Although not billed as such, The New Order is a kind of Elseworld take on the possible future of Dick Grayson, or to put a more fine point on it, the future of Jake Grayson, Dick’s son with an as yet unnamed mother. Certainly there are other, darker elements at play here tantamount among them Grayson’s complete fall from grace resulting in the death of most of his former super-powered colleagues. Nightwing appears to have been the instrument of their demise but, has he turned villain or is it that he has seen the light and come to the realization that these powers and those beings possessing them are the real threat to the world. Higgins masterfully plays many of these cards excruciatingly close to his chest as he allows us a glimpse at the proverbial man behind the curtain.
The story begins in Metropolis 2028, a city in ruins, its heroes stacked like cord wood, dead or dying as a gun-toting Nightwing makes his way through the smoldering landscape, the iconic Daily Planet, once a beacon to the world now reduced to smoking rumble. This is the future Dick Grayson helped create. A future that he believes will be safer for the average person, the world’s human population. Higgins crafts a story particularly poignant when viewed through the lens of current events. This is not the Dick Grayson of his youth, in fact there is little resemblance to the wide-eyed optimist who once donned Robin’s impossibly bright yellow cape save his indefatigable willingness to dive head first into the fray albeit for greatly differing reasons now.
As engrossing as Nightwing is in the hands of Higgins, he is almost eclipsed in this narrative by the younger Grayson, if only for our curiosity to witness the father the elder has become. We have seen Bruce as father both surrogate and biological, but we have never been given the same chance to see how Dick’s life experience would define him as a father. That is one of the most intriguing elements of this book and Higgins does not disappoint. He gives us, in Dick Grayson, a father we can admire, one vastly divorced from the lurking killer we see in the opening of this story, but perhaps not so far from the wide-eyed optimist who learned to be a man at the hem of Batman’s cape. This is a son’s story about his father; Higgins adeptly uses Jake’s narration both as an instrument of praise and of criticism at times. The adult voice of this son is effectively juxtaposed with the events taking place on the page. Higgins give us a unique perspective by constructing the narrative in this inventive way.
The identity of Jake’s mother is scarcely hinted at by the end of this issue giving the story enough subplot to carry the narrative all by itself, however Higgins weaves that into a complex tapestry of events culminating in a revelation that explodes from the very last page. The characters drive this plot and although it does get narration heavy at times the pace never suffers for it. Quite to the contrary in fact Higgins uses Jake’s voice and perspective so well as a storytelling device that this issue could work as a prose piece, but then we would miss Trevor McCarthy’s sublime visuals.
McCarthy along with colorist extraordinaire Dean White bring this future Gotham to vivacious life complete with Blade Runner inspired architecture that feels somehow familiar while maintaining just enough of a futuristic edginess to make the whole thing work. There’s a kind of industrial tone to the visuals that calls to mind a soundtrack full of 90’s Ministry and Nine Inch Nails, the perfect cold, dissociative feel for a future without super-heroes. As far as villains go, Higgins gives us Arthur Light, but he is more of a catalyst to show us just how much Dick Grayson has changed from the Nightwing we used to know. The chase sequence between Light and Grayson is perhaps the action highlight of the book; McCarthy’s complex choreography pays off majorly as the two characters skitter and dance across the rooftops in a kinetically chaotic ballet beautifully rendered and surgically detailed. The overall visual effect of the book is gorgeous as it runs the gamut of sequential art storytelling and page design; from tight grid-like panel layouts to border-bursting images refusing to be contained by the page this book has it all artistically. The character designs are as genuine as they come especially the middle-aged Dick Grayson. McCarthy captures the aged look of a man who has given his life to a cause, but still has more to give, There is weariness to him without looking tired or spent, there is still life in the old guy and as you can see in McCarthy’s magical action sequences, this Nightwing can still fly.
Beyond being simply a future tale of little consequence set outside current continuity as is the case with many of these type of stories, The New Order is vital and exciting. It gives us a gripping tale to keep guessing at the next twist and reunites Nightwing with the writer who knows him perhaps even better than his creators, Kyle Higgins brings magic to this character and judging by this first issue he still has plenty of tricks up his sleeve. 4/5
Writer- Kyle Higgins
Artist- Trevor McCarthy
Colors- Dean White
Publisher: DC Comics