*Warning: Spoilers Ahead*
We’ve witnessed the introduction of Raptor.
We’ve endured the rise of Raptor.
Now, we see the fall of Raptor.
One of Tim Seeley’s stated goals for Nightwing has been to give Dick a memorable rogues gallery. Given how great of a character he is and how long he’s endured in the comics medium, it’s kind of surprising that his list of enemies is pretty spare. Even the more memorable foes like Blockbuster were carryovers from Batman, so a plan to introduce fresh, formidable enemies for Nightwing is long overdue.
Where Orca fits in there remains to be seen, but kudos for having the guts to bring back Orca oh my gosh.
With that mission in mind, Raptor is a pretty good start. He’s morally grey as opposed to outright evil, though some of his actions are pretty inexcusable, and he’s charming enough that he’s almost likeable.
Until you remember that he’s actually kind of sleazy, that is. He’s remained enough of a cypher to keep an air of mystery, while just enough information has trickled out to hint at more sinister motivations.
Now, after… wow, it’s only been four months? Huh. Such is the wonder and gift of double-shipping.
Anyway, after four months of build-up, four months of slowly pulling the curtain back, Seeley has finally ripped it wide open. Here, Raptor is laid bare.
Here, he is made refreshingly human.
Revealing that Raptor had a connection with Dick’s mom could have gone so many places, and a lot of them bad. Were they lovers? Does Dick have a half-sibling out there? Worse yet, was John not his father?
If you’ll forgive me, it was a tricky tightrope that Seeley had to walk to make this a retcon worth telling. Step too far one way and you anger the fans, and too far the other way makes one wonder if it was worth it. Dick’s circus days have already been altered so many times over the years that the well has almost been drained dry.
Seeley does not teeter too far one way or the other, I’m glad to say, and he succeeds in making Raptor sympathetic. For that, I’m quite thankful.
What’s most astonishing is how simple and believable his backstory is: a poor outcast finds companionship with a fellow vagabond, and in doing so develops a love that would go unrequited to the day she died. Raptor was a literal outcast from society, stricken with leprosy and shunned by his peers, not knowing any sort of grace or compassion until a young girl dared to befriend him. It’s a story that could have easily turned sappy, but it’s made clear from the beginning that Raptor’s affections were one way and one way only. Mary cared for him when they were children, but his obsessive nature made her increasingly uncomfortable over the years.
Even so, and despite his misplaced anger toward the wealthy, Raptor is still sympathetic. He’s a man who was literally on the outskirts of society, never loved by anyone because he couldn’t get the medication that could easily cure him. That revelation was an incredibly clever way of explaining how he’s impervious to pain, too. He wasn’t in some accident or struck by lightning or mutated by some radioactive meteor. He was simply a sick man who got better, while still feeling the side effects of his illness.
That doesn’t mean his entirely in the right, though. There is corruption among the wealthy, there’s no doubt about that, and his hatred toward Bruce is at least consistent with his view of people who “don’t deserve” what they can afford. It’s still a woefully narrow-minded mindset, but one that too many people have: the idea that someone with a different worldview is wrong simply because it differs from yours. There’s no attempt at understanding or empathizing, which is ironic given that Raptor is obsessed with the one person who ever showed him empathy.
The point I’m getting at is that Seeley didn’t give Raptor an “easy” origin, but a realistic one. I may not have agreed with what he was doing, but I still believed that he believed it was the right thing to do.
That doesn’t make his ultimate plan with Bruce airtight, though; he wants Bruce to die by having a silver spoon be driven into his heart (ho ho) once Wayne Enterprises stock reaches a $200 a share high. How do I know this? Because Raptor explains this.
Over like four pages.
I get that he isn’t exactly a cold-blooded murderer, always deferring to suyolak for the best solution to a problem, but it’s still a little too “Batman ’66 deathtrap” for Raptor. And make no mistake, I love Batman ’66 if you somehow weren’t aware, but like all things its tone and style doesn’t fit with everything.
Just most things.
As relatively thin as it may be, Raptor’s plan does allow for some pretty entertaining action scenes. Fernández’s pencils have been getting bigger and more energetic each week, and there are some genuinely stunning images here. Quieter moments like Raptor’s flashback to his childhood are sepia toned, evoking an old black-and-white film. Even small details look great, like the image of Raptor picking a piece of his shattered mask from the bridge of his nose.
Fernández and Sotomayor have settled into a great groove with really good chemistry, giving Nightwing a unique look that still retains plenty of heart.
That splash page there is great, not just in its composition but in its meaning. Bruce and Dick have had a strained relationship the past few months, there’s no questioning that. Whether it’s fully developed or not is a question for another time, but these two men who care for each other aren’t as close as they once were. You can tell that Dick regrets putting any amount of trust in Raptor, though, all but eschewing his influence in favor of saving his true mentor. Dick knows that he’s the way he is because he wasn’t allowed to become like Bruce. He’s a light in darkness because he had a Batman to train him. Batman was there to keep Robin from succumbing to his rage.
And because of that, Bruce knows that Dick won’t let him fall.
- You love Nightwing.
- You want to find out Raptor’s backstory.
Overall: Nightwing has been remarkably strong since its relaunch, and this is a fitting end to the first arc. If Seeley is setting out to give Dick a great rogues gallery, then Raptor is a good start. The sympathetic backstory make him a far more compelling character than he could have been, and I appreciate that Seeley didn’t cop out and make him misunderstood or apologetic. Nightwing is truly back in fine form. Now bring on Superman, Blüdhaven, and whatever the future holds.