Between devastating storms, violence, rampaging wildfires, and presidential tweets from the oval office’s porcelain throne, our newsfeeds overflow with negative media faster than a clogged toilet at a Mexican restaurant. Sometimes, it is impossible to avoid being consumed by this negativity when your smartphone sends out an alert every time the neighbor’s cat is stuck in a tree, let alone for every major news story. Additionally, these negative emotions are often exacerbated when the indisputable truth is decried with accusations of #fakenews. In Nightwing Annual #1, Dick Grayson teams up with Vicki Vale and Batgirl to combat Vire’s web of fake news, alternative facts and disinformation as the Dark Web organization expands into Gotham City.
“Never trust a reporter…”
One of the smartest choices that Benjamin Percy and Otto Schmidt make with Nightwing Annual #1 is to tie the larger conflict into our society’s mistrust of the media. Through playing with this mistrust, they have constructed a story that will resonate with every person who has read a headline from a major news network within the past year and mistaken it for an article written by The Onion. As a result, I think everyone can find as much satisfaction as Michael Bolton in Office Space when Nightwing discovers a way to punch news-dispensing technology in its stupid face.
“…She’ll never know me like you do…”
This theme is expertly enhanced by all of the wonderful dialogue and character interactions. Percy allows Nightwing to provide levity to the conflict without being overshadowed as a crime fighter. As a reader, I think it is easy to forget about Nightwing’s abilities as a detective. Percy’s script gives the character an opportunity to flex these muscles in a way that had me flipping between pages to find clues I may have missed. These “ah-ha” moments added depth to the story, and Nightwing’s characterization, as I found myself smacking my head after missing clues that felt so obvious.
Character moments between Nightwing and Batgirl are a true highlight of the issue. It is refreshing to read the playful banter between the two heroes as they fight a terminal of the Dark Web. The juxtaposition between the dialogue and the severity of the situation creates a wonderful balance that never undermines the conflict. Additionally, these character interactions deepen the relationship between Nightwing and Batgirl through showing how well the characters know and understand each other without feeling like a daytime soap opera.
“…The trouble is the news.”
One of the only drawbacks to the issue is that much of the issue feels like the set-up to future story arcs in Nightwing with little resolution to certain story beats. Certainly, furthering the narrative of the Dark Web without immediately dispensing of the enemy illustrates the level of threat the group poses. However, it is a shame that nearly all of the plot points remain unresolved and a character’s life still remains in peril. Some closure may have helped the overall narrative.
Ultimately, Nightwing Annual #1 is a wonderful story. Focusing on our society’s mistrust of the media allows the story to resonate with readers. Additionally, Percy’s dialogue make the characters’ interactions engaging to read. Bonus points should be given to the artwork that conveys story clues which benefit from multiple readings. Although the story effectively establishes the threat for future story arcs, it may have benefited from some closure.