Nightwing: Old Friends, New Enemies (1987-89)
In 1988, DC editorial changed the normally Superman focused Action Comics into a weekly anthology series. This lasted for about a year before switching back to focusing solely on Superman. The stories published in Action Comics during this time were used to gauge audience reactions to characters and decide if those characters warranted a solo title or mini series. One of the many serialized stories during this time focused on Nightwing and Speedy. Nightwing was a relatively new character at the time, having only recently dropped the moniker of Robin. This was his fist solo outing that didn't include the New Teen Titans.
This book should really be called “Speedy and his sidekick Nightwing”. The stories in this trade all revolve around Roy Harper, Speedy, and his friend Nightwing who gets dragged into the action. By the time the second story in the trade comes around Nightwing is almost never seen. He shows up at the beginning and end. I suppose that if you called this book “Speedy and his sidekick Nightwing” sales probably wouldn't be half of what they are with Nightwing predominately featured on the cover.
The book opens with a quick recap of how Dick Grayson became Nightwing, from his time as Robin under Batman's tutelage to leaving the Bat behind and striking out on his own. It's a decent issue of Secret Origins and has art by Erik Larsen, who I didn't even recognize until looking a bit more carefully. The inker Mike Decarlo might be really heavy handed because every other early Larsen book I have seen still has that distinctive Larsen look to it. This isn't to say the story looks bad, it looks pretty great actually.
The first real story in this book starts with Nightwing breaking up some smugglers while Speedy shows up to save him at the last minute and then persuades Nightwing to help him on a case. Speedy is working for the CBI(Central Bureau of Investigation) and needs Nightwing's help to stop an assassination plot against various diplomats at a peace talk. Speedy has ulterior motives however, he is tracking down Cheshire, the assassin, who also happens to be the mother of his child. After a short time Nightwing catches wind of Roy's ulterior motives and he agrees to help get Roy's daughter Lian back from the clutches of Cheshire. This story is the best of the lot. It has a solid plot and some nice character development for Speedy who up until now I believe had been relegated to the background since the forming of the New Teen Titans. Roy's need to get his daughter back at any cost and his inner turmoil over what to do about Cheshire, the woman he did love but he can never be with.
The final story arc is rubbish. It is boring, it makes no sense, and just feels forced. Roy is trying to take a break from the heroing and just be a dad. Like all stories of this nature that doesn't happen. Roy is thrust into a convoluted plot with IRA like terrorists, leaks in the CBI and a random pair of children he finds in the house he is renting. Roy abandons his child at the drop of a hat to go chase bad guys, leaving her with whoever is closest. There is a reveal at the end that seems pointless since you don't really even know who any of these characters are. But there is a nice epilogue with Roy hanging out with Dick (Nightwing) and Star Fire after all is said and done. But all in all the second story is mostly pointless.
All in all this is a half decent collection. I do wish there was more Nightwing in the book, being that he is the title character. It was nice to see Roy and Cheshire play off of each other and Roy's quest to find his daughter. I've read some modern stories with both of them and it was nice to see how it all started. If anyone had watched Young Justice they borrowed some from this arc in the second season. Seeing the origins of a story that has resonance in the future and other mediums was really fun to behold. I just wish the trade had ended after that.