Book Review – All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder vol. 1

  • Title: All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder vol. 1
  • Author: Frank Miller
  • Artists: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, 
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: Batman (Bruce Wayne), Robin (Dick Grayson)
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/05/2016

All Star Batman and Robin – the Boy Wonder is intense, really intense and the art is breath-taking. It brings to mind the classic Frank Miller graphic novel, Batman The Dark Knight Returns. However, that is also part of the problem with this book. In All Star Batman and Robin – Batman is a dangerous psychopath. He’s catching and beating up murderers, rapists, and thieves not to put an end to crime and corruption in Gotham City but because he enjoys it. And he kidnaps Richard Grayson not because after watching Dick watch his parents die he sees a kindred spirit – but because he selfishly wants a protégé, and this Batman will torture a twelve-year-old to get what he wants.

The Justice League also make appearances in this graphic novel – we see Black Canary become Black Canary (which was awesome, if violent), Wonder Woman (another violent psychopath who hates men), Superman (who Batman hates), and Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern (who Batman also hates). The argument and then fight between Batman, Robin, and Hal takes place in a yellow-painted room, because Batman wants to mess with Jordan. Yet, Jordan’s arguments make sense – Batman’s violent actions are and will bring down official wrath on all the masks – all the heroes (who at this point aren’t acting that heroic). Plus, Batman’s anger at Hal seems fueled not by anything concrete but by mere jealousy.

Don’t get me wrong – I loved Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns when I read it in the 80s, and the dark, apocalyptic view of Batman, Gotham City, and the world in that book made sense (as well as shaking up the comics world at the time which was much, much more light-hearted). However, even in The Dark Knight Returns Batman has honor – knowing he’s gotten too old to fight, he hangs up his cape and cowl. When the gang violence and everything else erupts, he comes out of retirement – having lost everything to death or simple abandonment, and he becomes the hero.

Here, Batman is at the beginning of his career – but he isn’t a detective, he isn’t the caped crusader, he isn’t an honorable knight – he’s a psychopath who cares for no one, who manipulates Dick Grayson into being a killer like himself, who doesn’t even care for Alfred. This isn’t my Batman – and all the breath-taking art doesn’t change that.

I read graphic novels for character – and the character of Batman was way off in this graphic novel. It felt like an Elseworlds or alternative reality Batman – maybe, but not my Batman. Not how Batman has been consistently written by those who seem to know the character best and write the character consistently the best. You’ll notice I never refer to him as Bruce Wayne – that’s because in this book, he’s always Batman – and he’s never Bruce. For once, he needs a little Bruce.

This book will haunt me (that his dying mother saw him as a psychopath, as does Alfred is downright frightening), so that speaks to the power of the story. But it’s not a likeable story, and nothing can take away the fact that Batman is simply out of character. This is too extreme and too unlikable – and I wish I hadn’t read it in some ways.

Book Review – Batman: Long Shadows

  • Title: Batman: Long Shadows
  • Author: Judd Winick
  • Artists: Mark Bagley, Ed Benes, Rob Hunter
  • Line: Post-Final Crisis (Stand-alone novel)
  • Characters: Alfred Pennyworth, Dick Grayson, Tim Drake
  • Publication Date: 2011
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/14/2016

OMG – this is one of the BEST graphic novels I have ever read, and the best modern graphic novel I’ve read. One of the things I didn’t like about Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis was it’s lack of emotional resonance. I mean, (Spoiler) Batman dies and no one cares? No one even notices not even his best friend, Clark Kent (Superman)? Ah, no.

But Long Shadows makes up for that. It investigates the lost of Bruce Wayne on those who knew and cared for him best. This book had me in tears more than once. And I’ve also read it at least three times since buying it, and I rarely read graphic novels more than once.

The book begins with Superman and Wonder Woman bringing Batman’s empty and torn cape and cowl to Wayne Manor. They tell Alfred, Dick (Richard Grayson) and Tim (Drake) that Bruce has died. The rest of the story is a realistic portrayal of loss. From Alfred stating, “my son is dead, I am not all right,” to Dick saying, “I knew he wouldn’t live forever, but I wasn’t ready for him to die this soon”. This is a grim, sad story, realistically told.

