Writer: Kyle Higgins
Penciler: Trevor McCarthy
Colorist: Dean White
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Coming off the heels of the controversial Marvel event comic Secret Empire, now DC is toying with the concept of turning one of its heroes into a fascist symbol. Yet whereas Secret Empire is a canonized book, making the idea of an evil Captain America all the more difficult to swallow, the new Nightwing title is a self-contained miniseries that exists outside the main DC continuity.
In Nightwing: The New Order, writer Kyle Higgins imagines an alternate future in which Dick Grayson is hailed as a hero for ridding the world of superpowers. To him, metahumans have become nothing more than an unnatural threat to humanity’s existence; and as such he becomes part of a “Crusader” organization to hunt down the last of the supers. Told from the perspective of Dick’s son Jake, the debut issue is less interested in the origins of this new world order, and is more about how it affects Dick’s character and his relationship with his son. Also set up here is the mystery of who Jake’s mother is.
If there’s any book to compare this one to, it’s the Mark Millar graphic novel Superman: Red Son. Both are speculative superhero stories, with Red Son imagining what it would be like if Superman had been raised in the Soviet Union instead of in America. Even the art in this Nightwing comic by Trevor McCarthy and Dean White is reminiscent of the subdued linework in Red Son. The look of Gotham here is a pretty classic neo-noir aesthetic, with Dick commanding an army of Bat-robots to hunt down the remaining metahumans.
What’s interesting though is how Higgins gives this version of Dick more nuance than you might expect. Rather than portray him as a cold, heartless villain who’s betrayed all of his old allies, Higgins emphasizes the conflict in him, particularly in scenes with Alfred and his son. At his core, all Dick wants is to create a better and safer world for his son than the one he grew up in; yet it’s that single drive that’s clouded his judgment.
I was initially pretty skeptical about this book when it got announced. DC and Marvel have both been obsessed at times with turning their heroes into villains, and at a certain point it just becomes one big gimmick. Especially in this day and age with the political climate being what it is, the last thing I need is for my superhero comics to be drenched in cynicism. However, Higgins and company do a nice job of making this title a fun “what if” story, while also making the social commentary in it come across organically. It helps that these creators have worked on Nightwing in the past, and are merely experimenting with this series. Give it a shot, and then balance it out with the variety of more optimistic titles from the DC Rebirth line.
–Kevin Schaefer for Ultimate Comics