Since Nightwing has quickly shifted to Ric Grayson regaining his memories as Dick Grayson again the series has begun to trend towards the positives. There are still many problems with the whole Ric Grayson character arc. There’s been no hiding those problems. But the brief signs of Dick Grayson’s full return have given hope for the direction of this series. Now with Nightwing poised to play a major role in the “Joker War” storyline will the Joker actually be the key to the return of Dick Grayson? Let’s find out with Nightwing #71.
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Ronan Cliquet
Colorist: Nick Filardi
Story Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At the Prodigal Bar in Bludhaven, Ric Grayson tells Bea Bennett that she is the only person that he can talk to after Dr. Isabell Haas betrayed him (Nightwing #69). Bea thinks that Ric needs to find someone more qualified to talk about things.
Before they can continue talking a loud noise is heard coming from the streets. Ric runs off to check out what is going on.
After Ric leaves, the Joker walks down the stairs and wonders what he is going to do with Bea.
Somewhere in Bludhaven, Tusk has escaped after being arrested and is attacking cops. The cops try to bring Tusk down but all their gunfire bounces off Tusk.
Ric, in his proto-Nightwing vigilante costume, shows up and takes Tusk on one-on-one. Tusk quickly overpowers Ric and tosses him into a police car. When Ric recovers he is shocked to see a Joker card stuck on one of the cop car’s tires.
Over at Bludhaven Hospital, Detective Colleen Edwards (part of the Nightwing Corps who wears the retro Nightwing costume) rushes into the operating room where Detective Alphonse Sapienceza (the Nightwing Corps leader) is about to have surgery. Detective Edwards is able to learn that Joker attacked him. The surgeons push Detective Edwards out of the operating room as they have to rush into surgery as Detective Sapienceza’s condition worsens.
Seeing Joker’s card Ric remembers fighting the villain. Not wasting time thinking of it more Ric throws the Joker card at Tusk, which cuts through Tusk’s forehead. Ric then uses this distraction to land quick blows until Tusk is knocked out and the cops arrest him.
Back at the Prodigal Bar, Bea gets a bat ready as Joker taunts her with the knowledge that he knows all about Dick Grayson because he is a Batman expert. Bea is shocked when she gets a full look at Joker.
Ric immediately enters the bar and tries to attack Joker. Joker quickly counters Ric’s attack and knocks him down. Joker then extends his hand as an offer to help Ric remember who he truly is. Ric turns down the offer because he is not Nightwing anymore.
Noticing the bloody Nightwing costume that Joker has, Ric then demands to know what Joker did to Detective Sapienceza. Joker says Ric should thank him for taking care of the impostor Nightwing. Joker then starts talking about Dick Grayson’s backstory and once again offers to help Ric remember those memories.
Bea tries to attack with her bat but Joker easily blocks it with a crowbar and then knocks her out.
Joker then reveals he knows how the Court of Owls altered Dick Grayson’s memory. Joker then reveals he now has possession of the Identity Crystal (the item Dr. Haas used to alter Dick Grayson’s memories to become Ric Grayson). Ric tries to grab it but Joker activates the Identity Crystal first.
With Ric under a trance, Joker proceeds to use the Identity Crystal to implant twisted versions of Dick Grayson’s memories, including how Ric’s name is “Dicky Boy.” Joker then proceeds to conclude the memory alterations by having Dick Grayson believe it was Joker who took him in when his parents died. End of issue.
The Good: Nightwing has become one of the more difficult titles to review. Because, as much as I want to like the fact that we are on the road for Dick Grayson’s return the journey has not been great. All the baggage that has come with Ric Grayson continues to weigh this series down that even plot elements that should be intriguing don’t hit the way they should.
But before getting into all of that, I do have to give Dan Jurgens credit for doing a good job in writing this version of Joker. Jurgens makes sure that this version of Joker in Nightwing #71 is consistent with how James Tynion has written the character leading into “Joker War.” Having that consistency allows Nightwing #71 to come across as part of the story that is developing in the main Batman series rather than just cheaply tying in for sales purposes.
As soon as Joker appears on screen Jurgens is able to create unease with the villain’s entire presence. You are on edge for whenever Joker will decide to snap on Ric or Bea like he did with Detective Sapienza. Having Joker carry a crowbar and the bloody Nightwing costume added to that aura of danger during the second half of the issue. That made the twisted and demeaning tone he spoke to Ric and Bea with sends a shiver down your spine when reading his dialogue.
