Let’s kick this off right, I hate annuals. They’re a cheap gimmick to squeeze out a few more sales in between issues; nothing important or lasting ever happens in them; and comic companies never put their A-game on it. Best thing to come out of them? Sometimes we get a chance to see up and coming talent show off their goods before they get the responsibility of their own series. “Nightwing Annual #1” is a prime example of this. Writing credit and art credit where it is due, Kyle Higgins writes some wonderful banter between Dick and Babs and Jason Masters draws some fantastic action yet is still genius at beautiful faces. But this issue accomplishes nothing, it’s as important as a ketchup stain; you’re stuck with it until you can wash it away next week.
Now what could possibly be so bad about this issue? If all they write in it is insubstantial and nothing changes, why would it not just wash off me? Because it is so insubstantial, it takes great effort to not create problems or solve them. My primary concern is this issue is really toted as a Nightwing/Batgirl centric story. It’s a lot of rubbish though because this happens every time there is a crossover between the two: they get together, wrestle with their feelings, admit they really really want to be together, and then don’t get together. It’s never even a definitive break-up either, it just postpones until the next crossover so they can go through the whole act all over again. Really it’s a commentary on DC’s comics policy as a whole: keep everything in a holding pattern in perpetuity and hopefully we can write this for decades while fans get no resolution.
To me, this feels like those people that keep plastic on their furniture, preserving them until somebody really important comes along. Nightwing and Batgirl are just furniture in this cobbled together story because it could have been just about anyone in the Batman mythos, Hell it might have been more interesting to see Katana get in imaginary fights with her dead sword husband. At least then the author would know well enough to stop winking at us whenever he brings up their “history”.
To say this story is aimed at the nostalgic comic readers would be like saying Little Boy was aimed at Japan. Every page is dripping with references to when Dick and Babs were either together, fighting crime, or having a tiff. At one point Dick tells Babs that they have to forget the past and live in the now… it lasts about three panels before somebody scratches their head and says, “This reminds me of that time…” In fact the last two pages are a flashback to their “first date”, Robin with Batgirl, where everything is super cutesy and romantic, there are no problems and the two clearly belong together forever and ever. To commemorate the occasion Dick invents the selfie and God damn it if that stupid picture doesn’t pop up anytime something bad happens like a cursed tiki idol. At the end of the story there’s even a contrived speech that has nothing to do with Dick and Bab’s life together that Nightwing takes as a sign that he needs to drag this sexual tension out just a little bit longer. It’s unfortunate because if this story was allowed to be a story arc or, God forbid, a mini-series, things might be explained away adequately instead of everything ending at the end of a page count, which is common in annuals.
I don’t fault DC in particular for this bad issue, yeah they made it but Marvel is just as guilty of pointless annuals. The writer actually did a good job with what he was allowed to do, the banter really was entertaining and the art was very pretty so kudos. But the great lengths the writer went to keep everything insubstantial was just painful. It’s not like will-they/won’t-they hasn’t worked in comics before. There was a time in “Invincible” when Mark was dating Amber while Eve was making fruit trees in Africa. Robert Kirkman let the question hang in the air just long enough, before everybody lost interest, and then gave the fans exactly what they wanted and had the two of them get together. So that’s the thing, the longer this goes on the less fans actually care or even want it. To sum up this book: if you want just a “Nightwing Punch” story that is nothing more than a glorified commercial for the regular ongoing, pick this up it’ll be really good for you.