Nightwing 9

Today, Peter and Patrick are discussing Nightwing 9, originally released May 16th, 2012. This issue is part of the Night of the Owls crossover event. Click here for complete NotO coverage.

Peter: Excepting the main Batman title, Nightwing has been involved in the Night of the Owls more than any other book. Dick Grayson plays a huge role in the story, which has been incredibly compelling and just down right cool. Dick’s large role gives a deeper understanding and widens to scope of this event. Which is why it’s safe to say I love this book, and so should you.

Owls….it always comes back to the Owls. This story begins with a flashback to William Cobb’s past, as he courts Amelia Crowne.  Her father, Mr. Burton Crowne, does not approve of William and Amelia’s love. He tells William that since he isn’t powerful; he’s not important. Since he came from the dark, the filth, he will never make it to the light, the powerful, and there is no middle.

Cut back to the present. Dick and William are still fighting at city hall. Dick has just been stabbed several times. Pulling the knives out of himself, Dick rises to his feet, and tackles William out the window, down onto the street below. They fight the entire way down. William taunts Dick to impress him.

Flashback to William’s early life. He discovers that Amelia is pregnant, and Burton forbids William and Amelia to be together. Burton hides the pregnancy, marrying Amelia away to a second cousin. William falls into a deep depression, realizing that the people who matter the most see him as nothing.

Back in the present, Dick and William continue their fight. William reveals that the reason the Court woke him up first was because he was the best, and most trusted. During Bruce and Dick’s conversations earlier in the Cave, William could see and hear them. He mocks Dick about what he has become: a “second rate imitation of a naive man.” They continue to fight, and Dick falls down the stairs into the subway. William follows him, and pins him to the wall with his knives.

William then recounts his induction into the Court. After being approached by Haly, he volunteers to join with the Court. As a Talon, William begins making what he sees as a real difference in Gotham. But he realizes that to fill the void between the black and white of Gotham, the Court being the gray between them, that the best way to do this was to kidnap his child and deliver him to the circus to be raised for the Court. THIS IS WHERE THE NAME GRAYSON COMES FROM!!! William reveals to Dick that not only was he chosen to be a Talon, he was bred to be one. William tempts Dick again to become the great Talon of all time, because it his destiny. Dick then freezes him with the liquid nitrogen in the subway and carrying him up the stairs, replying that destinies don’t exist.

This issue was really great for the Night. We have commented that the non-Batman books have been pretty sparse in terms of story, all of them following the same basic formula. This is the next step after that. Kyle Higgins continues to weave intrigue with the history behind William Cobb and his involvement with the Court. I think the thing that most interests me is that – given the opportunity – William willingly joined the Court of Owls. When all seemed lost in his life, the Court was there for him. In comparison to all of the other Talons that have recounted their origins, or Ronny/Saiko, he willing chose his path. Ronny was taken, and forced through the training, and washed out. Since William mentioned that he was the most trusted and best Talon, it was because of his situation, and his motivation behind joining the Court.

The writing in his issue is superb, but I think everyone already knew that it would be. The transitions in and out of the flashback sequences are very well done, helping weave a continuous story. Higgins also continues developing William’s voice as we see him express deep emotions as a result of his lost love. Higgins also develops this really cool idea of the structure of Gotham.

This is a very thought provoking concept. The idea of what is in the middle, the gray area, that it is the Court. If the Court is the gray, where does Batman/Bat Family fit in? I hope that this continues in the following stories, because I would really like to know more about this and how it applies the Night of Owls.

The layouts in Nightwing also continue to be spectacular. They express great movement and convey the pace of the issue.

As William gets up, fixes himself, and walks closer to Dick, the panels get larger, indicating forward movement. These kind of layouts are all over this issue, and really elevate the whole book.

This book brings the William Cobb v Dick Grayson storyline to a close… I think. We will have to see next month in Nightwing #10. Suffice to say, I am incredibly anxious and excited to continue reading Nightwing as the Night of Owls continues on. Owls…it all comes back to the Owls.

Patrick: Someday, Peter, it won’t come back to Owls. But it’s May and that means that, yes: it does come back to Owls. We’ve been talking a lot about how awkward that is for most of Gotham’s denizens. Bruce’s connection to the Court is pronounced because of the actions he’s taken as The Batman, but Dick’s connection is innate. His lineage dictates that Owls would come a’calling for him someday. And that concept ties perfectly into the theme of identity that’s been pervasive throughout this series.

What’s really cool about this issue (and too a lesser extent, the previous issue), is that William Cobb shares the spotlight with Dick. Sure, other NotO books have given us the rough biographies of the Talons dispatched to murder Gotham’s elite, but William Cobb has the most real estate dedicated to the character’s identity. Hell, I know his name off the top of my head: I can’t say that about any other Talons.

Which makes me wonder if he can stick around. I know the Owls are going to have to lose in the end, and Gotham will belong to the Bats, but is there a lasting place in the DC Universe for Talon? I wouldn’t have thought there was a place for Red Hood after that whole fiasco, but he’s settled into an interesting little groove. Even if all the Talons are killed, there’s the pesky nature of their regenerative abilities that means we’ll never be definitively rid of them. Especially given how successful this event has been for DC, I’d guess that we will be seeing more of Mr. William Cobb.

The layouts you mentioned have been the Eddy Barrow’s MO since the first issue. The sort of square panels with edges that appear to curl, as though on a separate, distressed, piece of paper. It achieves a pretty cool kinetic effect, but it can also prove disorienting. I mean that as a compliment: that very first page showing Cobb’s history zig-zags back and forth. It grinds against my expectations just enough to feel airy and mysterious – the product of a memory from too long ago.

