If an ongoing title is doing well, it usually gets an Annual, which is a special issue that may or may not be tied to current stories, and shows some kind of extra material about the hero, their supporting cast, or team if that’s applicable. It used to be they came out primarily in the summer, but now they seem to pop up randomly throughout the year. In that vein, Nightwing Annual 2022 was released this week. Annuals also used to get their own numbers, like comic issues, but the constant canceling and relaunching of books has made that problematic.
There’s no set rule on what kind of story an Annual is going to tell, and this year they went with three different stories. The first, “Who Is Heartless?” gives us the background of Nightwing’s newest foe. Written by Tom Taylor and drawn by Eduardo Pansica, it shows us where Heartless came from, his long ties to the former Boy Wonder, and who his assistant is. I’m not really a huge fan of Heartless, and this felt like they were trying to give Nightwing his own version of the Hush/Batman dynamic. I’d go 2.5 out of 5 on this one.
The center story is “A Night Out,” written by Jay Kristoff, and once again drawn by Eduardo Pansica, which at least gives them a unified look. One of the newer additions to Dick’s life is Haley, the rescue dog. Between his heroic career and his dating Barbara Gordon (finally! (sorry Dick/Kory shippers)), Dick isn’t home a lot. Personally, I’d call this a great argument against superheroes who live alone owning dogs, but that to one side, just about any dog owner will tell you that can lead to problems. This story shows some of what’s going through Haley’s mind during some of the misbehavior. It’s a fun story starring a dog, so just from that, you can probably tell if you’re going to like it or not. I’m giving it a 3 out of 5. I think “I’ll knock the green outta your eyes” is going to a new favorite threat for a while.
The final story, to me, is where this really shines, and I really loved everything about it. “The Lesson” is written by C. S. Pacat with art by Inaki Miranda. One of the newer, and most powerful, of the DC heroes comes to Nightwing with a problem and asks for training. Naturally, Dick says yes. The training montage is fun, but not what makes the story. As Nightwing teaches the newcomer with some creative techniques, we see flashbacks to his training as Robin under Batman. There’s a marked contrast and, I’d argue, we see over and over again why Dick is a better person than Bruce Wayne. One of my favorite Nightwing quotes from years ago is “I’ve seen too much to be Robin, but I’m way too optimistic to be Batman.” We very strongly see that difference here. I’ll give this final story a 4 out of 5. It’s a great character story for both Nightwing and, to a slightly lesser extent, his student, and even his mentor, the Dark Knight.
What I Liked: “The Lesson” was a fantastic story, highlighting the differences between Dick and Bruce. It also shows how, in many ways, Nightwing is arguably the center of much of the DC Universe, at least the hero part. The student who comes to him clearly has ties to someone else, and yet chooses to ask Nightwing for help. “A Night Out” was entertaining, and who doesn’t like a story about a good dog? Plus, Barbara got some fantastic lines in that story. “Who is Heartless?” was an interesting echo of a story we already know.
What I Didn’t: Heartless just hasn’t been grabbing me as a villain, and now that I know more about him… he still doesn’t. Maybe that’s just a matter of taste.
I guess I’ll average this out to a 3.5 for the whole issue. Nightwing has long been my favorite comic book character, and he and Babs are my preferred comic couple, so I’m biased going in to this.
With them dating and Nightwing 100 coming up, they’re either going to do a major breakup or get married, but that’ll have to wait for a bit. I suspect I’ll be reviewing 100 either way. Stay tuned…