Dick Grayson is back! With more resources than ever, he’s hell-bent on whipping Bludhaven into shape. But fate has other plans. As Blockbuster pulls the strings of the Bludhaven elite, Dick learns a startling secret from his past, and must face off against a serial killer who’s in the habit of collecting people’s hearts. Nightwing Vol 1: Leaping into the Light is the first collection of this run by writer Tom Taylor, artist Bruno Redondo, colorist Adiano Lucas, and letterer Wes Abbott. It collects the heartfelt stories found in Nightwing #78–83.
Taylor’s script is just magic. He brilliantly balances hope and fear, joy and despair. Instead of throwing readers right into the madness, Taylor gives us a joyful first issue. We see hints of the danger that’s nipping at Nightwing’s heels, but we also see him enjoying being alive. So when things get darker in this series, readers are left with something to hope for. And even when this series does get dark, Taylor still fills these pages with little moments of light. Whether it’s a new pet, a moving letter from an old friend, or even just a great joke, Taylor gives us something to smile about.
Speaking of things to smile about, Redondo’s art is outright grin-inducing. And he’s never been as versatile or experimental as he is in this series. We see hilarious play-by-plays of a characters’ faces, watching their reaction to something slowly unveil itself. We see Nightwing somersault through the air, each twist and turn shown in the panel to mark his trajectory. And we see instructional images of Nightwing putting his baton together, like something out of the information booklet on a plane. Redondo shows characters through a doorway peephole in a round panel, their image warped by the magnification. He does a tour through Nightwing’s history, mimicking the Ben Day dots of each era as he does so. There are just too many examples to give of Redondo’s brilliance. He is constantly changing up his page layouts and his visual language, yet he’s always serving the story. It’s incredibly entertaining and more than a little bit breathtaking.
Guest artists in this volume include pencillers Rick Leonardi and Neil Edwards along with inkers Andy Lanning and Scott Hanna. Leonardi, Edwards, Lanning and Hanna do a great job of bridging the gap between Redondo’s incredible style and the more traditional approach of golden age comics (which is where their segment is set.) They celebrate that era of comics, while imbuing it with a modern flare.
Lucas makes you feel as though you’ve lived through these scenes with the characters. He gives each moment a real sense of time. So, when we see the bright rays of the early morning sun seamlessly transition into the soft coloring of a late afternoon, we feel like we’re there. You’ll experience full days with Nightwing, feeling like you’re perched on the rooftop next to him in the night, tinted pink by the lights of the city. And when the storyline briefly detours to the past, Lucas’ color palette becomes totally flat. Every shape is colored in a single tone. It immediately feels like a story from an old comic, because Lucas makes it look like one. Lucas makes every panel both beautiful and immersive.
Abbott’s lettering is playful, even hilarious at times. He uses his letters to guide us through the page, like any good letterer, but he also helps us feel the impact of every sound. When Nightwing swings his baton at someone’s head it makes a “TOK” sound in thin white letters. The letters almost seem to explode in the character’s face, knocking him over. And later, when the same thing happens with a bigger character, we see those letters used in a very different way. “TOK” shows up in the background, in huge yellow font. You can almost feel the knock on the head and the buzzing in your ears. Abbott is having a ton of fun. His letters practically chase the characters across each page, playing an equal part in the joyful mayhem.
Nightwing Vol 1: Leaping into the Light is a love letter to Nightwing fans. It takes stock of Dick Grayson’s past, touring through his many years on the page. But it also takes this character to exciting, new places. Pick up the first volume of this fantastic series, out from DC Comics December 14th, at a comic shop near you!