute bit where Dick goes to see Clark at the Daily Planet prompting Lois to get an aid to run a check on the name. She's thrilled to find out that the ward of Bruce Wayne is visiting her co-worker. As a cover Dick says their hockey fans.

At the circus he discovers it's currently suffering money woes and it joined by another circus. He meets Cleveland Brand, younger brother of Boston (Deadman), who has a bit of an ego. Boston himself shows up in various bodies giving Dick the creeps since it takes him awhile to piece what's going on. There's a bit I like that's a nice nod to things to come as Boston talks about his baby brother. This appears right after the page where Jason is introduced in the batcave before Dicks' even aware of him.

Boston Brand: (In the guise of a little girl) I like the way you have my brother going. He'll always be a jealous little jerk.

Dick Grayson: Your brother?

Boston Brand: Only child, right? Sure you are. I remember the papers. You don't know about sibling rivalry. It ate my brother alive. Now you come along.

Now most would assume this only applies to Jason being the jealous one like the retcons would like you to believe. It doesn't, it cuts both ways as Dick isn't thrilled with being replaced.

Anyway, Cleveland has to literally fill Bostons' shoes as he's working as "Deadman" because it's a money maker. Then comes along Jason who becomes Robin wearing hand-me-downs. While Dick wanted to wear the costume Jason refers to it as "this stupid get up." He's not thrilled with it (which play nicely with Winicks' version that hates "dress up") but wants to be Robin. Jasons' only knows his namesake through bits and pieces he's heard from a rather bitter Bruce. In the original canon Bruce was rather, um, rude about it. He'd use Dick as a standard that Jason had to reach (which was unfair since he was an acrobat all of his life.) The more Dick presses for information the more annoyed he gets.

It's the start of a big change for both boys but for Dick it's the start of his life as the big brother. When he arrives he starts getting annoyed even a tad mocking. Not the greatest first impression. He's shocked of course that he's been replaced and while he does try to be the voice of reason...well let's just say he's learned a lot. I don't recall him handcuffing (both wrist and ankles) any other bat kid like this. Not that Jason stays that way for long as he breaks out of the cuffs. 

Dick reintroduces himself to a few people in Gotham, Gordon (Barbara overhears the conversation), Penguin and one person that makes me wonder if Dick is a little crazy. Who does he tell? The Joker, in fact he breaks into Arkham just to inform the dangerous clown that he won't be seeing Robin anymore. (Yeah I'm sure that doesn't make him more obsessed when another Robin shows up.) The reason for him doing this stupidly risky thing? He says what's the point of locking them up if you can't rattle their cages. That and the way Batman acts are bad bits but here's another.

Dick flirts and almost kisses Barbara. She brings up the fact that he's currently in a relationship with another woman. (I assume she meant "the space girl" not "the spice girl" as it says in the text.) This is part of Chuck Dixons' attempt to underplay the Nightwing/Starfire relationship to promote Barbara as his love interest even retconning things to make it fit better. As if Kory was just a fling he was having until Barbara was ready to be with him. At first this made me more of a fan of his relationship with Starfire because that one didn't need to demean Barbara to work. But after Dick treated her so poorly in later books I think Starfire should look elsewhere. As I said before I'm not a fan of Dick with either of them. Okay now that I got that rant out the scene is pretty small but it doesn't do his character any favors.

There's also the absolute creepiness of Bruce in this. Now originally post-Crisis Batman fired Dick for bullshit reasoning after he was shot and claimed he couldn't endanger a child. Keep in mind this was after years of doing just that and Dick was a legal adult by then. The very same issue he meets Jason and decides to make him Robin at the end of the next issue after Jason proved himself. Bruce was an ass to both boys but at least in that version he made a heartfelt connection with Jason first. Here? The first time we meet him Batman has tied Jason to a chair in the bat cave and after Alfred finds him the dark knight returns to talk to a clearly terrified kid. In case you missed it he kidnapped Jason in this version. Some assume that Robin number two happens because he decided to take Dicks' costume and make it his own. Check the comics again folks: Bruce left Jason in the cave and is working without a mask. He'd only do that intentionally and since Jason seems to accept the whole thing despite not knowing Batmans' real name I suspect he has Stockholm syndrome.

