Annuals can be hit or miss. Sometimes, they’re integral parts of a story or callbacks to a long-ago tale. Other times, they’re seemingly throwaway stories that may not necessarily add to any ongoing storylines but add to the overall mythology of the character.
(Note: The events in Nightwing Annual #2 take place prior to Nightwing #50)
Nightwing Annual #2, “The Very Friendly Owl,” does both. After Nightwing was shot in the head by KGBeast in front of Batman and Commissioner Gordon on the roof of the GCPD, we see Dick Grayson, who now demands to be called Richard, talking with a world-class expert in brain injuries, Dr. Isabella Haas, hired by Bruce Wayne. Dick (sorry, RICHARD) is talking to Dr. Haas about his complete amnesia resulting from the gunshot wound. He now has no memory beyond his childhood, prior to the death of his parents, and is confused as to why local billionaire Bruce Wayne is interested in him and claims that Richard is part of his extended family.
In addition to his struggles with the present, the story also ventures back into Nightwing’s past. We see the introduction of his father’s great-aunt and great-uncle, Langdon, and Judith Grayson, who take Richard (not Dick) and his parents in for a rare family dinner to properly celebrate Thanksgiving after their circus performance. The story’s main focus throughout is family. Richard remembers the joys of the few memories he has of his blood family while his extended family of Bruce, Alfred Pennyworth, Damian Wayne, and Barbara Gordon, anxiously wait for word of Nightwing’s recovery.
Dan Jurgens’ story is poignant, showing emotions from the Bat Fam we’re not usually privy to. While Damian can still be an obnoxious ass the majority of the time, we are shown private moments of grief. Whether it’s Robin’s tears or Bruce’s impotent anger at being unable to fix the problem, it’s a unique look into the lives of the extraordinary Wayne family dealing with something ordinary families deal with daily, the grief surrounding an unexpected tragedy.
The writing is done well, but it is a little repetitive. We’re reminded over and over that Dick now wants to be called Richard because that’s what his parents called him, and he has no memory of being Dick. We’re also shown Bruce’s constant anger and frustration at being powerless to fix his first son and oldest partner. But it feels plodding at times, meant to take up real estate within the book instead of moving the plot forward. That being said, the payoff is tremendous and promises to add some great storylines in the months to come.
The art by Travis Moore is solid for an emotional book. His pencils are softer, more sentimental, allowing the reader to feel both the sadness of the Wayne family and the melancholy of Richard describing a rare interaction with both his parents and newly-introduced extended relations. Overall, it’s a well-done story that introduces a bigger plot to destroy Nightwing and Batman while maintaining a personal touch intended to tug at the reader’s emotions.
What did you think of the latest attempt to take down the Bat Family? Comment below with your thoughts.