Overview: In Nightwing #101, the Titans have moved to Blüdhaven, and not a moment too soon as a mystery puts them and Nightwing in the sights of Neron from the Underworld!
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Neron, ruler of the Underworld, is less than pleased after his minions report back failure to retrieve the soul of Blockbuster’s daughter. Understanding that the soul is protected by Raven, Neron goes to the Grinning Man to request his assistance.
As Nightwing #101 continues over in Blüdhaven, Olivia Desmond is playing with Raven and Beast Boy when Nightwing arrives and informs them that a body was found at the site of the formerly pristine and now destroyed Titans Academy. When Starfire arrives on the scene, she manages to lift the rubble and recover the body, whom everyone discovers to be the late King of Vlatava – the same person the Grinning Man is currently masquerading as. Later, Amanda Waller shows up to inform the Titans that a forensic investigator from the King’s country wishes to assist in the investigation.
At the local morgue, Nightwing tells the investigator his deductive findings, concluding that the King has been dead for at least two weeks. Bizarrely, the investigator merely grins at the body. When Nightwing next turns away from her, he’s hit on the head by a metal instrument, and the investigator – The Grinning Man revealed – morphs into him.
The second story in Nightwing #101 picks up three months after the events of the Nightwing Annual. During that time, Dick has been training Jon Kent, and the two are on patrol together. In the field, Superman hears the snap of a circus trapeze rope, and they arrive in time to save the acrobats. Nightwing observes the rope and sees that it was cut, then instructs Superman to scan the nearby area. Superman finds a bomb in the stands and warns everyone to evacuate just as the bomb goes off!
Analysis: I have to say, Nightwing #101 was a very good start to a Titans storyline involving mystery, intrigue, genuine danger, and picking up of a thread from a few months back. Now that we know that Tom Taylor is gearing up to write the new Titans series, one understands that this is clearly a lead-in to that book. For what it’s worth, I think it works great.
It reads entirely like a Titans comic. There are a few narration boxes from Dick, but we get more of the Titans members – particularly Kory – than I was figuring we might. I also think the artwork by Travis Moore especially worked in the story’s favor. Nicola Scott will be doing art duties over on that book, but the Titans team always benefits from being rendered naturalistic and sexy. I’ve recently revisited some of the original New Titans series during the Eduardo Barretto days in the late 1980s, and it’s just as solid as the late George Perez’s stuff. I think Titans will always be better as a soap opera-tiered comic rather than a straight superheroic one.
We don’t get much soap opera here, though, and I wonder if Taylor’s interested in that. We’ve got Kory, but Barbara’s neither present nor mentioned in this. Not that I’d want any cat-fighting, but Kory and Barbara’s relationship is honestly non-existent and has been for too many years. Dick and Kory’s past hasn’t been greatly addressed since Rebirth, aside from a hook-up in the early pages of Titans Academy, and some fireworks in the romance department could shake things up. There’s also what’s been going on with Gar in the aftermath of the Dark Crisis event, Wally and his status quo, and whatever the heck Donna is up to. All of this is to say I’m wondering what led Taylor to take on the Titans aside from just being a Dick Grayson fan. This has happened before, previously with Marv Wolfman and before that with Devin Grayson. Being a Nightwing and Titans writer takes on some heavy lifting in regard to development, and I’m looking forward to it, even if I’m unsure what might happen in the near future.
I’m not talking too much about the story, and it’s a solid first part. I’m not at all familiar with the Grinning Man and wonder if this is a first appearance of a new character. Happy to be corrected if otherwise. His appearances as the king and the investigator AND as Nightwing were all really creepy, especially the second to last panel with Nightwing in shadow, but his grin kept in white. This was by the far the creepiest, most suspenseful issue of Taylor’s run, and I’m glad we’re ending with a genuine cliffhanger. Before, he blew it with that weak resolution to the cliffhanger with Blockbuster, Melinda, and Electrocutioner. Here Dick is badly injured, and the Grinning Man is about to get Olivia. I’m eagerly waiting to see how this gets resolved.
The backup story was good, with good art, but it was very straightforward, with little in the way to chew on analytically. From the looks of it, it seems like Heartless is behind the attack, which may continue into this book if the main story leads into the Titans series.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue digitally on Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title through Things From Another World.