Nightwing has been on such a turbulent direction since the events that took place which changed Dick Grayson into Ric Grayson. Now after doing all he could to get as far away from the Batman Family as possible Ric Grayson has been brought into the “Joker War.” Unfortunately for both Ric Grayson and the Batman Family he is not starting out “Joker War” as an ally. Instead Joker has used the Court of Owls methods to turn Ric Grayson into one of his sidekicks, alongside Punchline. That turn has already shown to bare fruit for Joker as Ric Grayson and Punchline were able knock Batgirl out in the previous issue. What will happen next if Ric Grayson stays by Joker’s side? Let’s find out with Nightwing #73.
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Ryan Benjamin
Inker: Richard Friend
Colorist: Rain Beredo
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Batgirl wakes up to find herself tied to a pole in the middle of a cage ring. Around the cage Joker’s gang is hyped for a fight.
Elsewhere Ric Grayson, after thinking about the life that Joker made him think he had with the help of the Identity Crystal, gets ready to fight. Joker says the time is now and Ric jumps into the cage ring.
Joker then joins Punchline and his gang and calls for the main event fight to begin. Batgirl wonders who she is going to fight. Joker then announces that Ric will be her opponent and locks them in the cage ring together.
Ric rushes at her Batgirl, who uses the talons on her gauntlets to cut herself free while landing a kick to Ric’s face at the same time.
Outside the cage, as Ric and Batgirl fight, Joker talks with Punchline about how much fun it is to watch the Batman Family fight each other.
As the fight progresses Ric is initially able to surprise Batgirl with some attacks. Feeling confident Ric, along with Joker and Punchline, taunts Batgirl. Batgirl is able use Ric’s overconfidence against him to disarm him and knock Ric back.
Batgirl tries to convince Ric that is being used by Joker and goes over his real history as Dick Grayson.
Over at Alfred Pennyworth Children’s Hosptal, Punchline mimics Batgirl’s voice and uses her communicator to message Red Hood and Tim Drake for some help battling the Joker. Drake says he is on his way. Punchline tells the Joker’s gang to get ready.
Back at the cage fight Ric looks like he is actually taking what Batgirl said to heart. This turns out to be a trick and Ric once again starts fighting Batgirl. Seeing that she is not getting anywhere Batgirl jumps over the cage and leaves to save everyone at the children’s hospital that Punchline is at.
Joker tells Ric not to chase Batgirl for the moment because he has set things up for them to kill three people for the price of one.
A little later Red Hood and Drake meet up in an alleyway. Ric appears and acts like he is back to normal as Dick Grayson. He tells Red Hood and Drake that Batgirl has been brainwashed by Joker and is about to blow up the children’s hospital. Ric says they need to stop her no matter the cost. End of issue.
The Good: When a story has reached its course and there are still things that go on beyond that point it can feel like a chore. That is a feeling that has hit this entire Ric Grayson storyline as the character has gone from being a tool for the Court of Owls to a tool for Joker and Punchline to be used. That said, thanks to the connection Barbara Gordon has with Dick Grayson the story of Nightwing #73 was vastly improved.
Barbara Gordon was the star of Nightwing #73. The whole set-up in Nightwing #72 was oddly timed with how things went between Batgirl and Joker in Batgirl #47. Nightwing #73 separated itself more by keeping the focus on the close relationship Barbara Gordon has with Dick Grayson and how that impacted the clash with Ric Grayson.
Throughout the fight Dan Jurgens did a good job using Batgirl’s injuries from the previous issues and how she was still trying to get Dick Grayson back to explain why Ric Grayson dominated most of the fight. Even though Ric Grayson is getting closer to his skills as Nightwing now the character is fighting differently. Batgirl seeing through that after being tricked the first time put over how she is able to still maintain a focus even though her emotions are bubbling to the surface at the moment.
The fight also worked to show how Batgirl was able to take multiple things in at the same time. Because as she was trying to get Dick Grayson back to normal she also made sure to listen to Joker and Punchline’s talk. That made her understanding that she needs to go save everyone at the children’s hospital work better. She knows that she needs to prioritize the innocent against Joker’s plans.
Which also worked to continue to put over how Punchline’s character is built as the perfect partner for Joker. She knows how to play the chess game between Batman and Joker just as well as them. The way she gets Red Hood and Tim Drake to come to Gotham City by acting like Batgirl was well done.
In terms of Ric Grayson himself I was glad that Jurgens didn’t try to make it seem that he could perfectly trick the Batman Family with his act. We see that with how both Jason Todd and Tim Drake were thrown off immediately with the way Ric was talking to them. There was nothing convincing about the dialogue that makes it seem like Dick Grayson is back. Which feeds into how messed up Dick’s mind is right now after both the Court of Owls and Joker have jumbled up his memories back-to-back.
Ryan Benjamin delivered solid artwork like he always does. The action was all smooth with Benjamin getting over Ric Grayson’s style and how Batgirl was fighting in a way that she was still trying to get her friend back to normal. There was a good sense of progression to the fight that got over why Batgirl decided to abandon the fight in order to deal with Punchline. Benjamin also did a good job in telling the full story of what Joker’s altered history of Dick Grayson’s past was in the opening pages.
The Bad: As has been the trend with the entire Ric Grayson direction, Jurgens just does not convince the reader that this entire saga hasn’t run its course. It does feel like we have been with Ric Grayson for years now and not in a good way. Everything about this Joker version of Ric Grayson just further feeds into how I just want this entire saga to be over.
It doesn’t help that Joker’s plot comes across as a cheap copy of the Court of Owls strategy to manipulate Dick Grayson. If there was more distance between Ric Grayson breaking away from the Court of Owls control and when he fell under Joker’s influence through the same Identity Crystal manipulation maybe things would’ve been different. But the fact that we went from one long manipulation storyline to the same exact thing one issue later just screams not having any fresh ideas for what to do with the Ric Grayson saga. The sooner this is all over and we have Dick Grayson back as Nightwing the better it will be for the series as a whole.
Overall: Nightwing #73 is a vast improvement over the majority of comic book issues in this Ric Grayson Saga. That is all thanks to how Batgirl drives the story of this issue with Ric Grayson under the control of Joker and Punchline. Without Batgirl’s involvement the story of Ric Grayson comes across as recycled story telling of when the Court of Owls did the same thing to our lead that Joker has done in this “Joker War” tie-in. As things stand, the sooner we get Dick Grayson back as Nightwing the better this series will be.
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