I loved the interactions of Bruce’s family as they dealt with his loss.

Truly, a ground-breaking work. Perfect. And highly, highly recommended.

Book Review – Birds of Prey vol. 3 (1990s – Chuck Dixon)

  • Title: Birds of Prey vol. 3
  • Author:  Chuck Dixon
  • Artists: Greg Land, Gloria Vasquez, Patricia Mulvihill, Dick Giordano,  Albert T DeGuzman, Patrick Zircher, John Costanza, Butch Guice, Drew Geraci, Jordi Ensign, Jose Marzan Jr.
  • Line: 1990-Era (Early Modern Age)
  • Characters: Oracle (Barbara Gordon), Black Canary (Dinah Lance), Power Girl, Nightwing, Alfred Pennyworth, Robin
  • Collection Date: 2016 (reprint)
  • Collected issues: Birds of Prey #12-21 and Nightwing #45-46 (1999-2000)
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/22/2017

This is the third volume of the collected Classic Birds of Prey written by Chuck Dixon and illustrated by Greg Land and others. First, Black Canary is out to stop the breakout of a number of super-villains from a prisoner transport train. She, the military officers protecting the train, and the villains are transported by Boom Tube to Apokolips. There, with the help of a weaker parademon that isn’t part of the hoard, they must all escape. Barbara meets Ted Kord at a technology conference – and discovers he’s the co-hacker she’s been chatting with on-line for months. Diana tries to help an abused woman in her apartment building but is too late to prevent her from killing her abuser. Barbara interviews the Joker from an unseen position. Finding out the Joker has sold nuclear cruise missiles to a terrorist group, she asks for more information. When she tells Joker he isn’t in Arkham but New York, he tells her the nukes are on missiles that will hit New York. Oracle calls in Powergirl, Black Canary, and even the US Military to stop the attack. Dinah (Black Canary) is sent on a humanitarian mission to Transbelvia to help refugees and victims of ethnic cleansing and war between Krasy-Volnans and Belvans. She helps a group get to a shelter, overall things do not go well. Meanwhile, Jason Bard calls Barbara from the hospital where he’s undergoing an operation to restore his sight. Barbara offers to get him some investigative work.

There is a flashback story of Barbara setting up her Oracle base with the help of Richard Grayson (Nightwing) and Robin. She ends up also having Ted Kord visit her apartment and meeting with Jason Bard as well (who discovers she is in the chair).

The final volumes collected in Volume 3 of Birds of Prey reprint Nightwing and Birds of Prey in order. Nightwing is captured by Blockbuster, but freed by Cisco Blaine, who turns out to be a Federal agent. However, while Nightwing goes to get the files to bring down Blockbuster, Nite-Wing (Tad) the not-that-bright vigilante kills Blaine. Grayson freaks. Meanwhile, Black Canary is being pursued. Alfred and Robin rescue Dick, and they race to rescue Oracle. Meanwhile, Blockbuster has hired Mouse, Giz, Stallion, and Lady Vic, to find and destroy Oracle. Alfred, Robin, Nightwing, and Black Canary rush to help Barbara (Oracle). Barbara survives but Dinah is captured by the bad guys who think she’s Oracle.

Birds of Prey Volume 3 collects Birds of Prey 12-21 and Nightwing #45-46. Note this is NOT the Gail Simone version of Birds of Prey – it’s the original Chuck Dixon version.

