After a reenergizing first volume of Nightwing that uplifted the spirits of many Nightwing fans, the second volume struggled to keep the momentum. An unexpected crossover into Gotham City made the series seem a little repetitive. Too often has Dick Grayson been included in a Batman event at the expense of his storyline. Three months later the series finally picked back up…with an annual that similarly did not connect to the main story. Although the side story felt quite festive, the entirety of this volume felt quite stale. However, there are some positives. Writers Tom Taylor and Tini Howard along with guest artists Robbi Rodriguez, Cian Tormey, Daniel HDR, and Christian Duce manage to make the best of a contrived situation.
The majority of the issue is a tie-in story to the Batman event “Fear State” in which a privatized militaristic force has taken control of Gotham while making public enemy number one anyone who wears a mask. Although it seems most practical for the Titan’s fearless leader to stay far away from Gotham, it seems someone has hacked into Oracle’s computers, signaling an S.O.S. that tricks Nightwing into coming to Gotham. It takes a team consisting of Robin and three Batgirls (including Barbara, who seems to miraculously have made her spinal implant able to endure long-term combat situations despite the intention being limiting her crime-fighting to as Oracle) to do what Batman can’t and save Gotham.
Overall, the story is rather weak with some redeemable moments. Although Taylor tries his best to have the understanding that Nightwing does not need to be in Gotham, the tie-ins are too clustered with fluffy character interactions to have genuine development. That said, Taylor does write Tim, Steph, and Cassandra well. Tim is more than a one-dimensional computer genius, Steph seems more prepared and skilled, and Cass is the perfect mix of intimidating and warm. Rodriguez does his best to parallel Redondo’s art in his style, and some of the art is truly wonderful. However, his work can appear jagged at times and be jarring on close-up panels. By the time the story ends, the joy comes from knowing the event will no longer impact the overarching Nightwing series.
Following the tie-in is an issue focusing on the brotherly bond between Dick and Jason. Taylor seems to have done more research than previous writers because he seems to be the first in a while to remember Dick and Jason got along fine in the Post-Crisis DC Universe before Jason’s death. This is brought over in a nice modern way that blends with modern Jason’s stereotype as an angrier and distrusting character. Artistically, Tormey and HDR balance each other perfectly between past and present in the story through their respective art styles. Each finds ways to bring the story to life through the shadows of Gotham. It’s a nice addition to see Nightwing’s first suit be remembered, too. Overall, the issue is a proper example of a filler issue that the Fear State tie-in event could have learned from. The story has a compelling premise that is brought to a conclusion while adding a more detailed layer to the brotherhood the first two Robins share.
The final story is a holiday story originally published in Batman: Urban Legends #10 with the creative team of Tini Howard and Christian Duce. The premise is simple: The Batfamily is waiting on Nightwing for their holiday dinner, but crime doesn’t sleep and neither do scarecrow goons. The story is a rough adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Dick is a little bitter about how gloomy the world seems, and has the Batgirls of past and present visit him via hallucination. Howard attempts to reflect on the past of Nightwing’s life but over-dramatizes it a little. However, Duce is a perfect artist for an eerie Christmas Eve story. Everything is brought to life through light and vibrance just as much as the shadows seem to lurk in the corners of the pages. Overall, it’s a fine short story that’s intended to have a message about making new traditions.
Overall, Nightwing: Fear State is a lackluster volume that fails to live up to its predecessor. Although various creative teams find their groove in Nightwing that attempt to make the book more dynamic, it falls short. The book contains a forced crossover event and two short stories unrelated to Dick Grayson trying to leap into the light and save his city; which leaves a gaping hole in what the purpose was with this collection of stories. Hopefully, the next collection can continue the story of Dick trying to save Blüdhaven.
Writing Rating: 2.5/5
Artist Rating: 3/5
Overall Rating: 5.5/10