Nightwing: Traps and Trapezes starts off with dick returning to his heroic identity after serving a stint as batman. it's not explained why dick was standing in for his mentor. dick has set up a new headquarters in gotham city and eagerly looking forward to a life of his own again, away from the batcave. unfortunately, dick is immediately faced with a bit of drama when it's explained that the circus he was raised with before meeting batman has come to gotham city.
dick decides to face his fears of the ghosts and memories that have haunted him since he left haley's circus after his trapeze performing parents were murdered. much to his surprise, many of his old friends have either remained or returned to the circus over the years and all are pleasantly pleased to see the adult, grayson. meanwhile a sinister newcomer has come to gotham to eradicate dick grayson, "the fiercest killer of gotham." in rapid succession dick encounters his newest enemy, saiko, in both his civilian identity and as nightwing. saiko is just as trained a fighter as nighwing, and perhaps more deadly. also, raya, dick's first crush from his youth, leads the hero on a mysterious path to become the sole owner of the ailing circus when the original owner dies in nightwing's arms, leaving him with a cryptic message.
it quickly felt like there were several separate stories running at once through NTAT, but slowly, very slowly, several of these mysteries and events tie together. unfortunately, the flow of nightwing's owning the circus, searching out the identity of whoever is framing dick grayson, his rekindling relationship with raya, traveling with the circus while he seeks out mr. haley's killer, and saiko's involement -- gets interrupted by the arrival of batgirl (another old girlfriend) and the random attack of a demon controlled by the ex-wife of one of the circus performers. it's later explained that saiko's attacks, the murder of haley, and raya's interest in dick, tie loosely to an adventure batman underwent in his own series. this revelation totally upset the story, it seemed too coincidental. if this was the plan of writer, kyle higgins, there should have been more clues laid out for nighwing (and readers) to piece together on their own.
while higgins pens a realistic average joe, dick grayson, not hampered by the trappings of being adopted by bruce wayne, his expert superhero, nightwing, is a respected veteran and confident in his mission to do the right thing. though if you don't know basic batman mythology, i'm not sure this book would necessarily be easy to understand. the art of eddy barrows, eduardo panisca, and several other fill-in artists escalate nightwing's acrobatic escapades to thrilling heights. a minor qualm i had with some of the choreography of the fight scenes was when a character was trapped, he or she miraculously escape off panel to deliver a devastating counter attack. i'm not sure if it's lazy work on behalf of the writer, or anyone one of the many artists.
you can't help but like dick grayson who constantly has the odds stacked against him, yet never loses sight of the end goal and somehow manages to persevere. you thrill at his triumphs and lament when the good guy finishes last with romance or a disagreement with batman. disappointingly, dick does not show the prowess of a trained detective. it's obvious almost immediately that raya knows more than she's willing to explain, but dick doesn't even allude to his mistrust of a woman he's not seen in nearly two decades. Nightwing: Traps and Trapezes is fun, but confusing, expecting the reader to trust that clues will turn up or understand past events without much explanation. and again, the wrap was too simple, even with its complexity. i appreciate that NTAT ties into Batman: Court of Owls, as it shows that nightwing is firmly involved with the bat-family, but it should have been introduced earlier, instead of all at once. as it, it made it seem like a final chapter from Batman, not Nightwing. ultimately i would have preferred the start to a new series focused more on nightwing's new role in gotham city, rather than his past with with the circus. nightwing's future remains to be seen either under the big top or with the city of his heroic origin.