Book Review – Nightwing vol. 5: The Hunt for Oracle

  • Title: Nightwing vol. 5: The Hunt for Oracle
  • Author:  Chuck Dixon
  • Artists: Greg Land, Scott McDaniel, Patrick Zircher, Butch Guice, Karl Story, Drew Geraci, Mark McKenna, Jose Marzan Jr, Bill Sienkiewicz, Hector Collard, Robert Tewes, Patricia Mulvihill, Gloria Vasquez, Shannon Blanchard, John Costanza, Albert T DeGuzman
  • Line: 1990-Era (Early Modern Age)
  • Characters: Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Huntress, Oracle, Nite-Wing, Black Canary
  • Collection Date: 2016 (reprint)
  • Collected issues: Nightwing #35-46 and Birds of Prey #20-21 (1999-2000)
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/13/2017

I really, really enjoyed this volume of Chuck Dixon’s Nightwing. The first few issues overlap with Nightwing a Darker Shade of Justice from the previous printing, but here they are presented with two issues taking place during No Man’s Land, when, in the wake of an earthquake, Gotham is abandoned. Batman sends Nightwing into Blackgate prison to get rid of the warden, Lock-up. Nightwing’s plan to go undercover is immediately uncovered and he’s dropped in a hole with a number of villains that he and Batman had previously faced and captured. Later, the hole begins to fill with water. Nightwing manages to get the villains to work together enough to blow a wall between the hole and the next chamber so the water has someplace to go. Nightwing is also captured by Lock-up again – who has discovered the rumors of his death are exaggerated. The prison is back under Batman’s control, and a broken and beaten Dick Grayson shows up at Barbara Gordon’s.

Barbara begins to care for Dick, taking care of him, when her Oracle’s nest is attacked by the GCPD. The police get closer and closer, walking in to every one of her traps. Eventually, Dick and Barbara have to escape. They are nearly caught in the parking garage but Huntress arrives to help her former Birds of Prey team-mate.

After all that, Dick decides to return to Blüdhaven. Dick returns to the police academy and graduates. He also discovers that Clancy had always wanted to go to med school but she couldn’t afford college and she was too intimidated to apply for a scholarship. Dick encourages her to apply for a WayneTech Scholarship, which she of course gets. Clancy goes to med school. But when Dick applies for a job as a police officer in Blüdhaven, he’s told he isn’t qualified. Another student, whom Dick has reason to suspect of being not that honest, gets the job instead. The corrupt chief of police makes this other “cop” his enforcer.

Meanwhile the same police chief has arrested Tad, alias Nite-Wing, but provides him with information to start taking down some of Blüdhaven’s connected criminals, mostly as a means of disrupting Blockbuster’s gang and eliminating competition. Our Nightwing notices this, and takes Nite-Wing under his wing, so to speak, to train him. Dick’s first suggestion: change your name and get a better costume. The two are captured by Blockbuster’s henchmen. Immediately separated, Blockbuster threatens torture. But the minute he leaves, his chief enforcer gets the twins threatening Nightwing out of the way and reveals himself to be a Federal agent investigating Roland (Blockbuster). Nite-Wing, meanwhile, had a ton of documentation to take down Blockbuster from the chief of police. It’s in his car, though Dick had started to FAX it to Oracle. Dick tells Cisco Blaine (the Federal agent), he will get the info while Blaine releases Nite-Wing. Tad, though, being a bit of an idiot, kills the agent, thinking he’s a henchman and enforcer for Blockbuster. Dick is really upset by this, obviously.

Blockbuster meanwhile sends his hired villains after Oracle, including Mouse and Giz.

The remainder of the book is “The Hunt for Oracle” as Blockbuster’s goons chase Black Canary and go after Oracle. Both Black Canary and Nightwing try to get to Barbara to help her. Black Canary doesn’t actually know who Oracle is – only knowing her as a voice on her comms. It’s a chase, and a good one. Not going to spoil the end.

I loved this book. The writing was both sharp and fun. Dixon’s characterization of Dick Grayson is perfect – smart, caring, loyal, and with a driving need to help others – whether that’s helping Clancy get in to med school by encouraging her to apply for a scholarship, or training Tad. The opening Blackgate/No Man’s Land sequence is full of action – as is the closing chase, but the Nightwing series shines when it focuses on characters – Dick Grayson and his friends. Even a villain like Blockbuster is given some humanity – his extraordinary size has caught-up with him and he’s facing heart trouble or a possible stroke. His private doctor even talks to Roland about a heart transplant with an artificial heart, or a heart from an animal. Blockbuster rejects the idea of a pig’s heart, but has the doctor investigate the use of ape heart from Gorilla City.

