Friday, 1 May 2015

Nightwing, Volume 3: Death of the Family Review (Kyle Higgins, Eddy Barrows)

It’s Nightwing’s turn for a Death of the Family tie-in - and it might be the worst of the bunch (though I’m betting Ann Nocenti’s Catwoman ultimately scoops that prize)! 

As all of these tie-in books seem to be, Nightwing Volume 3 is a mish-mash of unconnected short stories thrown together haphazardly. Tom DeFalco writes what can only be described as a two-part filler storyline featuring someone called Lady Shiva. She and Nightwing fight and that’s it - totally pointless. I did like Andres Guinaldo’s pencils though - it’s easy to see why he got picked by DC given his style is very similar to Greg Capullo’s, the main Batman artist. 

Then we’re onto the Joker storyline - and spoilers to anyone who cares about that sort of thing! 

Once again Joker sets up an incredibly elaborate set of obstacles for a member of the Bat-family in addition to the many complex schemes he’s arranged in other Death of the Family tie-ins AND the main story itself. So we’re supposed to believe: 

1) Joker breaks out Nightwing’s ex from Blackgate without being seen, 
2) arrange for ALL of the former, now deceased, Haly’s Circus members (scores of corpses) to be dug up, transported to Gotham, and arranged inside the new Haly’s Circus without Nightwing being any the wiser, 
3) set charges all around Haly’s Circus to perfectly blow it all up,
4) track down and infect with Joker toxin ALL new members of Haly’s Circus, who’ve made a break for it with quite a head start, and corral them back to Gotham,
5) capture Nightwing - along with the rest of the Bat-family - and bring him to the caves beneath Wayne Manor.

All that - and everything else in the six or seven Death of the Family books?! It’s too much. Joker’s resourceful but he doesn’t have Flash’s Speed Force! 

The story itself was just contrived as there’s no real connection between Nightwing and Joker besides the obvious. It doesn’t add to Death of the Family at all and is wholly skippable. It also made me realise how little I care about Nightwing’s world from the sheer number of unknown characters who popped up to have an “impact” on Nightwing. Raya Vestri? Jimmy? Sonia Branch? I think the latter is the daughter of Tony Zucco. But really, I don’t care about any of them - I barely care about Nightwing! 

Like all of the Death of the Family tie-ins, Batman #17 is thrown in, and the Nightwing short from Young Romance #1 is also included. Nightwing has chinese food with someone called Ursa Minor - describing this thing as throwaway is being generous. 

Then, of course, to round out the book there’s a mention of Damian’s death, just like the other Death of the Family books. If you read Batman Incorporated, Volume 2: Gotham’s Most Wanted, you’ll know Dick and Damian went out together facing down Abomination and Leviathan in a blaze of glory. They had a great final exchange: 

Damian: We were the best, Richard, no matter what anyone thinks. 
Dick: Hey, we can’t help being great.
Damian: Ready?
(They charge together into danger for the last time)

They were talking about when Dick was temporarily Batman and Damian was Robin (see Grant Morrison’s superb Batman and Robin books for those capers). That’s so much better than the crappy final conversation Dick and Damian have in this book - something about playing a video game soon?! Rubbish. I’m going to ignore Higgins’ farewell and stick with Grant Morrison’s. I liked Juan Jose Ryp’s art though - very detailed and eye-catching. Very restrained too as he usually produces incredibly graphic bloody violence! 

There’s another nod to Scott Snyder’s Batman stories as The Dealer makes an appearance (he was in Batman: The Black Mirror) but it doesn’t make this book any better. If anything he shows that the Batman editors’ mandate seems to be: remind everyone of Snyder’s Batman contributions at all times - he SELLS!!

The last page is a “big reveal” of a character central to Nightwing’s backstory but all it did was underline my ambivalent feelings about the character further. 

The artists - Andres Guinaldo, Eddy Barrows and Juan Jose Ryp - steal the show with some great looking pages. Shame it’s all in service to sub-par scripts from Tom DeFalco and Kyle Higgins. Nightwing, Volume 3: Death of the Family: even Nightwing fans are going to be flicking ahead to see how many pages are left until the end.

Nightwing, Volume 3: Death of the Family


  1. I feel like I need to comment here since I did say it worth reading following your Batgirl review.

    You're right, the Shiva story arc was slow and pointless, as were the valentines day story and the post-death issue (especially since some of that was reprinted in "requiem").

    That said, I kinda liked the Death of the Family story arc. The connection between him and the Joker weren't there, I grant you, but that didn't seem the point. The Joker cares nothing for Nightwing- he wants to get to Batman. If you have been reading the series up until this point, then the deaths of Raya and Jimmy actually mean something; as does the destruction of the circus. It's been central to the Nightwing series in ways that Batgirl's mother wasn't to hers.

    I'll admit, though, I'm not sure who this story was aimed at; not Batman fans, as the book is so steeped in the Nigthwing status quo. I'm not even sure it was intended for Nightwing fans as, like all tie-in characters, he is reduced to damsel in distress status. Higgins could have fixed this with the following issue, but he didn't, and the volume suffered.

    Finally, I think the worst tie-ins you'll read belong to Red Hood and the Teen Titans. Terrible, and not reflective of their respective histories at all.

    1. I didn't even realise there was a Teen Titans tie-in to Death of the Family - DC were really stretching, weren't they?

      I'll maybe give Batman and Robin, and Catwoman both a shot but that's where it'll end. Scott Lobdell is too awful to even contemplate!