Batgirl removes the Dark Web implant in Nightwing, and he subsequently goes to speak with Vicki Vale at Gotham Four News. Every news outlet in Gotham has been jammed, hacked, and stifled. He finds a Terminal in the Gotham Four headquarters, but it gets away. Soon, a personality calling herself Karna Shifton begins broadcasting all over Gotham, getting everyone, from civilians to cops and politicians, to admit to the worst things they've ever done. Nightwing knows this must be connected to the Dark Web and goes after Shifton.
Nightwing Annual #1 is a beautiful catastrophe of a comic book. I am genuinely in awe of how bad this comic really is.
I've nothing against comics being political, and I have nothing against a comic tackling the issue of the damage internet hacker culture can perpetrate. However, Nightwing Annual #1 fails spectacularly at doing so.
It also tries to tackle the issue of trust in news media, the prominence of shock tabloids, and organizations intentionally obfuscating the truth. It flops even harder in this regard.
The luddite streak is still present, as Dick often pines for the good old days when technology was less intrusive. That's hilarious considering Dick must be about my age in the comics now, so he's pining further back than he can remember.
Speaking of pining for a time before one's birth, there is a line of dialogue about Walter Cronkite in here that evokes the image of a walker-wielding baby-boomer with zero understanding of the fact that they trusted Cronkite came partially from the fact that he had no real competition to challenge anything he said or the perpetuation of corporate-controlled media outlets needing to maintain a status quo in which to sell goods.
By the way, the villain, in response to Dick's weird Cronkite comment literally says, "Maybe the news used to bring people together, but now it's one of the most effective ways to tear them apart." This comic is so eager to turn towards the reader and directly deliver its message that it's hero and villain are basically in agreement on things.
One thing that gets me is that the comic never says who is behind this lack of trust in mainstream media or who is behind it. Nothing about corporate interests, foreign powers, a need of maintaining a status quo in which to sell things, or social media outlets selling our information is present. It's all blamed on the Dark Web, and not the literal Dark Web; it's the Dark Web that is the villain organization in this Nightwing plotline that uses technology and wi-fi like it's literal Doctor Fate magic. It has this message it wants to deliver but not the conviction to actually pin the blame on any causes or entities.
I'm coming down hard on Benjamin Percy here, and I don't love doing that. I loved his Green Arrow run, and it had similar convictions and messages it wanted to get across to the reader. It wasn't always graceful in doing so, but it was far more coherent.
There is one sequence in this comic that I unironically love. Batgirl gets Dick a Bat-Semi mobile headquarters. It is a big truck with a massive trailer, it's painted like the Batmobile, and it has a motorcycle in the back. It's beautiful.
We haven't even gotten to the ludicrous tech-themed wordplay reminiscent of a 1990's internet horror movie. That well goes deep in this comic, and it continually surprised me with how bad it was. The plot is meandering, ridiculous, and never adequately explained. It's also prone to time jumps that are in no way signaled towards the reader.
I often like Otto Schmidt's artwork, but this comic is not on par with what I've come to expect from the artist. A lot of the detailing seems undercooked, the linework is less clean than usual, and the color art feels too light.
Nightwing Annual #1 stumbles on just about every front. The dialogue is often laughable, it tries to tackle subjects that it can't get a grip on, the plot is loose and not compelling, and the artwork does not gel. I almost want to recommend it for how bad it really is, but I'm not that kind of reviewer. I suggest giving it a hard pass.