Dick Grayson has been a busy guy. He has been able to improve Bludhaven as Nightwing, took over as Batman for a period, helped Bruce Wayne through his personal crisis and leading the Titans as the key defenders of Earth. Just as he was settling into these roles and other responsibilities Nightwing was shot in the head by KGBeast in front of Batman and Commissioner Gordon. With this life changing event taking place there are now a lot of questions as to where DC Comics is planning on taking Dick Grayson now. Let’s find that out now by checking out Nightwing #50.
Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artists: Travis Moore, Chris Mooneyham and Klaus Janson
Colorists: Tamra Bonvillain, Nick Filardi and John Kalisz
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At a diner in Bludhaven Dick Grayson is reading the paper and drinking coffee with some whiskey. As he does so Dick remembers being shot in the head, suffering memory loss, mood swings, blackouts and other effects from being shot, forcing him to relearn everything.
Someone comes in and holds the waitress up at gunpoint. Dick tells the guy he just won big. The guy takes Dick’s wallet and starts running away. Dick knocks the guy out by throwing his coffee mug at him and then pays for his meal.
Sometime in the past Batman and Robin (Dick Grayson) make their way to Gotham University while bantering about each other’s choices of style.
Inside the auditorium Scarecrow has force shut several people’s eyes and mouths. Scarecrow then declares that he will share all the knowledge he has gathered from his “field research.”
As he does that Batman and Robin break in to stop him. Scarecrow tries to use his fear gas on the Dynamic Duo but they are wearing gas masks. Batman then turns the fear gas against Scarecrow, who passes out when he sees Robin’s nightmare form.
In the present, Dick is shown participating in underground fights, playing pool at bars and riding his motorcycle. While visiting Wayne Manor and walking through Bludhaven at night Dick thinks about how he does know who “Nightwing” or “Dick Grayson” are. He thinks how he was scared at first about how he has turned into a ghost of sorts but its become easier.
Sometime in the past Scarecrow wakes up in his cell in Arkham Asylum. He talks to himself how he hates the boy who fears nothing as he sees a nightmare Robin above him.
Back in the present Dick gets a job as a taxi driver. One of the other drivers warns Dick about the job but Dick says he looks forward to all of it.
In the past, over at Arkham the attendant keeping an eye on Scarecrow sees that the villain is trying to hang himself. The guy enters the cell and gets Scarecrow down. Scarecrow wakes up and uses a tooth he laced with his fear gas to cause the attendant to kill himself out of fear. Scarecrow uses this as a chance to escape.
Back in the present, Dick wakes up in someone’s home. He decides to make himself breakfast and watch TV. The residents of the house suddenly show up so Dick quickly leaves before they spot him, but leaves behind some cash to pay them back.
While walking back to his taxi cab Dick is confronted by Barbara Gordon. Dick tells Barbara that he does not remember her and does not need her help. Barbara tries to tell Dick how he needs help as he is just breaking into other’s home when not sleeping in his taxi. She then mentions how he has friends that want to support him, including herself. Dick says he does not need friends and just wants to look to the future.
Barbara follows Dick into the Prodigal Bar. Barbara asks what happened to the Dick Grayson she knew. Dick says he got shot in the head. The others in the bar make fun of Barbara calling him Dick since they know he as Ric and Gray. Dick says he doesn’t care what his name is and is just going to live his life.
In the past while swinging through Gotham City Robin is attacked by some crows. Robin catches himself on a ledge. Scarecrow appears on a nearby rooftop to mock Robin. Robin says he wants to thank Scarecrow for helping him make some changes and decides to test his prototype escrima sticks on the villain.
In the present, Batgirl tells Batman that Dick doesn’t realize how they need him but he won’t listen since he won’t want to return to something he can’t remember. Barbara takes off her mask and admits she is afraid they lost him. Batman states it might be for the best as it’ll be a chance for a fresh start for Dick.
Over in Bludhaven Dick recklessly drives through traffic to get his customer to their destination.
In a nearby apartment the Bludhaven PD have set up a crime scene. While Detective Svoboda talks to the autopsy team she learns that the victim somehow drowned in his sleep. It is shown that the person killed is holding a crows feather in his hand.
At Nightwing’s subway headquarters Dick looks at all of his superhero equipment and reflects on how everything there is a thing of a past. He decides to burn the place to the ground and walks away as the Nightwing HQ is consumed by flames. End of issue.
The Good: In its own way Nightwing #50 is a celebration of who Dick Grayson was before he was shot in the head. Through the character’s new status quo we get to see Benjamin Percy lay the foundation for who Dick will be moving forward as Richard Grayson. In the process we are reminded on the person Dick’s friends, family and fans lost.
At no point in Nightwing #50 does Percy avoid the big elephant in the room that is Dick Grayson getting shot in the head. Percy completely embraces the major event that happened outside the Nightwing series over in Batman #55. By embraces this event Percy is able to put over how it completely changed who Dick is. Even when we do see hints that the Dick Grayson fans know is still there, a major focus of Nightwing #50 is not on that. Instead it is on putting over how this series will be about moving ahead.
