DC’s next big event, Infinite Frontier, promises a fresh start for some of their greatest heroes, and no one has needed a fresh start quite like Nightwing. Between Dick losing his memory and the Teen Titans accidentally unleashing the apocalypse in Future State, times have never been tougher for Batman’s first partner. Luckily for fans, Nightwing #78 is more than just the fresh start promised by Infinite Frontier, it’s one of the best new comics in years.
The new series from writer Tom Taylor and artist Bruno Redondo sees Dick back in Blüdhaven, taking on street-level crime. Fans who found previous Nightwing storylines such as his becoming a secret agent or his infamous time as “Ric” Grayson, will be pleasantly surprised by this first issue’s relative simplicity. Dick may or may not need to save the city by the run’s end, but this issue wisely decides to start things small. The result is a comic that feels intimate and personal in a way that bigger stories often lose sight of. All of this also has the side effect of making the issue accessible to potential new fans who might only have a passing familiarity with Nightwing from his many appearances on T.V. shows.
One word that every single page of this book evokes is confidence. There are no big reveals, no pointless cameos, and the biggest fight scene is all about Dick saving a dog from some goons. Instead of relying on shock value, the creative team has enough confidence in the material to let it speak for itself. Nightwing doesn’t need all of these shakeups to redefine him, he’s more than compelling in his own right. It’s not just Batman who is his inspiration after all, as Superman influenced the Nightwing identity too. This makes Dick the ideological middle ground between Batman and Superman. More optimistic than the Dark Knight but more grounded than the Man of Steel, a fact which Taylor and Redondo seem keenly aware of.
It’s telling that the issue’s big fight scene sees Nightwing saving a three-legged puppy from a group of thugs. The bits of a larger plot in this issue hint that he’ll take on political corruption and organized crime later in the series, but here, in the first issue, the creative thought it important to show that no problem is too small for this hero. Readers can hope that Taylor and Redondo are wise enough to make the new dog a lasting part of Nightwing’s supporting cast. Another standout scene is a flashback showing a younger Dick washing dishes for Alfred. This effortlessly conveys the complexities of Alfred and Dick’s relationship while also establishing that Dick never sees himself as above anyone.
It’s not just clever writing choices that make the issue such a thrill to read, as Redondo’s artwork is incredible sequential storytelling. Every panel of action is bursting with enough kinetic energy to help readers fly through the book. Special mention also needs to go to color artist Adriano Lucas, who manages the difficult task of making Blüdhaven look distinct from Gotham just in its warmer hues. If Gotham is defined by night then Blüdhaven is defined by twilight.
This first storyline is titled Leaping Into the Light and based on this issue alone, that’s as much of a thematic statement as a title. This isn’t a brooding story about a tortured soul, it’s a story about someone moving past their pain to do genuine good. It’s no understatement to say that this is already shaping up to be a character-defining run for Nightwing. Taylor and Redondo reestablish why Nightwing is one of DC’s most compelling characters. Perfect for new readers and cathartic for old ones, Nightwing #78 isn’t just great, it’s the best new start for a superhero in recent memory.
Look for Nightwing #78 when it releases on March 16th.