Nightwing has been shot through the head. Not (Night)winged, properly shot.
Some time later, we see Dick Grayson’s new life.
He’s couch surfing without asking permission.
Drinking, gambling and fighting for fun.
Ignoring the entreaties of the woman who cares most for him in the world.
And burning his superhero bridges. Literally.
So yeah, this is what you would call a Bold New Direction. But is it a wise one? Things people like about the original Robin include his sense of humour and charm, which are gone. His acrobatics, which are absent. His lovely locks, shaved by doctors. His position as everyone’s bestie, rejected. His tendency to be the most beefcake of the super-set.
Okay, writer Ben Percy and artists Travis Moore and Chris Mooneyham haven’t thrown everything out… Dick has been parading around in tiny briefs since the Forties and this is quite the update. As for the rest, though, I don’t think this is the Nightwing for me. If there were a starburst on the cover announcing that this is a six-part story, allowing me to assume Dick is himself again soon enough, fine, I could relax and watch this stranger finding his way back to himself. But there’s no indication this is anything but an indefinite new direction, and knowing that DC Big Poobah Dan DiDio isn’t a Nightwing fan, I could see this going on for quite a while. Not forever, because the fans don’t want a DC Universe without Dick in it. A DC Universe in which everyone makes fun of that very make. A DC Universe without the joy Dick brings to the world of Batman… grim Dick with a different haircut? That’s Red Hood, and one of him is more than enough.
Which isn’t to say this is a badly done comic. Percy, Moore and Mooneyham do a fine job presenting Dick’s new life.
Flashback sequences throughout the issue drawn by the great Klaus Janson hint at a big confrontation coming with Scarecrow; the problem is, they emphasise how great Dick is by giving us the guy everyone loves. A larger than life ‘laughing, fighting, young daredevil who scoffs at danger…’ It likely isn’t a coincidence that Percy has Jonathan Crane’s lunatic cry in his script:
What to make of it all? My guess is that Percy had an end in sight, and that’s why he’s not going to complete this storyline – he’s been removed, with Scott Lobdell announced as the new regular writer. Lobdell has his good qualities, but my word, he can string out a storyline and no mistake. I’m guessing DiDio and co want an ‘edgier’ Dick, perhaps to match the ‘F*** Batman’ guy from the upcoming TV Titans.
I don’t know. I do know that I had similar problems here as I had with this week’s Green Arrow #45. Dick lives in a world of super-scientists who could retrieve his lost memories, empaths who would offer counselling, a spy organisation which almost certainly has his personality on file, friends who, as Babs says, would take him in and look after him as everything – everything – is tried to make their friend whole again. And it’s not enough to have Dick (yeah, Dick, wanna make something of it?) say he doesn’t want to go back, or Batman, in his one scene, state that perhaps it’s better for Dick to have a clean slate, a fresh start.
Bollocks. This is Batman, the most controlling hero in comics. There is no way he’d allow his adopted son to mooch around one of America’s most dangerous cities with brain damage and motor function problems, like the world’s wealthiest vagrant, driving a taxi while prone to blackouts.
I’ll likely stick with this book for as long as Percy is around, and if we get this issue’s artists as his partners, so much the better – a shout-out, too, to talented colourists John Kalisz, Tamra Bonvillain and Nick Filardi, and letterer Carlos M Mangual. But I can see myself jumping off this series very quickly – Dick Grayson is a unique hero, he’s not just one more Robin, he’s the original, the greatet – and he doesn’t need fixing.