DC Rebirth: Nightwing, Teen Titans & The Red Hood… The story so far.

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Nightwing Rebirth (Seeley, Paquette, Fairbairn)

Nightwing Rebirth #1, #2 (Seeley, Fernandez, Sotomayor),

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 (Lobdell, Soy, Gandini)

Teen Titans Rebirth #1 (Abnett, Booth, Rapmund, Dalhouse)

Teen Titans #22 (Bedard, Churchill, Rapmund, Avina)

Alright, cards on the table, and I know I’m in something of a minority here, but I’m just not that big a fan of Batman. The Bat just doesn’t do it for me like it does others. Mrs Gadgie for instance, has a back full of “Battoos” and in the depths of Gadgie Towers there is a dank and dark hidden chamber filled to bursting point with Dark Knight books … but me, nah, yer alright. The prospect then of the “Extended Bat-iverse” is not exactly something that fills me with eagerness to devour … well apart from the odd Catwoman tale, but here we go … Nightwing and other various incarnations of the Boy Wonder turn up on the Gadgie Towers door mat and DC’s Rebirth continues apace.

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Nightwing Rebirth finds Dick Grayson, who has outlived his Robin days juggling multiple identities: working in a school that hides the secret HQ of Spyral, for whom Grayson was/is Agent 37. On top of this, a young Damian is hanging around as Dick seems to be mentoring him in a Batman and Robin type fashion. As if one vigilante isn’t enough, Helena Bertinelli, or as we know her The Huntress, is in on the Spyral caper.  We are thrown in to a number of action scenes where Agent 37/Dick/Nightwing/Robin/whoever is kicking baddies in and introducing a cast of supporting characters before settling on the conclusion that despite all the identities he has acquired down the years Dick Grayson is Nightwing!

For a new reader, cynical that Nightwing is just Bat-lite, this book takes an interesting approach to playing with such expectations and you know what? I like that. It reminds me of the way Geoff Johns played with the image of Aquaman as the “weak link” in the Justice League when helming the early New 52 issues of the rebooted King of Atlantis. Not to mention the scathing Robot Chicken DC Special that had poor old Arthur as the whipping boy of every joke. Blimey, even The Big Bang Theory got in on the Aqua bashing in one episode which has come to be known as the (blatantly playing up to every comic book nerds fantasy) “Penny in a Wonder Woman Outfit” episode in our house. Alas, I digress … knowing that Nightwing is possibly viewed as a Bruce Wayne wannabe without too much of his own identity, there’s plenty of subtle and not so subtle acknowledgements of this and they are equally subtly (or not so) refuted to finish up with a big strong final page where Dick Grayson steps out from under the cowl to tell everyone he is NIGHTWING! Okay, you’ve got me. I’ll give this title a go.

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Nightwing Rebirth #1 transports us to Romania in a complete change of tone to introduce the latest ruthless villain. We are in the world of archaic superstition and gothic grave yards. Nightwing is masquerading undercover in the dubious employment of sinister society The Court of Owls, and in their infinite owl-y wisdom have paired up our hero with this ruthless villain. Of course, things don’t go smoothly and blows are traded. Everything Batman has taught Dick is wrong it would seem and if he’s gonna be Better Than Batman (as the title of this particular arc suggests) maybe he needs to embrace his “undercover identity” a little more than he would like to. Nightwing Rebirth #2 continues to explore this new dynamic between the “Big Blue Bird”, as his impossibly aloof new partner calls him dismissively, and Raptor, the impossibly aloof new partner. Insisting that Nightwing is the sidekick (ouch!), pointing out he is a “Brand extension of Batman” (pow!) and that he’s a little more than a “Hip new version of an old beloved product” (zock!) don’t do much to help things between the odd couple. Yup, what we have here is a good old buddy movie! They hate each other initially and then … well you know the rest. Or do you? Time will tell.

Considering I went in to this book feeling less than intrigued, the new Nightwing has impressed me somewhat. For now, the knowing writing style that alludes to the fact that Nightwing is constantly in the shadows of the shadowy Bat works well and I can envision Dick having a meltdown at some point with a “I’m not Batman!” a la Jay in the Inbetweeners atop his “friends” car. How long that takes and how long reader’s patience lasts remains to be seen …

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Amongst the plethora of Robin’s and ex Robins Jason Todd is next up to get the “Rebirth” treatment as Red Hood and his gang of Outlaws. We are in a very different world here it has to be said … right from the off, Ma Gunn’s School for Wayward Boys has the Victorian looking, cigar chomping matriarch taking down Batman while Todd-y hides behind a desk amongst a slew of slain soldiers. More like Ma Barker than Ma Gunn. Jase intervenes and helps the Bat out. This wayward youngster is clearly going to grow up to be a Robin, a Nightwing or some other side Bat you’d imagine? Well, no, as it appears that the Red Hood is not such a good guy despite Mr Wayne’s best intentions and gallivanting about with a rebooted and just as nasty Black Mask isn’t gonna make him see the light anytime is it? A reasonable start to the Rebirth (#1) of Red Hood and the Outlaws that has two good things going for it: first up, I do like Black Mask. He is a really nasty baddie. Really nasty. Nasty for the sake of nasty. I did enjoy his run in with Catwoman back in the pre New 52 days and he’s always a welcome addition to any of the Bat titles for me. Second this Bat-disciple may go the wrong way. As Nightwing is cavorting about “undercover” with Raptor and the Court Of Owls, Red Hood is running with the ‘Mask but who knows how deep he’ll go? The only downside here is the last page where we meet a new character that just makes me roll my eyes so hard I can look at my brain …

titans

As if we hadn’t had enough of the “… used to Robin” subgenre, along come a couple of Teen/Titans titles! Teen Titans #22 turns up as the teen team-mates are searching for a missing Boy Wonder. What they don’t know, but we do, is that a certain Ms Waller has had him nabbed and bagged and delivered to her in the obligatory hidden hideout. Are the Teen Titans being lined up for an audition for a “suicidal” mission or is a Robin Rescue on? The issue I’ve always had with Teen Titans is that it probably is more suited to a kids cartoon that I’d have watched on a Saturday morning in my pyjamas whilst my errant brother split the milk out his cocoa pops and we rushed about madly trying to clean up before our Mam got up and we got done and thus missed the ending and didn’t find out if Robin was rescued or not though he, naturally, always would be … #22 is a cute one shot that sets up a new story arc I imagine but I’m not too fussed about where it goes from here. Titans: Rebirth #1 however is a totally different beast the grown up Teen Titans of yesteryear are baffled as to who Wally West is. Picking up on the crumbs left by the all-encompassing Rebirth tale that ended up teasing the mother of all cross overs – please, go read it if you haven’t, you really need to if you’ve any interest in where DC are going as the last page will have you jumping up and down and running about and what have you – and a distraught Wally is baffled as to why his mates don’t know him. The Titans are equally puzzled at this strange lad who seems to know them. Where have the memories of the last ten years gone and why is Wally the only one who is unaffected? Now this story arc has grabbed my attention and is brimming with potential to be monstrously huge, not just in this Titans book but across the whole DC universe. My advice? “Watch” this space … Marv Gadgie

 

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