I highly, highly recommend this book and the rest of the series. It’s an enjoyable read. The book is beautifully written and the characterization is spot-on.

Update: Nightwing Vol. 5 The Hunt for Oracle features Nightwing #35-46 and Birds of Prey #20-21.

Book Review – Nightwing: A Darker Shade of Justice

  • Title: Nightwing: A Darker Shade of Justice
  • Author:  Chuck Dixon
  • Artists: Scott McDaniel, Karl Story, Roberta Tewes, John Costanza
  • Line: 1990-Era (Early Modern Age)
  • Characters: Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Batman, Huntress, Oracle (Barbara Gordon)
  • Collection Date: 2001 (Original Collection Printing)
  • Collected issues: Nightwing #30-39, Nightwing Secret Files #1
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/07/2016

And this is where it all started. I found Nightwing a Darker Shade of Justice in a comic shop (not my normal Vault of Midnight but another one that was not pleasant to visit) and I loved it. However, I could tell I was walking in to the middle of the story. I started to look for other volumes, mostly on-line, only to find the series out of print. That DC Comics decided to start reprinting this series made me happy and excited – because this is my Nightwing and my Dick Grayson.

This particular issue overlaps with volume 4, Love and Bullets which I reviewed earlier today, but it also covers additional issues of the on-going comic. Therefore I was able to read more of the on-going storyline. So for this re-read, I skipped the issues I just read in Love and Bullets and started with “The Belly of the Beast”. From the last page of “Sister Act”, where Dick is interrupted by an urgent video message from Batman, Dick is sent on a solo mission to Blackgate prison. Blackgate is under the control of the vicious criminal Lock-up. Batman wants Nightwing to take back the prison and remove Lock-up from control, thus preventing him from realizing he has an army that can take over Gotham (this takes place at the same time as “No Man’s Land”). Dick breaks into the prison but is unable to take over from the con and is immediately attacked. This is, ultimately, how he ends-up in such dire straits in “Taking Wing”. Dick escapes and crawls to Oracle’s door. Barbara Gordon begins to nurse him back to health – but her hideaway is attacked by the Gotham PD task force and Huntress. Huntress, however, decides that the PD’s plan to eliminate Oracle – her friend whom she worked with in the Birds of Prey – is too lethal, so she helps out Dick and Barbara. The issue ends with Barbara and Dick heading back to Blüdhaven.

A Darker Shade of Justice being the original printing, collects the original newsprint books into a single volume. I must admit I felt a bit nostalgic holding and reading the old style of comic book printing. The colors aren’t as vivid as the contemporary Nightwing books, though, and the tones are more muted. I hope that DC Comics publishes the rest of the series, including this book, because I suspect they with continue on from where Love and Bullets left off and continue past the end of A Darker Shade of Justice.

Nightwing A Darker Shade of Justice collects issues 30-39 of Nightwing, and Nightwing Secret Files #1.

Book Review – Nightwing vol. 4: Love and Bullets

  • Title: Nightwing vol. 4: Love and Bullets
  • Author:  Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty, Eliot Brown, Devin Grayson
  • Artists: Greg Land, Scott McDaniel, Karl Story, Eliot Brown, Dale Eaglesham, Bruce  Guice, Phil Jimenez, Andy Kuhn, Greg Land, Damion Scott, Brian Stelfreeze, Robert Campenella, Hector Collazo, John Floyd, Drew Geraci, Klaus Janson, Mark McKenna, Roberta Tewes, Adrienne Roy, Digital Chameleon, Tom McGraw, John Costanza
  • Line: 1990-Era (Early Modern Age)
  • Characters: Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Huntress, Nite-Wing, Legion of Superheroes, Superman
  • Collection Date: 2016 (reprint)
  • Collected issues: Nightwing 26 – 34 (Dec 1998, Jan. – Aug. 1999), Nightwing # 1,000,000 (Nov. 1998), “Taking Wing” from Nightwing Secret Files & Origins # 1 (Oct. 1999)
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/07/2016

I have been really enjoying DC Comics re-publishing versions of the 1990s run of Nightwing and this volume is no exception. Even though it has the same title as the previous collection from 2000, this volume includes additional material, making it a good buy even if you had the previous version.

