The road to the return of Dick Grayson is almost at its end. “Joker War” has turned out to be the final push that was needed to get to that end. Though what kind of condition Dick Grayson will be when he returns is anyone’s guess given how bumpy the ride of the Ric Grayson Saga has been. And with the events in “Joker War” only escalating is will the return of Dick Grayson as Nightwing be what helps turn the tide? Let’s find out with Nightwing #74.
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Ryan Benjamin
Inker: Richard Friend
Colorist: Rain Beredo
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: While running through the streets in search of Bea Bennett reflects on how while she hates Gotham City she wants to do whatever she can to help Ric Grayson out.
She eventually comes across Ric alongside Robin (Tim Drake) and Red Hood facing off against some members of the Joker’s Gang.
As they are about to fight Ric reveals that he was the one who attacked Red Hood a few hours earlier (this took place n Red Hood: Outlaw #48) and immediately attacks Robin and Red Hood after the reveal. While he continues to kick Robin and Red Hood around Ric reveals they can call him Dickyboy.
All the while Joker and Punchline watch from a nearby rooftop. Joker is happy at his Dickyboy’s performance. He then asks Punchiline about the bomb. Punchline says that the bomb will go off in the hospital in twelve minutes.
Back outside the hospital Red Hood tells Robin to go disarm the bomb while he deals with Dickeyboy. Dickeyboy I able to disarm Red Hood with some help from the Joker Gang, all while Bea looks in horror from an alleyway.
Back on the rooftop Batgirl appears and knocks both Joker and Punchline down. She quickly gets the Identity Crystal and goes to help the others.
On the ground Red Hood admits he didn’t have it in him to shoot Dickeyboy. Dickeyboy fires some warning shots to show he won’t hesitate. Batgirl suddenly dropkicks Dickeyboy from behind.
Inside the hospital Robin works quickly to disarm the bomb that Punchline planted.
Outside, Dickeyboy recovers and kicks Batgirl away, causing the Identity Crystal to slip out of her hand. Batgirl asks if Dickeyboy would really shoot her. Dickeyboy says he would since its who he is, much to Joker’s joy as he watches all this go down.
Batgirl once again pleads with Dick Grayson to come back. Bea suddenly appears and backs Batgirl’s pleas up. She reminds him that he is Dick Grayson and uses the Identity Crystal to prove it.
Dickeyboy grabs the identity Crystal and a flood of all the real memories of Dick Grayson are shown in his mind.
With his real memories back Dick smashes the Identity Crystal on the ground and tells everyone he is back.
As everyone celebrates Dick’s return Batman shows up. Batman reveals that he was actually looking out for Dick during his Ric Grayson phase from a distance. He goes on to say he wanted to give Dick the room to find his way through the fog that was his life at the time.
Robin exits the hospital and says he disarmed the bomb. With the family reunited Batman gets everyone ready to face the Joker.
While everyone is happy to be back together Dick wonders what happened to Bea.
Elsewhere, Bea reflects once again about how she has always hated Gotham City and it taking Ric Grayson away from her is another reason she always will. End of issue.
The Good: The way we got to the return of Dick Grayson was messy but reading the final pages of Nightwing #74 felt rewarding because of how long the Ric Grayson Saga lasted. Bringing the Batman Family together to mark this big return made Dick Grayson’s bigger. At the same time, the tie-in to “Joker War” did cause problems with the overall structure of the event to impact the overall quality of Nightwing #74.
Before getting to that, Dan Jurgens does deserve credit for trying to connect all the tie-ins to “Joker War.” What worked in this attempt was making Ric Grayson’s transformation into Dickeyboy have greater weight because Dick Grayson has been forced to fight not only Batgirl but Red Hood as well. Giving off the idea that Joker has been using Dick Grayson as his sidekick the entire duration of “Joker War” makes you cheer the Batman Family on more because you don’t want Dickeyboy to be permanent.
This also further emphasizes how knowing the identities of all the members of the Batman Family has made Joker even more dangerous. He has added this knowledge to his tool set to cause further chaos for Batman’s life. Now he has made things even more personal because he is using one of the Batman Family members to destroy them.