Ronan Cliquet’s artwork was solid throughout Nightwing #71. He got over the power of Tusk and how crazy Joker is with his mannerism. With how quickly the fight with Tusk was over there wasn’t much in the way of action but what was there was solid. Cliquet also did a good job of carrying over the visual look of what happens to the surroundings when the Identity Crystal is activated.
The Bad: While the story of Joker manipulating Ric Grayson’s current memory problems to bring him to his side for the upcoming “Joker War” sounds interesting on a top-level it quickly falls apart. The main reason it falls apart is that Jurgens is bringing the Identity Crystal back into play to serve as the item that causes Ric Grayson to fall under Joker’s influence. As soon as you see the Identity Crystal you immediately recognize how it is just one big deus ex machina to quickly explain this turn without much effort.
This once again highlights how thin the story of how quickly Jurgens and DC Comics broke the reality created for the transformation of Dick Grayson of Ric Grayson. The Identity Crystal is an item that just smells of a convenient explanation for all the actions the character of Ric Grayson has done while under the Court of Owls’ influence. It is an item that can be pointed at for the blame for everything that has happened.
It also does not fit with Joker’s character that he would simply use an item like the Identity Crystal to turn Ric Grayson into an altered version of Dick Grayson. It would’ve made much more sense if Joker used the developments he has made with his Joker toxic gas or other forms of torture to trigger Ric’s turn to his side for “Joker War.” A perfect example of how that could have worked is the Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker with the process Joker and Harley Quinn used to turn the young Tim Drake to their side.
Jurgens could have employed a similar tactic to get over how dangerous this version of Joker is and further develop the preparations the villain is making for “Joker War.” But in going with the Identity Crystal route it just further points to how the item is just a convenient plot device Jurgens can use whenever he likes when there is no solution. Going with this convenient route of the Identity Crystal just does not create excitement for Ric Grayson now becoming Dickey Boy. As a reader, we should never feel like an item like the Identity Crystal is a plot device. Being tricked into believing such an item is a meaningful part of the DC Universe is a sign of good writing, which is not the case for Nightwing #71.
It doesn’t help that Jurgens still can’t write Ric Grayson as a likable character. Since Nightwing #50 we haven’t seen the character grow past his own selfish “I don’t know what to do and I’m okay with it.” Even Bea calling Ric Grayson out on that highlights how the character has not actually grown during this entire character arc. The development for Ric Grayson has been stagnant at best.
The only hope we have now is that Jurgens will actually use the transformation to Dickey Boy so we get the return of Dick Grayson permanently. Especially as Joker is going to use Dickey Boy against the Batman Family there is a chance that leads to actual character development for this arc. But as it stands we are over twenty issues in with Nightwing #71 and very little apparent character growth for Ric Grayson.
Jurgens also did a bad job once again as Ric Grayson overcame Tusk out of convenience rather than the character’s strength. The placement of the Joker card and how it was able to cut Tusk’s tough skin just added to how Jurgens used different items to quickly resolve things. This only worked to make Tusk look like a punk and Ric Grayson extremely lucky that Joker gave him a handout.
And with how poorly developed the Nightwing Corps has been throughout this Ric Grayson Saga it was tough to be interested where Jurgens will go with these characters. Even seeing Detective Sapienceza with critical damage after facing off against Joker did nothing to make the investment in these characters. It is all just further proof that these characters have not been properly developed as they have gone into becoming versions of Nightwings without a plan.
Especially with how Nightwing is going to be devoted to expanding on the “Joker War” event there really is no role for these Nightwing Corps members to serve that will be helpful. Jurgens has spent way to much time showing us how whenever any of these fake Nightwings face off against a supervillain they are no match. They will only be a hindrance to the plot. And after twenty issues of these characters getting the opportunity to grow it is hard to actually get behind their arcs when they haven’t had compelling growth since we were introduced to them.
Overall: While the tie-in to the upcoming “Joker War” does bring some excitement it is not enough to overcome all the problems with the Ric Grayson Saga. Even when Dan Jurgens writes a solid Joker in Nightwing #71 all of the plot elements around Ric Grayson keep the story back. There is a chance that this “Joker War” tie-in turn out to be the strongest issues of the Ric Grayson Sage but Jurgens has a lot of work ahead of him to overcome all the problems with this story.
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