It’s team-up time as Dick visits Metropolis to see how Jon Kent is managing with his new responsibilities as Superman. The stupendous cover by Bruno Redondo shows how great the pair look together, with Dick showing he can keep up with a young man who can fly. The composition, the logos, the zip-a-tone effect, it all works beautifully.
The artwork is equally easy on the eyes as we begin with a flashback to a few years ago, shortly after pre-teen Jon discovered his super-powers. While Superman is on a space mission, Jon has ignored his dad’s advice not to fly at night, panicked and got lost. Batman and Nightwing, being two of the world’s greatest detectives, track down the future hero, and summon Superman. Jon is teary and embarrassed, but Dick has it…
Today, Dick and partner Barbara Gordon are woken from sleep by someone else connected to Superman.
The intuitive Kelex has realised Jon needs someone special to talk to after his encounter with a sea creature saw two people die. Granted, he saved thousands of lives, and the leviathan, while the dead pair were out to murder the panicked beast, but it’s all playing on Jon’s mind. The interactive hologram his father left in the Fortress of Solitude for Jon to talk to isn’t enough – he needs a real, live hero.
Having been asked to watch out for Jon by Superman, Dick is keen to see the young Superman. As it happens, he already has an appointment in Metropolis the following day.
Before we find out who Dick is meeting, we meet another of the city’s young heroes.
As it turns out, former Teen Titan Risk isn’t invulnerable, he needs to breathe… and soon he’s no longer breathing.
As for Dick’s meeting…
Now that’s a surprise. Dick is a big backer of The Truth, the ‘citizen journalism’ website run by Jon Kent’s new boyfriend, Jay? If you’ve not been reading Superman: Son of Kal-El, that’s the guy in orange with the freak mask. If you’ve been reading my reviews of that book you’ll know I don’t trust Jay. And I think it’s mighty peculiar that Dick Grayson, whose only previous interest in journalism was as a student hack, should be a major funder of an outlet he admits he knows bugger all about. Especially given he’s said he wants to use the billions inherited from the currently dead Alfred Pennyworth to help the people of Blüdhaven.
He has to be investigating The Truth. We shall see.
For now, there’s a murder to be investigated, and Dick meets Superman at the crime scene, pointing out that he needs to up his disguise game.
That’s a great scene. Now I’m wondering just how Dick changes his voice when he’s in costume – no doubt former actor Alfred gave him some useful tips so he’s not manifesting a stupid growl, like some people. Dick also imparts a few detection lessons – it’s terrific to see the former Batman ward as mentor.
I’m less chuffed about the offing of Risk, who’s had terrible luck during his spotty comics history. He had not one, but two arms ripped off by Superman Prime – the second occasion seems to have been forgotten here, unless his left arm is also a replacement, just not superhero-useful… cyborg tech is expensive!
Then again, Tom Taylor is a very smart writer, and not one to throw characters with potential away. Risk is half-extraterrestrial, maybe he’ll sit up in the Metropolis morgue next month.
That opening scene shows just how clever Taylor is, with pitch perfect interactions between Bruce and Dick, Clark and Bruce, and, crucially, Dick and Jon. Dick immediately establishes a rapport – he’s been the scared kid needing a hand up from a hero – and it’s going to stand him in good stead in this team-up.
The Dick’n’Babs scene is equally good, who knew Kelex might actually get to show some personality, I hope this warmer AI shows up in his ‘home’ books.
It’s a bit of a shame Jon doesn’t get to be a little more vibrant so far as character goes. As in Superman: Son of Kal-El, also written by Taylor, the older Jon comes across as passive, at best reactive; he takes direction well but doesn’t drive the story. Perhaps Taylor is looking at his journey as a marathon, not a sprint, but still, he’s meant to have stepped up to leading man status.
I was surprised to see the Rising storyline from Jon’s book continue here, I’d assumed the crossover would be a ‘clean’ break from the regular doings in both Superman: Son of Kal-El and Nightwing. I’d have preferred that, two issues of Jon and Dick having a good old-fashioned adventure as a breather from the ongoing stuff. Still, the story is diverting, and Bruno Redondo’s art, coloured by Adriano Lucas, is just edible. Every one of Redondo’s panels contributes to telling Taylor’s tale, but take away the words and you’d still have your money’s worth because the illoes are all so blooming gorgeous to look at. Whether you’re eying up Dick, Jon, Babs, Bitewing or a random chair, it’s delightful. Details such as Dick’s pyjama bottoms, the All the President’s Men poster on Jay’s wall, the Risk-shaped furrow on the crosswalk, they’re all fun and add to the reality (I can’t spell ‘verisi-thingy’). And Redondo’s flashback Jon is wonderful, evocative of Patrick Gleason’s classic Superboy.
Lucas add to the visual glory with his colour schemes for the Fortress, Night-time on Dick Street and Jay in phasing mode – I’ve rarely seen a phantom depicted so well.
And look at that sharp lettering from Wes Abbott, crystal clear and oh-so-friendly, while his design for the surprise story title made my old heart sing.
Edited by Jessica Chen and Jessica Berbey, Nightwing #89 is another superb issue in what’s shaping up to a classic run. Don’t miss it.