Which worked in well with the way the fight between Dickeyboy and Red Hood turned out. Jurgens used the fact that they are brothers to provide a good explanation why Jason Todd was thrown off his game. You can see how concerned Jason was as he was holding back in fighting his brother at his full ability. It added weight to when Dickeyboy turned the tables and showed that he wasn’t going to hesitate pulling the trigger on Red Hood.
Bringing in Batgirl and Bea to act as the final triggers for Dick Grayson’s return was also well done. Batgirl getting the Identity Crystal from Joker was a good payoff to what she was forced to go through in earlier issues. The quickness in how she knocked both Joker and Punchline down in order to take the Identity Crystal all flowed well. It added to the sense of urgency to help Dick Grayson reclaim who he is.
Bea being there was also a good payoff to how Jurgens has been developing her as a foundation for this entire Ric Grayson Saga. She is by far the most important character in this period as she has been there for Ric Grayson at every turn. It was only right that she was the one that was the one to give Dick Grayson the Identity Crystal so he can remember his true life.
Through this development Jurgens did a good job getting the reader to understand Bea’s fear of what Dick Grayson’s return was. He first address that through how she is not a big fan of Gotham City. Adding in that she feels that she lost the person she loved to Gotham City does create greater interest in what the plans are for her character. The way Dick Grayson reacted to Bea’s disappearance does indicate that he does have all his Ric Grayson memories. So there is still much more to be said with where Dick and Bea stand in their relationship once the “Joker War” is over.
Seeing the Batman Family back together was a great way to end Nightwing #74. Seeing Batman, Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Hood, and Robin back as a united front gave a sense of hope that things will now turn around with the “Joker War.” Having this moment here made these Nightwing tie-in issues have a greater sense of importance to them than a normal tie-in comic.
Ryan Benjamin once again delivers his consistent art style to have the story in Nightwing #74 have a nice flow. With this issue being more action heavy Benjamin is able to put on display the more aggressive fighting style that Dick Grayson had under Joker’s influence as Dickeyboy. He also did a good job getting across Red Hood and Robin’s confusion as they were not sure how they should fight their brother. Benjamin also nailed how Dick Grayson had a flood of his original memories come back to him while still having hints that he will still carry the memories he had during his time as Ric Grayson.
The Bad: Though Jurgens tries to bring together all the “Joker War” tie-in issues from Batgirl, Nightwing, and Red Hood: Outlaw together there really isn’t much he could do. The timeline of these issues are so all over the place that Jurgens can’t avoid adding to the confusion. Specifically when it comes to Batgirl mentioning her earlier clash with Joker is a major head scratcher. The way Jurgens wrote Batgirl’s dialogue it is clear that Barbara knew Joker was back but never warned the Batman Family.
This is a major problem with the timeline of the “Joker War” story as it is not really clear when everything takes place outside Nightwing #74 being right after Batman #98. It all creates more questions as to why the Batman Family allowed Gotham City to get to the state it is in during the three days Batman was passed out. That isn’t something that Jurgens had to address with Nightwing #74, but he does certainly add another spotlight to this problem with the “Joker War” narrative.
Batman’s appearance also does not work out as intended. At this point it has gotten old how often the excuse is made that Bruce Wayne keeps his family members at a distance. It just makes him a horrible person that this is the automatic excuse he makes. It would’ve been much better for the overall narrative if Bruce actually owned up to being wrong for keeping Dick Grayson at a distance and allowing the whole Ric Grayson Saga to go on. Not owning up to it just continues the whole “Bruce being Bruce” rather than the characters actually growing.
The only knock I have towards Benjamin’s art is that he made Tim Drake look like he was 13 years old rather than 18. Though that seems to be a bigger problem whenever an artist draws Tim as Robin next to Batman, Nightwing, Batgirl, and Red Hood.
Overall: While it was road getting here it is good to have Dick Grayson officially back. Dan Jurgens gave Dick Grayson’s return the weight it needed to have with the roles the Batgirl, Red Hood, and Robin serve in helping make it all happen. The involvement of Bea Bennett in Nightwing #74 also leaves the door open to explore the impact this whole Ric Grayson Saga has on the direction for this series moving forward.
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