by Michael DeLaney
This article contains SPOILERS! If you haven’t read the issue, proceed at your own risk.
Typically, a write-up from Retcon Punch would consist of one or two writers sharing their observations and interpretations of a given comic book issue. This write-up, however, will be something else entirely. As the title suggests, I find myself asking the question “What the hell happened to Nightwing?”
In recent months DC released solicits for Benjamin Percy’s Nightwing 50 – where they teased that Dick Grayson would suffer a “devastating injury” that would also tie into Tom King’s Batman. Shortly thereafter we got a glimpse at the issue’s cover, zeroing in on a scar on Grayson’s freshly shaved head. Solicits and speculation is an unfortunate part of the comic book game — exacerbated by the internet – but that’s the world we live in.
Flash-forward to two weeks ago, where Batman 55 culminated in KGBeast shooting Nightwing in the head. The thread is then picked up in an extra-sized Nightwing 50, which presumably takes place some weeks/months after the gunshot, since ‘ol Dickie is walking around and not lying in a hospital bed.
Nightwing 50 also marks the exit of series writer Benjamin Percy, who took over the series a mere 6 issues (and one annual) ago with Nightwing 44. I will not hide the fact that I was super stoked to have Percy taking over the series, as his run on Green Arrow was one of the highlights of the Rebirth era.
In Green Arrow Percy tackled the hateful politics of our time, and Nightwing’s “Hardwire” storyline addressed the frightening nature of our relationship with technology. That particular plot ended unresolved, jumping forward to Dick’s life after the gunshot.
Writers leave books, it happens. Whether or not Percy left Nightwing because of the hero’s new status quo, we may never know. But if you look back at those press releases and interviews, Percy spoke as if he had at least one more arc in him for Nightwing post-brain trauma and wanted to see this particular story through.
Then there is Nightwing 50 itself, which only adds to the speculation. It would seem that KGBeast’s bullet caused some serious damage to the former Boy Wonder – essentially leaving him a different man entirely.
Percy’s script implies that at some point Dick was informed of his former life – both secret and civilian identities – but there is lot of it that he doesn’t remember. Nor does he care to.
Nu Dick Grayson spends his days working out, drinking at dive bars, getting into fistfights, treating himself to the homes of Bludhaven’s wealthy elite and stopping the occasional robbery. Barbara Gordon functions as the reader’s avatar, begging for him to “come home” and try to put his old life back together. Dick – or Richard, Grayson, Ric, Gray, Rich – doesn’t have any desire to dwell on the past.
I don’t believe that Percy is this kind of writer, but it’s hard not to interpret this sequence as a message of “fuck you, things are different, get over it.” We feel for Babs because we love Dick Grayson, and this version of him…is kind of a douchebag. She scoffs at the idea of Dick embracing his new life, because his new life…seems pretty meaningless.
The whole thing is so bizarre and I can’t wrap my brain around it. Amnesia happens in comics because, comics. Compare this to a story like Scott Snyder’s “Superheavy” arc of Batman, where Bruce Wayne’s mind and body got a complete reset. Except in Snyder’s case, he had a plan to see that through to its conclusion. Instead we get…
On the one hand, this is probably a good way for a new writer to start his take on the character. On the other, that writer is…Scott Lobdell. I am not crazy about the man’s work, nor am I super happy that he is in charge of not one but two former Robins. Nightwing is dead…long live Nightwing?
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?
I don’t hate this amnesiac Dick character, but I could enjoy his story a lot more if he wasn’t, y’know, Dick Grayson. It bums me out how much they jerk his character around. And Michael is right, this is a particularly unusual turn of events, and I can’t help like King’s decision to do this to Dick pushed Percy off the book. Bummer.
I’ll give them this much, though: Travis Moore’s take on skinhead Grayson is hot as hell
I actually find that hotness an effective criticism of this shitty transition. The one immutable thing about Dick Grayson, that will stay with him no matter what his codename is, no matter what city he operates in, no matter who writes or draws him: he’s got the hottest ass in comics. It’s the quintessential “we know you’ll come back to this character” move.
Where are the butt shots I ask you? I didn’t even touch on the B-story of Nightwing 50, where they are trying to build up Robin as the one person who got to Scarecrow. Yeeeeeah…not buying that for a minute.