Death of the Family is over and all of the Bat-titles that took part in the crossover event are going back to business as usual. All of them, that is, except for Nightwing. Of all the members of the batfamily, no one got hit harder than Dick Grayson. I would argue that even Batman himself wasn’t as affected by the Joker as Nightwing. The Amusement Mile project Dick was working on? Destroyed. It’s nothing but ashes now. His friend Jimmy? Dead. His ex-girlfriend Raya? Dead. And Nightwing himself took quite the beating too.
We’re definitely not going into a brand new arc too soon. Author Kyle Higgins has delivered a rather slow issue (deservedly so since the last 2 issues were non-stop action) that isn’t concerned about presenting a new threat for our hero until a final page reveal that I think is going to get a lot of people excited. What it does focus on is Nightwing’s recovery. Hell, everyone’s recovery. If you thought that maybe the batfamily as a whole wouldn’t get along after Death of the Family, you can cast those ideas aside right now. Dick spends time with Alfred, Damian, and Barbara. They are all incredibly supportive of one another, they are all still reeling from what has happened, and rest assured that something must have happened in that moment alone with Joker before Batman awoke at the table. The very first pages you see here are of batarangs, wingdings, and a shattered red helmet lying in the debris. We don’t know what happened in that altercation Joker spoke of in Batman #17 but it’s alluded to here. Well, that or the folks working on this comic didn’t know what exactly Scott Snyder had planned while they were illustrating the book and just drew some cool aftermath imagery. Either way, it’s a nice way to open up the comic and it hooked me immediately. I was happy to see we weren’t going to be moving on from recent events without a second thought.
However, it looks like there’s some rubble drawn on the floor of the main batcave as well. As if the brawl from Batman #17 took place here. It didn’t. The point was that Joker didn’t make it into the cave. It could just be that fill-in artist, Ryp, was taking artistic license with how the cave looked though. I mean, it’s a cave. It would have rocks all over the place. But the hardcore, nitpicky Batman fan in me says that Alfred would’ve swept all that up!
It was peculiar to see just how terrible Nightwing looked compared to everyone else. Honestly, Alfred should look the worst since he was dosed with more toxins than anyone and really shouldn’t even be upright. Damian also looks A-okay in the book’s opening scene, but Nightwing’s suit is in tatters and he’s dripping blood. I know I said that Nightwing had been affected by the Death of the Family event the most but I would’ve liked to have seen these other characters appearing a little more ragged. That being said, I really liked Ryp’s artwork on this comic. He did an issue of Batman: Arkham Unhinged that looked very good as well. I love everything he drew here except Dick Grayson’s face. It’s oddly inconsistent, coming off as unusually round and almost pudgy in some panels and totally gaunt in a later scene at a Gotham hospital. However, other than Grayson himself, everything else in that hospital looked fantastic. He used the TVs on the walls as added panels for the comic and rendered an incredibly high amount of detail around every patient’s bed. Later action scenes looked terrific as well proving that Ryp has astounding range. I’d like to see more from him in future bat titles.
Back to the elements of the story though, the comic is essentially made up of conversations between Dick and the supporting cast about where exactly we go from here that can range from hopeful to downright depressing. I’ve long said that one of the great strengths of this book is its supporting cast and you really see that put on display here. Kyle Higgins has made great use of the bat-bench, even finding a role for Lucius Fox these past few months. I would like to see one of the bat-titles step up and utilize Leslie Thompkins, however. All of these conversations play out well enough and there are even some really funny moments that alleviate the overall somber tone. The only one-on-ones that I took issue with were with Gordon and Barbara. As you’ll see from the comic’s preview, which is online now, Dick calls Gordon to the scene of Raya’s death. This would be mere hours, really, after the event and yet Gordon appears to be 100% healthy now too despite bleeding from every pour just a day or so ago. My problem with Nightwing and Gordon’s talks is that… How does Gordon not identify Dick? There’s a lot of suspension of disbelief when it comes to a hero in a domino mask, but Gordon has to know who Nightwing is at this point. They are meeting in broad daylight and Nightwing only has half a domino mask left at this point in the story. Seriously, Gordon drove Dick and Barbara to prom. He knows what the guy looks like. There’s really no way that Gordon can not know that Dick and Nightwing are one and the same. And as for Barbara, it’s a good talk. Both her and her father’s talk with Grayson are well and good but there are these nitpicky things that stand out to me. With Commissioner Gordon it was the obvious identity thing and with Barbara it’s the fact that she addresses Dick as “Richard” the whole time. Gail Simone apparently started this with the first Batgirl/Nightwing team up in the New 52, but it just feels far too formal.
Something else you’ll likely pick up on from the comic’s preview pages is that Dick mentions that he must attend a couple of funerals. This sounds like a cop-out at first but don’t worry about it. There’s a pretty great moment that comes along later in the book that makes the lower body count feel almost more tragic. And that’s basically what this comic is: one tragic scene after another that illustrates just how crappy it is to be Dick Grayson right now. You love him because he’s trying so hard to persevere. We all know him as the hopeful one and he feels the pressure of that. He knows that everyone is expecting him to rise above all of this, but it’s easier said than done. Watching all of his friends and family come to his side to help prop him up in his time of need and restore his confidence makes for a pretty satisfying read. Of course, there is some action as well but I wont’ spoil any of that for you.
This was a great epilogue to the events of Death of the Family. Make sure to skip the Channel 52 News segment at the back of this week’s DC comics though. It seems to spoil something that won’t be happening in Nightwing for another issue or two.