The first story in this collection is “The Anachronism” a recreation of “Nightwing 1,000,000” – a Batman from the far future, part of the Legion of Superheroes, returns to “the present” to work with Dick Grayson, Nightwing. The other members of the Legion of Superheroes had also gone back in time while the Justice League will be sent to their time to attend celebrations. However, the Hourman Virus is released in the “present” and Nightwing and future Batman must stop it. It’s an interesting concept – but it ends abruptly without the story being concluded.

The next story brings back Huntress who is now even more vicious, driven by vengeance, and willing to use extreme violence to accomplish her goals. It also introduces a new villain, Torque, formerly Dudley Soames, a dirty cop who’s head was twisted 180 degrees. Surviving this, Torque is determined to bring down Blockbuster, who had caused his unique condition.

Dick meanwhile has settled in in Blüdhaven – he’s finally started to date Clancy, his landlady, as well as secretly helping her financially through Haly Holdings. In the previous volume, when Clancy’s apartment building was damaged by the quake in Gotham and threatened with a demolition order – Dick stepped in, secretly. In this issue, when Clancy gets a huge tax bill, Dick has Haly take care of it. This prevents Clancy from losing her home, as well as Amygdala, and the mysterious “Dr. Fledermaus”. Dick also sees to it that his namesake, the vigilante “Nite-Wing” is taken to Dr. Leslie Thompkins clinic for care. Dick cares about the people around him and the consequences of actions in his universe. He’d given Huntress a chance – but convinced she’s behind the recent string of unusual deaths of Blockbusters lieutenants – he not only breaks off his relationship with her, but becomes determine to capture her. As it would turn out, though, it isn’t Huntress who’s killing Blockbuster’s lieutenants – it’s Torque. Though Huntress works briefly for Torque because her ultimate goal is to wipe-out the mob, she later changes her mind.

“Just Passing Through” takes place after the great quake in Gotham and Gotham being declared “No Man’s Land”. With no place else to go, many ex-Gothamites end up in Blüdhaven. Nightwing protects them as he protects all of his city. In this story, he’s aided by Superman – who’s basically a sounding board for Dick, who in many ways, is still trying to figure out if the role of solo crimefighter is what he wants to do.

The next stories brings in Double Dare, a pair of sisters who are circus aerialists and bank robbers. Their techniques are similar to Nightwing’s so at first he’s blamed. And when Dick goes to stop them they are pretty evenly matched. But Stallion and Brutale try to take out all three for Blockbuster – which forces Nightwing to work with the two women for a short time.

Meanwhile, the imposter, “Nite-Wing” is caught by the Blüdhaven PD, but the corrupt police chief Francis Redhorn sees “Nite-Wing” as an opportunity to get out from under the thumb of Blockbuster.

Once he’s take care of Clancy’s financial issues, Dick talks to her about the direction of his life. He decides that he really wants to be a police officer – to fight corruption from the inside and to stop crime by legal means. He also discovers Clancy had wanted to be a doctor but didn’t have the money for college and was too intimidated to try for a scholarship. He pushes her to apply for a Wayne scholarship and grant. Yet, within a few weeks of his training at the police academy – Dick receives an urgent message from Batman. Next we see Dick – he’s dying and hallucinating Jason Todd as he relives his life. I was a bit confused as to how Dick ended-up drowning or dying.

This new version of Love and Bullets also features a number of extras – write-up summaries of info of all the major and minor characters that make up Dick Grayson’s (Nightwing’s) universe. A map of Blüdhaven, a map of Dick’s apartment and his floor in Clancy’s building, even a year-by-year history of the character of Dick Grayson in DC Comics (which was brilliant – I’d always wondered when the Teen Titans fit in). This is a handy reference to Dick’s universe.

