I’ve been confused as to what DC thinks these “Rebirth” one-shots are supposed to be, and Nightwing – Rebirth #1 is maybe the most baffling of the lot. To me, they suggest a jumping-on point, a prelude to the new direction a series is going to take following the soft reboot that is “Rebirth.” At the very least, it should be somewhat enticing to new readers, or readers coming back to a character after an absence. That’s what “Rebirth” suggests to me. But almost the entirety of this issue is resolving what I suspect are dangling plot threads from Nightwing’s previous series, “Grayson”, the result being an issue that almost impenetrable for anyone who didn’t read that series.
I read the first few issue of “Grayson”, which starred a Dick Grayson whose Nightwing identity had been outed to the world. Sent on an undercover mission by Batman, he was tasked with infiltrating a sinister organization called Spyral. I checked out on that series pretty quickly, but I like Nightwing, so I was eager to see him reclaim that mantle and get a fresh start. Hence why I picked up a book called Nightwing- Rebirth #1. Instead of a prologue whetting my appetite for what’s to come, writer Tim Seeley spends most of the issue wrapping up the events of “Grayson,” with pit stops on the events of “Batman and Robin Eternal”, neither or which I read. As a result, a book that is being marketed and positioned as a jumping on book winds up reading as basically incomprehensible for two-thirds of it before gaining a satisfying final few pages.
Look, I’m not saying that Seeley doesn’t have a right, or even an obligation, to tie up loose ends of a series. But a one-shot intended to in some way bring on new readers isn’t the way to do it. It would be one thing if there was a compelling narrative with a strong emotional journey at the heart of the story, but Seeley doesn’t even bring that, opting instead for an episodic collection of scenes that nakedly resolve plot points, resulting in a story that lacks a narrative drive. When Dick restates his mission at the end of the issue, other than the welcome sight of him back in his definitive identity, there’s no punch to it. I still don’t feel I understand why it’s possible for him to even return to the role he had to abandon in the first place. I do think that the series to come will be much better at sending him in a new direction, and maybe you needed to have some method of jettisoning some accumulated plot lines that will no longer be relevant, but this just felt like the clumsiest and most misguided way to do that.
But, we do get an issue of art by Yannick Paquette, and that’s never a bad thing. Whether showing us Midnighter and Dick taking down a mythical beast, or introducing the new Huntress, or just Dick and Damian at the arcade, there’s great energy, style and atmosphere throughout the issue that makes it a really great-looking book, with a story that moves along well, even if little of it mattered or made sense to me.
In the end, a book with the title “Rebirth” should have had a more forward-looking and scene-setting focus to it, and the lack of that really sank it for me. As a final issue of “Grayson”, it might have worked. And while I’m sure readers of “Grayson” and “Batman and Robin Eternal” found lots to like, its unwelcoming nature made Nightwing – Rebirth #1 not the enticing prelude I was hoping for or that the book was suggesting it to be. That’s why I can only give it a 4/10.