Everything that Dick Grayson has been through in the past has been thrown out the window, including his life as Nightwing. That is all thanks to KGBeast shooting Nightwing in the head during a normal night out on patrol with Batman. While Dick Grayson survived being shot in the head he has been left like a blank slate who has decided to throw his old life to the side. The first sample of what Dick Grayson’s new status quo was given to us in Nightwing #50. That issue solidified that Dick Grayson is Nightwing no more. What that will mean for this ongoing series is now any one’s guess except for Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza who are coming on as the new writers for Nightwing. Let’s find that out now with Nightwing #51.
Writer: Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Travis Moore and Garry Brown
Colorist: Hi-Fi and Nick Filardi
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Inside the burned remains Nightwing’s old underground headquarters Bludhaven Detective Sapienza reacts to seeing cases with Nightwing’s old gear. Detective Sapienza realizes why Nightwing has been missing for four months, which has lead to Bludhaven getting worse.
Detective Sapienza goes back above ground and tells the firefighter team that he did not find anything in the ashes. He tells the team that they should go help with one of the other five alarm fires going on in the city.
While sleeping Dick Grayson dreams of himself as Nightwing which only leads him to feel like something is wrong as he see Batgirl and Robin there with him except that they are missing their faces.
At a bar Dick wakes up from his dream, throwing his beer at one of the other customers. As he apologizes we learn he now goes by Ric Grayson.
Alfred Pennyworth suddenly appears and talks about how his nightmares are likely trying to guide him through a traumatic event. Alfred then says that the entire family is worried about Ric and wants to make sure he is okay.
Ric says he is fine and asks for a refill of his beer even though his bar tab continues to increase. Alfred decides to cover Ric’s tab. Ric says he is really fine and has all he needs now.
Alfred walks out with Ric chasing him to continue their talk. Alfred says he understands that Ric is choosing his own destiny and offers him a ride to his job. Ric comments on the exact details on the car Alfred is riding and reveals he has learned slowly that he knows all sorts of things like how to speak German. Alfred thinks that in time Ric will fully be back in action. Ric says that he hopes not as he likes his clean slate.
Somewhere in Bludhaven, the wife, Wendy, of the guy that died from being drowned in his bed talks to Dr. Gruidae about it. Dr. Gruidae tells Wendy that she must embrace how terrifying this event was in order to move on. We then see that Dr. Gruidae is just an alias Scarecrow is using.
At the Bludhaven Taxi Co. Ric gets his cab from the new dispatcher, who warns him about the threats in the city.
As he goes through his shift Ric drives all sorts of people while self-reflecting on how everyone who talks to him seems to care about Dick Grayson not him. The night starts dying down with customers around 3 a.m.
Ric stops outside a jewelry shop where he sees a specific bracelet. This bracelet reminds him of one of the only memories he does remember fully and that is of his parents death.
Someone suddenly shows up and holds Ric up at gunpoint. Ric says he doesn’t want trouble and says his cash is in his taxi. The guy robbing him says he’ll just steal the taxi instead.
When the guy presses the gun against Ric’s head it suddenly reminds him of all his Nightwing fighting skills. Ric quickly annihilates the guy trying to rob him. Ric is stunned at what he just did to leave the guy in a pool of his own blood.
At Nightwing’s burned up headquarters Detective Sapienza reflects on how Nightwing absence has left a big hole. He decides that he will fill that hole by using what is left of Nightwing’s gear. He then puts on Nightwing’s last costume to fulfill that role. End of issue.
The Good: With how big of an event that our lead character went through Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza do not hesitate in exploring the life altering status quo Dick Grayson is in. The blank slate nature of Dick Grayson’s new status quo has opened up many possibilities. Those possibilities is what begins to be tapped into in Nightwing #151. Though how we get to some of those possibilities was a sloppily down at certain points.
The strength of this new long-term status quo is how Dick Grayson is dealing with it. While changing his name to Ric Grayson may be controversial it is something that makes sense within the context of the story. Given how Ric gone through a traumatic event that left him as a blank slate who does not remember all of his past changing his name is a simple way to show that change.
Lobdell and Nicieza add depth to this name change by showing us how much internal pain Ric is dealing with. Quick looks at his dreams as he still remembers him being Nightwing but not the information on his allies like Batgirl and Robin is painful for him. Putting Batgirl and Robin, in particular, into these dreams made this entire sequence more effective since they are the two closest people in his past life in the last few years.
