Dick Grayson is my favorite member of DC’s Bat Family. Yes, that includes Batman. While the original Robin has obvious similarities to his father figure (a boy whose life is destroyed when his parents are killed in front of him and who thus devotes his life to avenging their murder), his methods of achieving his goals are much healthier and more productive. He’s a weird mishmash of Batman, Superman and Spider-Man. A young, genuine and caring man with abilities and resources others don’t have and the presence of mind to use them well. Unfortunately, Nightwing has been tossed aside recently in comics and other mediums for the edgier Batman characters (or just turned into them a la “Titans” (2018–)). Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo are here to fix that, and “Nightwing #78” (2021) oozes with the obvious care and love this team has for Mr. Grayson and company.
Taylor is nearly legendary in the comics industry for his ability to “get” a character. He can give every individual he takes on a clear voice that is distinguishable and just right for their personality. With “Nightwing #78,” he’s struck gold yet again, as he nails Dick’s hopeful, yet matured, mannerisms. It’s not just Grayson either — Barbara Gordon (also known as Batgirl, and Dick’s on-and-off love interest) has several key moments in this issue that will make any fan of hers very happy. Despite all that, this issue isn’t focused on callbacks and nostalgia. This is the start of a new creative team’s run, so, naturally, the issue’s main goal is to set the stage for the tales and characters to come. It accomplishes this objective flawlessly.
I realize that this issue’s being titled “Nightwing #78” instead of “Nightwing #1” might make new readers think they need to know what’s happened in the previous 77 issues, but I assure you that is not the case. There are references to recent events in the Nightwing and Bat Family comics (particularly a recent death), but you do not need to know about any of it. If you know who Dick Grayson is, you’re golden. Most other characters in this story are purposefully either explained or new, and all of them have something interesting about them. The show-stealer is, by far, Nightwing’s new three-legged puppy, who could melt even the most cynical reader’s heart. If somehow that isn’t already enough for you, let’s talk about the artwork.
Bruno Redondo and Adriano Lucas (on pencils and colors, respectively) pull off the kind of art you see only every once in a while in a monthly. Everything in this issue, from the most important character to the most distant background, is astonishingly beautiful. The colors on every panel pop with a vibrancy and charm that really display just how much these artists care about this comic. As for layout and design, there is some clear inspiration from Matt Fraction’s 2012–15 run on Hawkeye in the small and quick panel layout and use of symbols and emojis to express emotion (Gordon has one of those moments that managed to make me laugh out loud). It’s a choice that I never thought I needed in a Nightwing book, but I can’t imagine this story without it now.
I was already looking forward to Taylor’s picking up this title after a few floundering years of mediocre runs, but even I could not have expected this team to pull off such a well-rounded issue. Everyone on board here gave 110% to their work and evidently love this character and what he stands for. If this is the kind of quality we can expect for the rest of the run, we may have a new classic on our hands. This is what I buy comics for. Dick Grayson is back.