I hope DC Comics continues to publish these updated re-prints of the 1990s version of Nightwing. I enjoy reading the collected volumes very much. The bonus material in this one is awesome and helpful, and the thicker, shiny paper holds the colors very well – so they pop off the page. Also, the drawing of Grayson himself in his black and blue uniform is just gorgeous.

Nightwing Love and Bullets (Vol. 4) collects:

  • Nightwing # 1,000,000 (Nov. 1998)
  • Nightwing # 26 – 34 (Dec 1998, Jan. – Aug. 1999)
  • “Taking Wing” from Nightwing Secret Files # 1 (Oct. 1999)

Book Review – Nightwing vol. 3: False Starts

  • Title: Nightwing vol. 3: False Starts
  • Author:  Chuck Dixon, Devin Grayson
  • Artists: Greg Land, Scott McDaniel, Karl Story, Bill Sienkiewicz, Roberta Tewes, Noelle Giddings, John Costanza
  • Line: 1990-Era (Early Modern Age)
  • Characters: Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Huntress, Nite-Wing, Batman, Alfred, Tim Drake (Robin)
  • Collection Date: 2015 (reprint)
  • Collected issues: Nightwing #19-25 Nightwing/Huntress #1-4, Nightwing 1/2
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/21/2016

**spoiler alert** This volume of the continuing series of Nightwing reprints includes several stories which demonstrate the breadth of Dick Grayson’s character and of the Classic 1990s Nightwing comic book. The first story is the four issue Nightwing/Huntress story Casa Nostra. What happens when a mobster’s alibi is Dick Grayson? When a hooker is killed in a hotel room, the police and Huntress are convinced mobster, Frankie Black is responsible. However, Dick knows that Frankie was set-up because as Nightwing he was following and watching Frankie Black at the docks as he brought in a shipment of arms to sell to another mobster. Frankie, it turns out, had fallen in love with a girl named Moira, who was decidedly not part of the mob scene. He was planning on using the arms sale to finance his escape, and having his name on a hotel register was his alibi. Huntress is after Frankie Black because going after mobsters is what she does. Dick has to convince Huntress that Frankie is innocent, of killing the hooker anyway, and convince her to help him solve the case. When a Gotham Vice cop arrives in Blüdhaven because the “hooker” was his partner who was on an unsanctioned undercover sting operation, the case gets that much more complicated. Nightwing and Huntress solve it, but not before tragedy occurs for Moira, Frankie, Pasquelle – Frankie’s “sidekick”, and a crooked cop. Yet Nightwing and Huntress also spend the night together before going their separate ways. This first four-part story I enjoyed, though the ending was dark and sad. Still, in the end, Nightwing solves the case, and Huntress proves she isn’t simply interested in blindly killing mobsters.

The next story, “The Breaks”, has Nightwing silently guarding a Federal witness. The witness, and the marshals don’t do the best job of protecting the witness – but Nightwing rescues the mobster and delivers him to the Feds to turn state’s evidence much to the chagrin of the mobster himself.

“Shudder” and “Day After Judgment” are Nightwing’s roles in the long Batman series – “The Road to No Man’s Land” and “No Man’s Land”. When Gotham City is nearly destroyed by a 7.5 Earthquake, Nightwing goes by boat to the city to do what he can to help. Dick is terrified by what he will find when he realizes the epicenter of the quake wasn’t far from Wayne Manor. Dick helps people in trouble because of the quake, meets up with Oracle and Robin (Tim Drake) then he and Tim go to the Manor. They find the Manor nearly completely destroyed, and worry for the safety of Alfred, Bruce, and Harold (Bruce’s mechanic). Dick rescues Alfred and Harold from the ruins of the mansion and Batcave, but Bruce is missing. All that Alfred can say is it’s been days since Bruce swam out of the cave in search of help. In the meantime, Gotham’s emergency services are overwhelmed by dealing with the quake and resulting fires, power outages, and general chaos. A reporter is handed a videotape which she brings to Commissioner Gordon. The tape contains a ransom demand – the earthquake wasn’t a simple natural disaster but engineered, and if the man responsible isn’t paid off he will set off additional earthquakes. After a week, Dick returns to Blüdhaven, only to discover his building’s been condemned and his landlady and friends have been kicked out of their homes. Dick uses his Halley company to buy the building, hires people to bring it up to code, and gives his neighbors vouchers to stay in a hotel until the work is completed.