This nightmare dream sequence further pushes the conflict that is going inside Ric’s mind. While as Ric we are seeing him turn everyone from Barbara to Alfred away there are still hints of the old Dick Grayson running around in his head. That clash between the Ric and Dick Grayson parts will be something that will be fun to see play out, especially with someone else as Nightwing running around.
But while we still have the blank slate that Ric is trying to act like he is it has provided us with some interesting interactions. The interaction with Alfred in particular showed that Ric distancing himself from everyone in the Batman Family is hurtful. With everything that is currently going on with Bruce Wayne losing Nightwing was the last thing that the the Batman Family needed to stay united.
The way Lobdell and Nicieza wrote Alfred during the course of this scene emphasized that. And with how Alfred’s interaction with Ric went down similar to Barbara in the previous issue it’ll be interesting to see if Ric continues to stay on his own island. Though there is a conflict in that island that Ric has put himself on as Lobdell and Nicieza show that he still remembers what happened to his parents. Seeing that reaction makes the build up for how Alfred, Barbara or one of his other friends helps him through this by making him remember the past he does not want to relive.
Adding to this story was how Ric is subconsciously picking up all his old skills. Lobdell and Nicieza do a good job having Ric play it off in a casual manner. Even his new cab driver job was shown to be him trying to relearn the city like he did as Nightwing. And as we see with how he took out the guy trying to rob him more of this will come out just due to muscle memory. How much more may depend on how as Ric he keeps trying to distance himself from his past life.
Scarecrow’s presence in Bludhaven also presents this storyline with Ric Grayson a good opportunity to explore the current status quo in a different way. Because so far all we’ve seen is that as Ric Grayson our lead has just forgotten he has a lot of incredible skills. What we don’t know is what how this has actually affected his performance in terms of how he uses all of his superhero skills. Bringing in Scarecrow will be a good test for that as he could tap into the nightmares that we see Ric dealing with.
Travis Moore and Garry Brown combine to deliver solid artwork throughout Nightwing #51. They work together well enough that you wouldn’t know there were multiple artists on this issue. With this issue being 100% talking heads Moore and Brown get across the emotion carried with each word spoken. In the one brief instance they get to show action they nail it by mixing the vision of Nightwing in action with Ric Grayson in the present.
The Bad: Though Lobdell and Nicieza did a good job getting across what Ric Grayson is going through there are smaller details that did not work to help strengthen the story. One of these is the sudden four month time jump between Nightwing getting shot in the head and present timeline. For one thing the time jump of four months feels completely arbitrary that was chosen because it sounded good when writing it on paper.
The problem with having such a time jump is that it causes more questions than answers for Ric Grayson’s current status quo. Particularly, this time jump is troubling when Lobdell and Nicieza are trying to play up how the Batman Family has been affected. Given that only Barbara and Alfred have tried to reach to him it looks like no one else, whether in the Batman Family or Titans, are trying to help Ric. With how serious of a traum Ric went through and how its been emphasized that he is close to so many people in the DCU it creates questions as to why he has been left alone.
What hurts the current status quo more is that we aren’t seeing the larger ramifications of Dick Grayson’s absence as Nightwing. Lobdell and Nicieza rely heavily on telling the reader that Nightwing being MIA is a big deal. They never actually spend the time to show it. Even small things like news reports of higher crime rate, people being robbed or gangs rising up in Bludhaven are shown. We are just told that things in Bludhaven are getting worse.
Not showing that makes it tough to believe that Nightwing being MIA has left a big hole in Bludhaven’s current state. Which in turn hurts the impact of Detective Sapienza taking up the mantle not get across as a big deal. Instead it just came across as something that was done because Lobdell and Nicieza didn’t want to end Nightwing #51 on the note of Ric Grayson beating the hell out of a guy trying to rob him.
What is even more problematic with Detective Sapienza taking up the Nightwing mantle was that there was zero build up to this moment. We know absolutely zero about Detective Sapienza coming into Nightwing #51. Lobdell and Nicieza never show that Detective Sapienza is struggling at his job or idealized Nightwing. Without a proper connection to Detective Sapienza it made seeing him in a slightly altered Nightwing costume fall flat as an ending.
Overall: When the focus was on Dick Grayson, or should I say Ric Grayson, new status quo Nightwing #51 is at its best. Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza show a good understanding of how such a traumatic event like being shot in the head would affect someone. Unfortunately its problems with the smaller details and an ending that falls flat that kept Nightwing #51 from reaching its full potential.