By Michael DeLaney
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Michael: As a whole, DC comic book readers are very protective of Dick Grayson. He’s the first Robin, the first one to leave the short pants behind, lauded as the sexiest man in the DCU, and just an all-around great guy. Nevertheless Mr. Grayson can never seem to completely escape Batman’s shadow — I can name a slew of my favorite Batman stories but barely any Nightwing stories. Nightwing 44 is Benjamin Percy and Christopher Mooneyham’s inaugural issue on the title, and they are setting out to explore what makes Dick Grayson unique from the very first page.
Nightwing 44 goes out of its way to paint Dick Grayson as an old soul, in the way that he acts socially, the way he fights crime, and even the city around him. Percy characterizes Dick’s old man attitude by his aversion to technology. The warm, personable acrobat doesn’t like the isolation and lack of connection that smartphone culture engenders.
Working as a personal trainer in his spare time, Dick trains his clients in a junk yard and dresses like Rocky Balboa. The city of Blüdhaven is an extension of Dick’s old-fashioned nature, as Mooneyham likens it to grimy 1970s New York City. Take a look at the opening page:
Blüdhaven has typically been portrayed as an even worse, dirtier version of Gotham City. Mooneyham’s depiction suggests that it is so poor and weathered that on the whole it hasn’t modernized past the late ’80s. The first panel looks like vintage Scoresese: the movie theater marquee, the subway signs, newspaper dispensers and trash blowing through the wind as our hero wanders off into the dark night. It’s like Batman: Year One — which Frank Miller in part based off of Scorsese films like Taxi Driver.
I like the decision to make Dick so technology independent — it’s an interesting character quirk that further distinguishes him from the rest of his Bat-family. While it’s true that Batman is much more than his gadgets and vehicles, they are a defining characteristic of how the Dark Knight operates. Making Nightwing more of a “street hero” further humanizes an already very relatable character.
It’s clear to me that Percy shares that same affection for Dick Grayson that most of us do, especially by highlighting the importance of his relationship with Barbara Gordon. The perennial “will they/won’t they” questions aside, Barbara is one of Dick’s oldest friends and one of the few people who knows both aspects of his life. And of course when there’s a technological problem in Blüdhaven he turns to the smartest woman he knows. Since Barbara knows Dick so well, she’s the perfect person to criticize and challenge Dick’s worldview and opinion on technology.
During his time writing Green Arrow, Percy liked to give some nods and Easter eggs to old stories and creative teams for the Emerald Archer. Here he does more of the same by when Dick says he is 78 — since his character was introduced in 1940. Clever, clever Mr. Percy.
The villainous plot of this team’s first arc: “The Bleeding Edge” is still a mystery, which is a good move in my opinion. Nightwing 44 spends a decent amount of time hinting at something being amiss with the new hologram projector “Phantasm,” but focuses mostly on who Dick Grayson is at this moment in time.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?