Also in “False Starts”, a young man is inspired to become a superhero and adapts the name “Nite-Wing” – not only is he using Dick’s alter-ego as a super identity, but since the mob wants Dick dead, he’s soon shot to pieces and ends up in intensive care. Dick, who’s about to enjoy a night out with his landlady, Clancy, gets a call from a very worried Barbara Gordon (Oracle), and then has to break the false “Nite-Wing” out of the hospital and protect him from the mob. Despite attacks by various hired killers, Dick is able to give the guy to Alfred to take care of. Dick didn’t even know the “John Doe’s” real name but felt responsible for him anyway.

In “Paper Revelations”, Nightwing, Robin, and Connor Hawke the Green Arrow, work in Gotham with Batman to solve a series of “Monkey” murders. It appears a group of assassins are at work in Gotham, but tracking down and killing the competition is Lady Shiva. The story ends in a “To be continued” with Black Canary and Bronze Tiger held captive, and Nightwing, Green Arrow, and Robin confronting Lady Shiva.

In “The Forgotten Dead”, Dick’s working as a barkeeper in Clancy’s bar and listens to a retiring police officer talk about a 15-year cold case that’s always gotten to him. Dick investigate’s the cold case as Nightwing with help from Oracle. He solves the case using old-fashioned leg work and detective work, then let’s the cop know who did it through an anonymous tip.

In the final story, “The Boys”, Nightwing trains Robin by jumping on the top of moving freight cars as they travel through the city. The catch? Both are blindfolded. But the training session gives both Dick and Tim a chance to talk to each other, as well as discuss their concern for Bruce, who’s been even more distant since the Gotham Earthquake.

“False Starts” shows many facets of Dick Grayson’s character. “Casa Nostra” the Huntress crossover shows not only Dick’s abilities as a crimefighter, but his honesty. He’s not going to let a mobster be framed for a crime he didn’t commit, even if his other crimes are numerous, bloody, and frightening. Plus, we see a budding romance between Dick and Huntress.

Both “The Breaks” and “False Starts” show Dick, or rather, Nightwing, in Superhero mode – protecting people who need protection, and helping where no one else can or will help. And still, we see Dick’s honesty. He’s essentially being the “good cop” though he has no badge (yet).

“Shudder” and “Day After Judgment” show Dick’s commitment to his own family: Bruce Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth, Barbara “Oracle” Gordon, Tim “Robin” Drake. When a disaster hits Gotham, Dick drops everything in his own home town and goes home to help. In Gotham, Dick helps every day people – a mother, her child, and a bus full of passengers stuck underground when the roads collapsed during the quake – and he helps his own family, showing up at the manor, even though he doesn’t know what he will find. He even understands Tim’s need to see his own father, rather than wait to see what Dick finds at the Manor (especially as it does not look good.) This shows Dick’s loyalty, as well as the Justice League’s commitment to helping during natural and man-made disasters.

When he returns home, we see Dick’s generous spirit as well as his loyalty to his friends.

And we see Dick as the older brother, taking Tim under his wing – so to speak – and not only training him, but giving him a sounding board.

Nightwing False Starts is actually a fine introduction to the Classic Nightwing character, even though it’s the third volume in the series. It introduces the reader to the many sides of Dick’s character as well as different types of stories: mob stories, detective stories, character-driven stories, disaster stories, even superhero stories. Dick Grayson is an excellent character, and by False Starts he’s moved out of the Batman’s shadow and firmly established himself in his own world. I highly recommend this book, and the series (which DC Comics is currently reprinting a volume at a time).