Overview: In Knight Terrors: Nightwing #1, Nightwing (Dick Grayson) finds himself in a nightmare Arkham Asylum, struggling to remember how he got there.
Synopsis (Spoilers ahead): Nightwing (Dick Grayson) wakes up strapped to a gurney in Arkham Asylum. Pig-masked guards blast him with cold water. Struggling to remember anything, the guards escort Nightwing past many Gotham villains in cells. In his own cell, Dick believes he dreams of beating someone bloody and then running from animal-headed cops. He wakes up to being shocked by animal-headed nurses. Breaking free, he beats the guards. However, the nurses pull off their masks to reveal the animated corpses of his parents, which melt into the floor. Knocked out, Dick wakes up in his cell. His invisible roommate reveals himself to be Scarecrow (Jonathan Crane), who claims he killed Batman. Scarecrow tries to get Dick to help with an escape plan, but Dick sees Barbara Gordon being brought in, covered in monstrous cybernetics.
Analysis: The solicitation for this issue promised that “The Batgirls try to help Nightwing figure out who framed him,” and, like half a dozen other issues from Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad’s run in Batgirls, nothing of the sort happens even remotely in this book. Only one Batgirl appears, and that’s a weirdly cybernetic monster Barbara Gordon. This indicates that it’s probably not really her, but a nightmare appearance. Unfortunately, only the Knight Terrors: Robin book has really delivered a team-up in the nightmare realm so far. Perhaps the next issue will deliver on the promise, but I’m not too hopeful, which is a bummer, as there’s no Batgirls miniseries for this event.
Aside from those extremely frustrated expectations, how do Cloonan, Conrad, and artist Daniele Di Nicuolo handle the Knight Terrors assignment? They definitely deliver a lot of standard horror moments – creepy masks, amnesia, violence, terrifying dream sequences. Nothing really revelatory, and sadly, the pacing of the story drags out the mystery a bit too long for the emotions evoked. This is always really tricky in a two-issue story. The idea of Nightwing dealing with killing his father promises much. Since we only find that information out near the end of the issue however, we don’t really see the impact. That being said, Cloonan and Conrad work well with Di Nicuolo, not distracting as much from the storytelling with narration as sometimes happened in their otherwise pretty delightful Batgirls run.
Di Nicuolo’s art is extremely serviceable. You can see the appeal he normally produces, but dialing up the horror aspect so it’s clear action and strong emotions rather than emotional investment created. Compared to the Knight Terrors: Robin issue last week, this entry is a bit of a step down. However, it’s still worthwhile on both the writing and artist front.
The main cover by Daniele Di Nicuolo promises Nightwing tormented in Arkham, and that’s exactly what the book delivers. Vasco Georgiev’s 1-in-25 incentive cover shows Nightwing screaming as a bat crawls from his mouth. It’s a bit more abstract and not particularly connected to the idea of the issue. Jason Shawn Alexander’s cardstock variant (doubling in foil version as the 1-in-50 incentive) shows Nightwing escorted into a huge doorway made up of the Gotham villains – perhaps reflecting the interior, but also a bit more abstract. Fransico Mattina’s variant highlights a skeleton Nightwing drawing an electrified sword-stick from his back, with feathers growing from his costume. Lastly, Dustin Nguyen’s gorgeous Midnight variant shows Dick highlighted in a red chevron wielding his escrima sticks. It’s a bit generic, but beautifully composed!
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with an advanced 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.