The new direction for Nightwing with Dick Grayson changing his name to Ric Grayson after being shot in the head started of strong. There was a lot of potential that was introduced with this direction to explore who both Nightwing and Dick Grayson are. Unfortunately with certain key story choices have made this new direction questionable. Specifically, what Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza’s decision to create four characters who have each taken the on the Nightwing identity has not hit the desired mark. Now because of that the question is can the story around Ric Grayson and the Nightwings recover from the state it has been turned into. Let’s find that out now with Nightwing #56.
Plot Writer: Scott Lobdell
Script Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Davide Gianfelice
Colorist: Nick Filardi
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 3.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Scarecrow unleashes his fear toxin controlled army on the four Nightwings.
Elsewhere Ric Grayson runs towards where a crowd of people are running away from. He spots the four Nightwings fighting the people infected with the fear toxin.
One of the Nightwings (Zak Edwards) tries to attack Scarecrow. Scarecrow responds by having two cops controlled by fear toxin shooting him, much to the shock of the other Nightwings and Ric.
This causes Ric to remember the death of his parents and the impact that had on his life. Ric decides he has to do something and gets some tools out of the trunk of his taxi cab.
As the Nightwings continue to be overwhelmed by everyone infected by fear toxin Ric drives his taxi cab in with a wheel on the hood that is on fire. The smoke from the tire that’s on fire is able to mitigate the effects of Scarecrow’s fear toxin.
Ric then gets out of his taxi cab and tells the Nightwings to help save the Nightwing who got shot from dying. As they do that Ric runs in to face Scarecrow on his own.
After jumping over the fear toxin still in the area, with an assist from a food truck, Ric is able to reach Scarecrow. Ric is able to hold his own until the Nightwings appear to back him up. One of the Nightwings (Alphonse Sapienza) helps Ric knock Scarecrow out.
Detective Svoboda appears with some Bludhaven cops to arrest Scarecrow. Detective Svoboda tells the Nightwings that the last thing Bludhaven needs is a team of superheroes. She then drives away.
Ric asks the other Nightwings if they are a team now. Alphonse says they are not but Zak and Colleen Edwards think they could use Ric’s experience. Malcolm Hutch on the other hand thinks this will all turn out badly. End of issue.
The Good: Nightwing #56 is a tough comic to read as a fan. For how much I want to say I am enjoying reading a Nightwing comic I can’t at all say that. It would be too much of a lie. The cracks in the direction DC Comics has decided to take Dick Grayson, or should I say Ric Grayson, have grown bigger with each passing issue of Nightwing.
For all of the weaknesses in the story the one positive to come out of Nightwing #56 is how Scarecrow has been treated. This issue was a reminder of how big of a threat Scarecrow is to the public. Without someone from the Batman Family around to take him down Scarecrow was able to instill his own brand of chaos onto the streets of Bludhaven.
What made Scarecrow’s presentation work even more was the fact that he was able to easily take on the four new Nightwing’s. With how he held them all of it was a reminder that there is a reason why Batman, Nightwing, Batgirl, etc. are needed to deal with this special brand of crime. Scarecrow, like all other DC Universe villains, can’t be simply be taken down by whoever puts on a superhero costume. It takes someone that is prepared physically and mentally to be able to handle these threats.
The artwork in Nightwing #56 was solid. Davide Gianfelice was nothing special but it did get the job done in hitting the grounded, street-level tone that Lobdell and Nicieza were trying to tell. The action once Ric Grayson got into what was going on was the best showing of the Gianfelice flow in drawing a big fight.
The Bad: As with previous issues centered around this new direction Nightwing #56 fell apart because of weakness surrounding where Lobdell and Nicieza have taken the story. Even with how well Scarecrow came across when dealing with the four new Nightwing’s as soon as Ric Grayson got in on the action it all fell apart. A big reason for that is because of how easily Ric Grayson was able to deal with Scarecrow once he finally decided he had to get involved.
That speaks to one of the biggest weaknesses of this entire direction. The lack of focus on how Lobdell and Nicieza have decided to explore the new status quo for Dick Grayson has been disappointing. Rather than showing how being shot in the head affected Dick Grayson personally and professionally Lobdell and Nicieza have only focused on if he wants to be Nightwing anymore.
Positioning the character in this way has made Ric Grayson only come across as an asshole that needs to go away. Because the reality is nothing has been wrong with him other than Ric Grayson deciding that his old life as Dick Grayson is not who he is anymore. That has made the switch in name come across even worse.
Where this could have all been improve would have been to show that being shot in the head has hindered Ric Grayson’s abilities he trained years to perfect. That is something that should have been a major trial that Ric Grayson needed to overcome as his body does not react in the way it did before being shot in the head. Unfortunately that was never part of the story as Lobdell and Nicieza have made it clear that physically Ric Grayson has all of his previous abilities. The only thing that has held him back was his decision that being Nightwing was not who he wanted to be anymore.
Now without that struggle the moment when Ric Grayson decided to finally be the hero he has always been never felt like a big turning point for the character. With how easily he was able defeat Scarecrow it only makes the reader wonder if Ric Grayson was just using being shot in the head as an excuse to not be a superhero anymore. And that could have not been a question if it was shown that during the fight Ric Grayson actually was unable to defeat Scarecrow on his own. But since he easily dodged Scarecrow’s attacks the only thing that hindered him was his choice to throw his old life to the side for months.
Ric Grayson being portrayed in this way also hurt the development of the four new Nightwing. Rather than proving their worth the Nightwings just showed that they should not be taking crime into their own hands in the way they have been. The entire battle with Scarecrow drove home how over their head each of the people who decided to wear one of Nightwing’s costume was.
It does not help that Lobdell and Nicieza have not spent enough quality time developing the individual personalities of the four new Nightwings. There is a very base-level development that has happened for each of them. The only one that has been developed to a degree that they feel like their own character is the police detective who first took on the Nightwing identity. But even with how much screen time he has had everything about his portrayal just emphasized how he and his friends should not be trying to play superheroes. The best thing for each of them is to go back to their jobs as a cop, fire fighter, etc. because they were already doing a lot good in those positions that could only grow further as they got more experience.
The ending of Nightwing #56, which teased with Ric Grayson possibly leading his own Nightwing Corps, did not create any excitement for the future of this series. That final shot of Ric with the four Nightwing are just cannon fodder to make Ric realize that he is Dick Grayson and he should not run away from that. Even the dialogue points to that fact as there is self-realization from the four Nightwing that this isn’t going to go well for them. Due to the lack of development this ending that was supposed to have a felt like an incredible moment for all involved came across as disappointing conclusion to this story arc.
Though the artwork was solid the different artists that have worked on this story arc has caused a lack of consistency. The reading experience for this Ric Grayson Begins arc does not read well when all together. All of the art styles have so many differences that take you out of the reading experience. It nothing against all the artists but having so many different artists working on one story arc just points to how having Nightwing being bi-monthly was not a good choice if there can’t be consistency with the artwork for each issue.
Overall: Nightwing #56 was a disappointing conclusion to the first story arc involving Ric Grayson. This issue emphasized how the change from Dick Grayson to Ric Grayson has fallen flat. The potential shown early on has faded away. It was all replaced by lackluster character development that has created concern for the future of this series. The faster we get back to Dick Grayson as the only Nightwing, working with the Batman Family and leading the Titans, the better.