Dick Grayson: Nightwing No More

Before we go any further, it is important to point out that this post will contain full spoilers about DC’s Forever Evil event, so if you have been tradewaiting on it, or waiting until all issues are out, or any such thing, then you might want to give this a pass. However, if you don’t mind spoilers and/or you already know what’s happened in the event so far with Dick Grayson aka Nightwing, then read on and find out! The announcement-context of this post is from this article that was put up on the USA Today site a couple days ago (spoiler warning!).

Before the New 52, I didn’t really have that much of an interest in Dick Grayson and his Nightwing persona. I knew of him through the Batman: The Animated Series cartoons but that’s really about it. But when I got back into comics in 2012, among the first books I started reading was Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows’ Nightwing. It proved to be a surprisingly awesome read and I’ve stuck with the title ever since. I’ve fallen off in recent times, mostly because my pull lists have gotten too big and I had to cut corners somewhere. But with this new announcement about Nightwing’s fate, I anticipate that I’ll be getting caught up with the main series in short order and then jump on board with Grayson #1 when it debuts later this year.

Nightwing 01In the very first issue of Forever Evil, the Crime Syndicate of America captured Nightwing and in their worldcast they exposed the superhero’s civilian identity. In a flash, the entire world knew that Dick Grayson was Nightwing. In a series of short panels that followed that particular panel, we saw the reactions of Lex Luthor, Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) and Tim Drake (Red Robin). Whereas Lex Luthor wondered who the hell Richard Grayson was, Barbara and Tim knew exactly what was going on and what would undoubtedly happen. And then, just last month in Forever Evil #6, Dick Grayson apparently died, all thanks to Lex Luthor. The Crime Syndicate had strapped a bomb to Dick’s chest and the only way to defuse it was to kill him. Or something like that. That’s pretty how much that subplot ends in the issue.

Now, there are a few things.

With his civilian identity now exposed, Dick obviously cannot be Nightwing anymore. He was the original Robin ages ago. Then, as he grew up, he eventually changed his superhero moniker to Nightwing and even moved off from Gotham to Bludhaven. Sometime later, when Batman died (apparently!), Dick became Batman and took over the role and identity of his mentor, with Bruce’s son Damian as the new Robin. In the New 52 reboot, these events that took place over something like a decade or decade and a half have all been condensed to a mere five years because that’s how the executive DC editorial wanted to handle things. That has created some issues with the timelines and the overall feeling of the Batverse has been that things have been way too crowded. And bringing Dick back to Gotham has been something of a contentious issue as not a lot of fans liked the move. Dick has been a character who has fluctuated up and down in the New 52, but thankfully his solo title has been one of DC’s best-selling titles nonetheless.

With their various espionage/special ops oriented books like Secret Avengers, Black Widow and many others, Marvel has shown that these kind of books do work if they are given a chance. Marvel especially needs to be commended for bringing back Secret Avengers so soon after it was cancelled, proving that they have faith in the characters and the idea of this kind of a team. The same goes for Black Widow who has had several comics before, but none that worked too far in the long-term.

DC itself has tried out books like these, but with considerably less success. Team 7 comes to mind, as does Justice League of America to an extent, as far as the New 52 is concerned.

But then that’s the thing isn’t it? Characters need to be reinvented in a cycle so that they remain fresh and so that the publishers can take advantage of their uniqueness. While I don’t like how Geoff Johns has treated Nightwing in Forever Evil, I think that Dick’s change from a superhero to a superagent is a great move. For years we have seen him as a heroic vigilante, we have seen him become a sex symbol of sorts, the golden boy of the Bat-family, and more. He’s been through hell and back again and again, lost friends and family again and again. For Nightwing, as with all heroes, things have to end somewhere. They can’t go on being the same people year after year without change.

Change is needed. Change should be executed well. Change should interest and excite.

And that’s what I find best about Dick’s new status. I wondered often how Dick would deal with being publicly outed as a superhero. I wondered what would happen to the identity of Nightwing. Whether he would be a hero still in the same capacity or whether there would be some significant change. Now we have an answer.

Grayson 01Under the pen of veteran writer Tim Seeley along with new writer Tom King who happens to be a former CIA counter-terrorism officer and (one of my favourites) artist Mikel Janin, DC is going to launch Grayson in July. The above image is the cover for the first issue and the art is by Mikel Janin. I read on a forum that Mikel’s Dick looks a lot like Tom Cruise from the Mission Impossible movies. Well, I would totally agree that he does, but then Tom Cruise didn’t have the kind of training that Dick has had, nor the same experiences. Visually things might be similar and the comparison might be apt to a degree, but Dick Grayson as a special agent? Hell yeah I am on board with that. I have had mixed reactions to Tim’s writing, what little I’ve read of it, but having met him and discussed his work with him, I know that he is a dedicated writer who cares about his characters. In short, I trust him to do a decent job at the least. Mikel’s work on Justice League Dark has been excellent from day one so I expect him to continue in that vein.

The wild card here is Tom King. Verisimilitude please! An actual honest-to-god spy writing a superhero-spy comic? What’s not to love about that? He brings all the expertise of the craft and Tim brings the structure and framework and the familiarity with the character and the setting. Mikel brings the visual brilliance. To be perfectly honest, it is tough to imagine a better creative team going forward for Dick’s new solo series.

Since the launch of New 52, DC has tried out a lot of different things. And many of them have not worked out. Some of it was due to shoddy marketing, some of it due to shoddy execution, and some of it due to a whole nest of other reasons good and bad. What I can’t fault DC for though is that they’ve tried to make an effort at the least. Books like Katana, Justice League of America’s Vibe and The Movement got almost a year under their belt before cancellations (The Movement ends next month). Others like Static Shock, Grifter and Team 7 ran for a while but fizzled out in the end. Characters have thankfully appeared here and there in other books however, so there is some chance that they can come back eventually. How long, that is a matter of decision for DC executive editorial.

All I can hope for is that experiments like Grayson continue. I want them to succeed. Dick Grayson is one of the company’s most high-profile characters in comics, if not in live action, and he definitely deserves to stick around in a new world post-Crime Syndicate/Forever Evil. It is nice to see that he is not being discarded but is being reinvented going forward. That’s what I wished for in the first place. I trust this creative team to do its best, and I can only hope is that it resonates with readers. I’ll definitely be lining up to get that first issue.

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Posted on April 16, 2014, in Comics News, News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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