So, much as Luke Skywalker’s final battle with Darth Vader has more to do with Anakin than it does with Luke, the big emotional payoff here isn’t Nightwing’s: it’s Talon’s. Please, like Dick would ever fight along side the Court of Owls. DON’T BE STUPID. It’s a little bit disappointing that Dick isn’t a more active player in all this. Yeah, sure, he thinks to lure the Talon into the subway to leverage the liquid nitrogen in the pipes: fine. Batman had to overcome his fear of losing touch with his city – Nightwing just had to be clever.

Details I loved: I got a stupid little thrill from seeing Cobb in the Labyrinth and that giant owl-fountain. Some designs are just cool and imposing no matter who’s drawing them. Another thing I loved was this single panel from the Nightwing/Talon duel.

The past and the present melt away and these two characters duke it out against an empty background. Snow speckles their costumes and they’re light dramatically from below. It doesn’t make any physical sense, but it’s a great visual representation of what’s at play here. No tricks, no allies, no city: just an ancestor and a legacy fighting over their birth-right. Really cool choices there, art team.

You kind of imply that there’s more to Nightwing’s adventures in Talon-town, but it’s my understanding that Nightwing’s stay is only extended to these two and a half issues (part of 7, all of 8 and all of 9). Obviously, there’s all kinds of fallout from this we should expect to read in the pages of this series, but the Night itself might be over for Dick Grayson.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

25 comments on “Nightwing 9

  1. I believe that they have taken the fight to Chinatown and the snow is therefore representative of them being near Mr. Freeze.
    Also, I really loved how the explained the name Grayson, so cool.

    • We will be talking about the Chinatown brawl in our Red Hood write-up tomorrow morning!

      Also, while the explanation of “Gray Son” was telegraphed pretty early in the issue, it was still cool as hell.

    • There’s an interesting thought.

      Do we know anything else about Dick’s grandfather (the baby Cobb hands to Nathaniel at the end of his story)? That Dick was “bred” to be a Talon is kind of weird, since he’s, like, two generations out. I assume his parents had nothing to do with the court, but what about his grandfather?

  2. The coolest thing about the return of the labyrinth is that it’s apparently part of the Talon training regimen, which is weird. Clearly, Bruce had been sentenced to die down there, but it’s interesting that it has more than just that function.

  3. Man, I’m totally floored by how Higgins was able to tie this back to Dick’s own sense of identity. He prides himself on being his own man, so of course he’s going to reject Cobb’s assertions of destiny. Many other titles have put their pet themes on hold for the crossover, but Nigthwing’s manage to be amplified and refracted in astounding ways.

    I also like that Dick’s penchant for talking while fighting apparently runs in the family.

      • Oh, yeah, how cool was it when Cobb’s VO from the beginning returned as actual dialogue towards the end? It gives you a strange peek into his mind during that final scene in a way that I’ve never really seen done before.

        • Yeah – good point. That adds to the loopy, ethereal quality of that character’s headspace. William Cobb is a pretty good character – probably the best developed new villain we’re reading (maybe excepting NoBody).

  4. I like that this issue makes a point to say that Cobb was the best Talon, because frankly in all the other issues (maybe with the exception of Revolutionary-Exorcist-Talon from B&R) the Talons have failed to be the super soldiers they were hyped up to be. Both Batgirl and Red Hood’s Talons ended up disobeying the Court in their own ways and Catwoman’s was more worried about his knives than the target.

    I get that each writer has been trying to humanize their Talons to give the stories more depth, but after the powerhouse that Cobb presented in the early issues of Batman, the rest have fallen way short.

    • Yeah, but that one Talon killed Lincoln March – that’s an accomplishment… even though he was also shot and killed by March. Yeah, maybe there’s just no contest in the war between Owls and Bats.

      • A lot of the Talons succeeded in killing their targets (remember the back-up in Batman 9). I think a lot of the inconsitensies we’re seeing with the ease of dispatching Talons has to do with narrative necessity (getting most of our heroes in and out of the crossover in 20 pages), but many are getting some pretty big assists. Sure, Damian ends up finishing his Talon off on his own, but he does have the help of a whole batallion. The Birds are barely able to beat their Talon, and there are five of them. Babs and Jason have some turncoat Talons, which makes their job easier, but they put up a pretty good fight, first. Point is, a lot of people died on the Night of the Owls, in spite of the Bats’ best efforts.

    • That’s a really good point. Batman’s first disasterous run-ins with the Talons really made us feel their threat. Everyone else is beating their respective Talons on the first try. It makes sense, given that the other titles are done with the Owls after this month, but you’re absolutely right about how it just makes it feel like the Talons weren’t such a threat, after all. Cobb feels like a real threat to both Bruce and Dick.

      It also makes sense that the other Talons don’t feel as devoted to the Court’s cause as Cobb. It seems like most of them were just traded to the court as kind of assassin-slaves, which doesn’t stir the same kind of loyalty as Cobb’s star-crossed lover story. He believes in the court. The others are just doing their job.

        • The only people they managed to kill are those that didn’t get a super hero guardian to them in time. Talons are tougher than regular people, not as tough as a superhero.

        • So if one person was saved per title, that’s, what, 10 people? Weren’t they after something like 40?

        • Doomsday killed Superman. Superboy-Prime is pretty powerful. Black Adam destroyed an entire country and it took a large coalition of superheroes to bring him down. The list goes on. Yes, supervillians can be as tough as superheroes.

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