NIGHTWING 2021 ANNUAL #1/ Written by TOM TAYLOR/ Pencils by CIAN TORMEY & DANIEL HDR/ Inks by CIAN TORMEY, RAUL FERNANDEZ & DANIEL HDR/ Colors by RAIN BEREDO & JOHN KALISZ/ Letters by WES ABBOTT/ Published by DC COMICS
Bat-Fans are spoiled for choice this week, with DC Comics having published a number of annuals and specials tied into virtually all of the regularly published Bat-Books. Batman: Fear State: Omega #1 is an effective capstone to the James Tynion IV penned event that dominated the franchise for most of 2021. The Batman and Detective Comics annuals offer a peak at what is to come in 2022, as does the Gotham City Villains Anniversary Giant special. And yet, with my time this week limited, I’ve elected to review Nightwing 2021 Annual #1.
Why? Because the monthly Nightwing title by Tom Taylor, Bruno Redondo, Adriano Lucas and Wes Abbott is easily the best book on the shelves right now. And while the usual art team is absent, this single book captures everything about the series I enjoy in one simple, neat package. It also has the benefit of being a single, easily accessible story that doesn’t require any previous familiarity with any of the characters involved – a real rarity among the Batman books these days.
The story finds Dick Grayson (aka Nightwing) trying to track down the Red Hood, Jason Todd, after body cam footage surfaces of him killing several undercover FBI agents. It’s all too easy for Oracle to believe that Todd (who recently agreed to stop using guns) might backslide into his ultra-violent vigilante ways, but Nightwing wants to give his foster brother the benefit of the doubt. The issue is then split between the investigation in the modern day and a flashback to the first time Dick Grayson and Jason Todd teamed up as Nightwing and Robin.
Tom Taylor knows these characters. More importantly, he has a great gift for conveying those characters simply and effectively through their dialogue, with a minimum of exposition. Dedicated fans will appreciate how Taylor delves into an area that was largely unexplored back in the 1980s when Dick Grayson first became Nightwing and Jason Todd was still Robin in establishing their relationship. Yet newcomers will be able to enter into this story without feeling weighed down by history.
The artwork for both segments is fantastic and makes for an interesting study in contrasts. The modern day sections by Cian Tormey and Raul Fernandez are vividly detailed and thickly inked, which subtly enhances the mystery and urgency of the story. The colors by Rain Beredo are also effective, with the backgrounds of Gotham City rendered in muted greys and blues that make the red of Red Hood’s costume stand out all the stronger in contrast as Nightwing blends into the background. The flashback segments illustrated by Daniel HDR are cleaner and softer, with the colors of John Kalisz being brighter and more varied. This offers a more classic comic-book feel and enhances the nostalgia aura of the story, not quite rose-tinting everything but harkening back to simpler days for both Red Hood and Nightwing.
If you haven’t been reading Nightwing and don’t want to wait for the Volume 1 TP Leaping into the Light that comes out later this month, this annual is a good place to jump in and see what you’ve been missing. I recommend both highly, however. But if you only pick up one book this week, this should be it.