Nightwing has taken a much different turn since Dick Grayson was shot in the head by KGBeast. That event completely changed Dick Grayson, leading to a completely different character with a new name, Ric Grayson. As Ric Grayson he has decided to leave his life as Nightwing behind along with all his ties to the Batman Family and traded it for a life as a cab driver. While Ric Grayson is no longer a superhero that does not mean Nightwing is gone. Someone from the Bludhaven Police Department has taken up the mantle of Nightwing without permission. Now with some else running around as Nightwing it was only a matter of time before he crossed paths with Ric Grayson, which is what happened in the last issue. Let’s see how this meeting turns out in Nightwing #53.
Plot Writer: Scott Lobdell
Script Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Travis Moore and Patch Zircher
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At the Blue Line District in Bludhaven Nightwing (Detective Alphonse Sapienza) tells Ric Grayson to clear the area. When Nightwing shows his badge Ric realizes the guy is a cop moonlighting as a superhero. After getting over being flustered Nightwing says he admires Ric for coming to help his friend but he can’t put him at risk. Nightwing handcuffs Ric to his cab and goes to find Burl.
After Nightwing leaves Ric is surprised to find he subconsciously got out of the handcuffs. He is then surprised to see Nightwing quickly make it up to the rooftops.
Nightwing finds the gang that kidnapped Burl and psyches himself up to break in.
Nightwing breaks through the glass roof but ends up falling hard on the ground. The gang members aren’t intimidated by Nightwing and hold him up at gunpoint.
Ric suddenly enters the building. This distracts the gang members long enough for Nightwing to throw a wingding at them. Nightwing then gets the entire gang’s attention. This gives Ric the chance to free Burl and run out the building safely. At the same time Nightwing is fairing well against the gang members.
Two hours later Ric visits Burl in the hospital. Burl says that Ric was stupid for coming to rescue him and recommends to leave things to the pros like Nightwing. Ric comments on how that didn’t seem to be the original Nightwing. Burl tells Ric not to bad-mouth a good hero like Nightwing, who he thanks under his breath.
Outside the Prodigal Bar Ric runs into Tiny sadly walking out of the bar. Ric tells Tiny to feel better about himself as he is putting in the effort to go to meetings to get help. This does turn out to make Tiny feel better.
Inside the bar, Ric talks to Bea about how he isn’t having his dreams of his old life anymore. He then talks about how the hardest thing about being an amnesiac is how everyone, like Barbara Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth, are waiting for him to go to sleep and wake up as Dick Grayson again. Bea says while she can’t comment on who Dick Grayson was but if he looked like Ric than she understands why Barbara wants him back badly.
Sometime later Malcolm Hutch watches the news about Nightwing taking down members of the Niners Gang. Nightwing suddenly enters Malcolm’s place and starts to pass out from the injuries he suffered in his fight against the Niners Gang. Malcolm wants to take Nightwing to the hospital but he says he does not want doctors.
The next morning Bea treats Ric to a burrito. Ric wonders if this is a date but Bea says it is just friends grabbing a bite to eat. As they banter back-and-forth Ric offers to walk her home. Bea says that maybe someday he can and walks home by herself with a smile on her face.
At Avalon Heights Rehabilitation Center during a substance abuse meeting Tiny says he is not going to stop trying to quit his habit. The therapist thanks Tiny for sharing and talks about how everyone must not be afraid of overcoming their fears. As he continues to talk about fear and darkness the room fills with fear gas.
The therapist reveals himself as Scarecrow and says “The only thing that is more terrifying than not having power you crave is having that power and knowing at any moment, that at your merest whim you can bring an entire city to its knees.” Everyone in the room starts succumbing to the effects of the fear gas. End of issue.
The Good: The last few issues of Nightwing has been spinning its wheels with the current status quo of Ric Grayson. It never felt like Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza got the concept out of first gear. That now has changed with Nightwing #53 making positive progress for the direction of this series. And all it took was to see Ric Grayson be confronted by someone else as Nightwing to make that progress.
Being faced by someone else as Nightwing was clearly something that Ric Grayson needed. He was still letting himself subconsciously be haunted by his previous life. It is something that he can’t run away from as much as he wants to. That is why we’ve seen Ric try so hard to be more of an asshole as it was the complete opposite of what he and others know Dick Grayson to be.
But now with someone else taking up the mantle of Nightwing he does have some weight lifted off his shoulders. That sense of relief was some of the best scenes that Lobdell and Nicieza wrote in Nightwing #53. There was a much lighter tone to how Ric interacted with Burl and Bea after seeing Nightwing. For the first time it felt like we were reading the Ric Grayson we will be getting moving forward.
The relationship that is being built with Bea is making this new Ric much more compelling. Lobdell and Nicieza are doing a good job making Bea a fully realized character as she becomes Ric’s love interest. Bea is down to Earth enough that she can be someone that pushes Ric to be a better person than he has been so far.
At the same time, Lobdell and Nicieza did a good job showing that Ric still has his old Nightwing skills in his mind. Showing that Ric is able to use his old skills without even knowing it gives hope that by the end of this story we’ll see Ric as Nightwing again. At the same time it provides us the question if this break from being Nightwing will make him a different superhero when he returns to the role.
This is where the whole fake Nightwing story has come into his own. While Detective Alphonse Sapienza has yet to become a compelling character Nightwing #53 was his best showing. That was because through Detective Sapienza acting as Nightwing we see how not just anyone can step into the role of a superhero. His fight with the Niners Gang showed that there is no way the guy can survive long if he is just trying to use the mystique of Nightwing to take down crime.
With how things turned out this does set up for Detective Sapienza’s friends to step in to help him out. Because while he did end up severely hurt by his fight with the Niners Gang his success in getting them arrested did show his friends that maybe there is something to them acting as Nightwing. If the group comes together maybe they can make up for their lack of skills matching Dick Grayson as Nightwing. Having multiple Nightwing’s running around can also push Ric to open his eyes that he can’t just let others step into the role he was raised to hold.
Similarly, Scarecrow’s plot progressed well in this issue. His attack on the Bludhaven Police Department and the substance abuse meeting positioned him as a villain that you want to see taken down. The interesting thing will be is how Scarecrow’s appearance will affect the development of Ric Grayson and the new Nightwing. Will this push Ric to become Nightwing again or will it just further emphasize a life Ric does not want to return to.
Travis Moore and Patch Zircher turned in a very good looking issue in Nightwing #53. The artwork was consistently smooth as we saw how Ric’s mentality continues to change from the Dick Grayson fans knew. That along with how they drew the action involving the new Nightwing and Scarecrow made the story much stronger.
The Bad: The one thing that is missing from this direction of Ric Grayson is showing the negative side effects of Dick Grayson being shot in the head. The biggest change so far has been the fact that Ric Grayson is just an asshole. Outside of that we haven’t seen how being shot in the head has affected Ric’s overall skills, since so far we have seen he has all of his old skills in his head. It would make this direction much stronger if we also saw how being shot in the head affected Ric’s skills. Whether it was developing a fear of heights or even just hesitating on certain actions would elevate the overall direction that Nightwing is going.
Overall: Nightwing #53 was the best issue of this new direction for this series thus far. Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza did a much better job developing Ric Grayson and the new Nightwing’s characters to be more fully realized than previous issues. Now that they are moving the Scarecrow sub-plot into the main story Lobdell and Nicieza should be able to make this new direction for Nightwing much stronger.