Having Dick Grayson actually be the one that does not want to focus on regaining his memories or anything to do with his old life was actually refreshing. It is completely different from what is normally expect from this type of event in a character’s life. Even if there is a part of Dick that wants to regain his old life that is not who he wants to be now.
The opening does a good job of setting this part of the story up. As we catch up with how Dick ended up at the diner we see that his focus is more on just regaining his old skills. Each thing that Dick does, from becoming a taxi driver, underground fighter, racing junkie, gambler and bar regular, it is all somehow connected to his old life.
At the same time while we do see these old skills come out Percy emphasizes that Dick is not looking to go back to his life of Nightwing. Throughout Nightwing #50 we see that this new Dick Grayson sees this as a way to reboot his own life. That rebooted life does make him out to look like a jerk as he turns away anyone’s help. While coming off as a jerk it is tough to blame him as he has gone through a traumatic experience and the way he is dealing with it does put that fact over.
Having Barbara Gordon be the one that reaches out to Dick the most was a great way to drive all of this home. At no point did Barbara come off as pushy. Instead she was shown to be a friend that was concerned for someone she is extremely close to. The interaction between the two built on the last few months were we’ve seen Dick and Barbara’s relationship grow stronger in the Batman comics. That strengthen foundation made Barbara calling Dick out on how he is dealing with being shot in the head more heartbreaking to see Dick tell Barbara to leave him alone.
The harsh way things were left made Barbara telling Batman about everything even more effective. Barbara was clearly broken hearted over the state Dick was in. Unfortunately Batman is not in the best place right now to help Dick through all of this. Even if it was tough to see Batman tell Barbara that this was for the best works with current events. After all, before being shot in the head Dick was actually trying to help Bruce out with his crisis of character after being left at the altar. Given that recent history Percy characterizing Batman in this way was a logical way to present the character’s reaction.
This scene made the flashback scenes even more effective as we did get to see how Bruce and Dick were as Batman and Robin. The dynamic between the two has not been seen since they were partners. Seeing the two in action builds an strong sub-plot of how Bruce will continue to choose to deal with Dick’s current status quo. It creates the questions as to when Bruce will actually talk to Dick and how that meeting will end up.
Everything we saw him go through made the final scene with Dick burning his Nightwing HQ a strong note to end this issue. The entire scene put the nail on the coffin of the old Dick Grayson not being around anymore. It is now time to get used to learning who Dick will be moving forward, something both fans and the character will have to learn. Whether that is the long-term idea or not at least Percy set all the building blocks for the future creative team to construct a great, new direction.
On a smaller note, it was interesting to see Percy use the fact that Dick is now going by Ric and Richard. It’s a slight change but puts over how the character is now putting everything about his previous life behind him. Now going by Richard Grayson could finally transition the character away from a name that is a joke for many.
The flashback scenes also did a good job in building up Scarecrow to be the first villain Dick Grayson will face in his new status quo. The connection between the two, going back to Dick’s Robin days, was an easy one to make. We know that with his history that Dick has a history with all of Batman’s villains. Scarecrow in particular will force Dick to tackle his own problems as the fear gas will likely force our hero to deal with the traumas he’s been through.
For an art-by-committee issue Nightwing #50 actually turned out looking great. Travis Moore, Chris Mooneyham and Klaus Janson did a good job in matching each other’s styles. There was never a point that the artwork looked jarring, which is a major compliment to all the artist. They worked together well to make put over Dick Grayson’s current status quo. Credit also to the coloring team of Tamra Bonvillain, Nick Filardi and John Kalisz to help maintain the consistent art style throughout Nightwing #50.
The Bad: For how well Nightwing #50 did in tackling how Dick Grayson decided to move forward not everything worked about the story presentation. What was particularly tough to see is that Barbara was the only one that was actually shown reaching out to talk to Dick. While it made sense that Bruce didn’t talk to him, it was odd that Alfred Pennyworth did not attempt to do so. Seeing him in the Batcave along with Batman and Batgirl just brought this up to question. Even if it was a heartfelt letter that was featured in one panel, it would’ve help drive home how much Dick’s current state of mind was affecting everyone.
Though I look forward to Scarecrow being the main villain of this story arc his motivations left something to be desired. There wasn’t enough of a connection to convince the reader that Scarecrow would go after Nightwing rather than Batman. Afterall, the one that defeated Scarecrow was Batman and not Robin. To put this rivalry over we there needed to be a montage of times that Dick as Robin and Nightwing defeated or at least thwarted Scarecrow’s plans. Without that connection there is no reason to believe Scarecrow would move Bludhaven over Gotham City.
Overall: Nightwing #50 does a great job setting up Dick Grayson’s new status quo after he was shot in the head. In embracing this life changing event Benjamin Percy is able to build a strong foundation to explore Dick Grayson’s character in an intriguing new direction. That new direction is made even more compelling by how characters like Batman and Batgirl reacted to Dick’s status quo. If you are a Batman fan I recommend picking this issue up.