Whatever Batmans' plan to test the new Robin and Nightwing was we never learn. Jason only had a faint idea that Alfred was in costume and Bruce makes it seem like Nightwing is the enemy especially since he never says he was the original Robin. It leads to a misunderstanding where Jason assumes he has to defeat Dick. Also keep in mind that Batman wanted this test to involve Alfred dressed as Twoface. Someone that we're reminded beat the crap out of Dick and is responsible for murdering Jasons' dad in this timeline. While Jason might not know that surely Bruce did which makes it even more heartless. Although I don't get the impression Dixon knew much about Jasons' history especially since he threw in some "bad boy" clich├ęs Jason never would have said. 

Back to what I feel is the best part of the story: the bonding between Dick and Jason. When they hear that Bruce is injured and Alfred is taken they rush off to save their favorite butler. Dick takes off intending to leave Jason behind but the kid is determined to help. What's shown off rather well is that Dick is already an expert at being agile while Jason struggles with it when he's trying to catch up. This leads to Jason almost falling off until his big bro catches him. Although he's still rather moody Dick lays the rule down that he's in charge then slowly softens as they ride the train to their stop. Seeing the tough street kid trying to get the hang of their life and his fear over Alfred help bring out the protective vibes in the former Robin. He saves Jason via cape then asks how Batman recruited him. Hearing the story about tires being stolen off the car amuses him greatly. What's interesting is that Jason can't understand how Dick can crack jokes when Alfred is in trouble although he slowly starts to get quippy when fighting Killer Croc.

They work well together and many fans have adored Dicks' nickname for Jason, "Little Wing." I also thought it was adore when Dick covered Jasons' eyes when they came across a set of a porn and Jasons' cluelessness as he assumes Alfred is being tortured. BTW why was that and several different crimes taking place in the same building?

There are a lot of retconned characterzations that make the characters look bad but at least in Jasons' case it comes off as an act. Most of this paints Dick in a good light except acting like Kory meant nothing to him and his awful remarks about Jason especially the bit about being a thug working for Joker.  Bruce definitely has emotional problems as he stalks Dick and kidnaps/possibly brainwashes Jason. It also comes off like he's playing or trying to set up mind games against the boys. Despite this I still have a soft spot for this just for the moments of bonding between Dick and Jason.

Say What?: John (or Johnny on the poster) Grayson was know as "the Angel without Wings."

According to Dick the voice of the people Boston takes over are all the same. Which makes the little girl scene funny and/or hilarious.

To convince Gordon that he was Robin he uses a Bert Ward "Holy" expression.

Did You Notice?: Some interesting fashion notes on Dicks' outfits. The panties with the pixie boots (according to this story) were Dicks' idea, Bruce thought pants would be better. When he's fired Dick is wearing green pants much like Tim Drake and his animated version. The reason for it here is winter protection. Alfred made Dick a new Robin costume that's the Earth 2 version, since he's fired he never gets to wear it. The style of the first Nightwing costume was a nod to his fathers' stage costume (worn before he was born) that Boston copied for his act. Alfred decides to redo the look later adding the yellow "feathers."

Another call out to the Adam West Batman as Alfred brings Batman the "special line" a.k.a. the red phone.

The door to the Riddlers' cell has "Don't answer any questions!" written on his door.


  1. Speaking of Grayson

    You know, when you think about it Grayson has been a pretty mediocre double agent.

  2. To be perfectly honest, Bruce has always been something of a creepy jackass.

  3. Dark Tzitzimine: I already saw it and I'm not looking forward to it at all. I used to get excited with bat family reunions but certain writers make me dread them.

    Sally: True although there are degrees of him being a creepy jackass. There's asking Dick to be his sidekick which is morally questionable and irresponsible. Then there's kidnapping a scared kid and off panel making him Robin to replace the first.