I went into this comic wary. I read the description, saw the cover, and I was scared that one of my favorite DC characters was going to get the Marvel treatment (see Secret Empire for reference). I grew up with Dick Grayson. He was the original Boy Wonder, he led the Titan's, struck out on his own, taken on the mantel of Batman, became a super spy, and returned. He has always been the conscience of the Bat family. Which is why seeing him cast in a dictator type roll... scared me.
Here's the thing, it may not seem evident at the beginning, but the story isn't so much about Dick Grayson; it is about his son Jake. I'll start at the beginning.
In 2028 the world changed. We don't really know the details about all of it but we do know that Batman died, Metropolis was destroyed, and Dick Grayson made a decision that forever changed the future of world. He used some kind of weapon. He shot something. The result was that ninety percent of all the meta humans instantly lost all their powers.
Fast forward twelve years and Dick Grayson is the director of an organization called "The Crusaders." Their mission is to make sure that the ten percent of meta humans who still have their powers don't use them. This is accomplished by injecting an "inhibitor" drug into their blood stream that keeps their powers from manifesting. The few that the drug doesn't work on are put in stasis until a permanent option is found.
While this has had a dramatic effect on the United States as a whole, it had an even greater effect on Dick Grayson and his family. Alfred doesn't approve of Dick's actions and his brutal honesty with him underlines the fact that Dick has lost allot of one time friends and allies... including the mother of his son.
Dick's regret runs deep... but so does his conviction. Despite all the bad that has happened: the loss of his family, how his one time close friend Wally West is now a criminal, the Wayne fortune he used to establish his brand of law and order... he still believes it's for the greater good. But his convictions will truly get tested now that his son, like his mother, has super powers.
This didn't turn out to be the jackboot themed comic I was expecting it to be.
I guess I should have known better. If anybody knows how to write for the character of Dick Grayson it's Kyle Higgins. He was spent four years writing Nightwing along with all the other Batman Inc. related content that DC could foist upon him. I haven't always liked the story-lines that Higgins has crafted over the years, but I have always loved his dialogue. It is so genuine. So believable. It is... honest.
That's what makes this comic so good. The dark undertones, the constant questioning of results, the broken relationships: Dick Grayson is clear headed about all of it. Higgins makes the reader want to believe in the justification for Grayson's actions. However as the evidence piles up, the emotional cliffhanger at the end forces the reader to question if Nightwing can be redeemed or if we are headed for an even darker future.
DC paring Trevor McCarthy's art back with Higgins' writing makes this comic even more compelling. These two have worked so well together over the years that I am glad to see them get another chance to tell a Nightwing story again. I love seeing the 90's style hair with a touch of gray on Dick. I love how McCarthy manages to capture regret and stoicism in the eyes of our protagonist in adjacent panels. Sometimes a picture is truly worth a thousand words.
Despite all the well earned praise I am heaping on this book, I am still uneasy about the story. I have to tell myself this isn't continuity... it's a "what if" like Mark Miller's Red Son, but I'm still uneasy. Maybe that is the intention of DC. I want this story resolved, even if I might not like the outcome. That's good writing, and good writing is good for sales.
Rating: 9/10 Dad Jokes