DC Comics has completely dropped the ball with the Ric Grayson arc. The entire direction for Dick Grayson since being shot in the head and transforming into Ric Grayson has been repetitive. All the issues since becoming Ric Grayson have done is make the character extremely unlikable. Now with all that said, recently we were teased that Dick Grayson will return sometime in 2020. With that teaser out there I got interested enough in finding out what Nightwing Annual #2 would reveal about the time period after Dick Grayson got shot in the head and returned to Bludhaven as Ric Grayson. Will this annual clear things up as to why we have Ric Grayson? Let’s find out with Nightwing Annual #2.
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Travis Moore
Colorist: Nick Filardi
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Several weeks ago Dr. Haas asks Dick Grayson what he remembers. Dick tells Dr. Haas he prefers being called Richard and all he remembers is his time in the circus and with his parents then suddenly waking up in the hospital after their deaths. Richard goes on to say that he can’t remember any of his life in between and it is driving him crazy.
Flashing back to several months ago Nightwing is shot in the head while talking with Batman and Commissioner Gordon by KGBeast (Batman #55). Gordon orders the GCPD to look for the shooter. Batman picks Nightwing up and says there is no time. Gordon thinks Nightwing may be dead. Batman says Nightwing will be fine and swings away with Nightwing in his arms.
Back to a few weeks ago, Dr. Haas goes over the brain damage Richard suffered and how he was meeting with Commissioner Gordon on the GCPD rooftop when he got shot. Richard says he does not remember any of that.
Dr. Haas changes the subject and asks Richard if he can remember a happy memory. Richard recalls performing with his parents at Haly’s Circus in front of a large crowd during a stop in Bludhaven. He goes on to remember how his parents complimented him on how perfect his performance was, with his mom calling him a natural.
Dr. Haas then asks what Richard remembers after his childhood memories. Richard says all he remembers is waking up in the hospital with fuzzy vision of someone in a brightly colored costume.
Back to a few months ago, Robin (Damian Wayne) is standing on Dick Grayson’s hospital bed. Robin tells Dick he failed by making himself vulnerable. Robin goes on to say that Batman is consumed with worry. He goes on to tell Dick to his part and wake up.
Of this time Richard just remembers hearing a mumbled voice. Dr. Haas says that the brain trauma Richard suffered can affect what a person sees as reality.
Richard then goes on to mention he remembers someone (Robin) yelling for him to wake up.
Robin is then shown swinging away when that doesn’t work with a tear in his eye.
Dr. Hass tells Richard that his childhood years must have been the important part in forming his true character and who he is as a man. She then asks Richard to talk about his memory of Bludhaven again.
Flashing back to that period, Mary Grayson tells her son that she has a surprise for him. Mary goes on to reveal they will be having a real Thanksgiving experience. John Grayson suddenly appears and presents Richard to his great-aunt and great-uncle who live in Bludhaven. Richard’s great-aunt and great-uncle are both happy that they will be able to have a Thanksgiving together.
Back in the present, Richard says that memory sticking out to him is great and all but he is still bothered getting shot atop of the GCPD headquarters. Richard says that while he feels glad to forget those memories there is a voice he keeps hearing. Dr. Haas says that voice is likely Bruce Wayne, who took Richard in after his parents died. She goes on to reveal Bruce flew her in specifically to treat him as he has been extremely worried about Richard since he got shot.
Flashing back to months ago, while swinging to the hospital Batman tells Robin he took care of KGBeast. Robin asks if his father cut off KGBeast’s head. Batman says he did not.
Bruce and Damian then meet up with Barbara and Alfred. They both say nothing has changed with Dick’s condition.
Bruce tells Barbara and Alfred he has flown in a special neurosurgeon from Switzerland to help Dick out. Dr. Hass appears and tells the four that it is time they brought Dick out of his coma. Damian asks if Dick will wake up like himself or forget everything. Dr. Haas admits that it is a miracle Dick is even alive and that there is a high likelihood of permanent consequences from the brain trauma.
They then enter Dick’s room as Dr. Haas reveals that she changed Dick’s medical regimen and dosage so he could wake up from his coma. As everyone is hoping for the best Dick finally wakes up. Dr. Haas tells Dick to say hi to his family. Dick says he doesn’t have a family and has no idea who Bruce, Barbara, Damian or Alfred are.
In the present Richard remembers how Bruce and the others reacted sadly to what he said even though he doesn’t know them. Dr. Haas says they were all upset, particularly Bruce.
In the past, Bruce asks everyone to give him and Dick time to talk alone. After everyone leaves the hospital room Dick tells Bruce his name is Richard because that is what his mom called him. Richard goes on to asks Bruce for his name. Bruce realizes that none of this is an act. He then excuses himself to talk with Dr. Haas.
Bruce walks outside and tells everyone that Dick doesn’t remember anything or anyone. Bruce asks Dr. Haas if this is temporary. Dr. Haas says she will have to figure that out with more tests. Dr. Haas goes back to check on Richard.
Barbara tells Bruce to remember she got shot once and she was able to recover. Bruce punches a wall so hard that he leaves a hole in it. He then says he shouldn’t have let either times happen. Bruce then walks out of the hospital depressed.
In the present, Richard once talks about how it feels to have people stare at you like they know you but are complete strangers. Dr. Haas says she understands and sympathizes with Richard. Richard says that is why he trusts Dr. Haas so much as his doctor. He goes on to explain Dr. Haas not pretending to be his friend or some long-lost relative he understood she was looking out for him unlike the others. Dr. Haas reminds Richard that Bruce took him in when his parents died, which is not something most people would do.
Flashing back to some time ago, Dr. Haas admits to Bruce she is at a loss with Richard’s condition. Bruce does not like anything that Dr. Haas is saying and thinks he should bring in someone better. Dr. Haas reminds Bruce she is the best neurosurgeon in the world. Dr. Haas mentions that maybe once Richard heals they can arrange for him to visit the Wayne Mansion since it could be familiar to him. Bruce agrees to this.
Several months later, after Richard is able to leave the hospital Dr. Haas and Alfred drive him to the Wayne Mansion. Dr. Haas reminds Richard to have an open mind about what he is about to do but Richard is still not so sure about this.
They arrive at Wayne Mansion and Bruce is there to welcome him back to make the place a home again for him to recover. Damian agrees with this, even calling Richard “brother.” Richard admits that the Wayne Mansion does not feel like a home but more of a mausoleum that lacks a family atmosphere.
In the present, Richard then remembers his childhood Thanksgiving with his great-aunt and great-uncle. He remembers how charming of a neighborhood his family lived in. During the dinner he remembers how warmly his great-aunt and great-uncle treated him, even letting him play with their dog. John and Mary both thank their family since it is hard to make Richard feel at home with how much they travel.
While playing outside young Richard found a book called “The Very Friendly Owl” that was his great-aunt and great-uncle’s daughter’s book. Richard’s great-aunt lets him read the book.
In the present, Richard reflects how the Wayne Mansion did not feel like a home at all. Dr. Haas then wonders why a couple weeks ago Richard stormed out of the Wayne Mansion upset. Richard says he does not want to talk about it.
While he says that Richard remembers Alfred opening up the secret entrance to the Batcave. Once they walk down the stairs Richard is shocked to see Bruce and Damian as Batman and Robin in front of him. Batman then shows Richard the Nightwing costume he wore when he got shot in the head in hopes this will help him remember that he is Dick Grayson.
Richard is in shock and still doesn’t believe this. Damian shows Richard the security footage from that night. Richard at first denies being Nightwing until he hears his voice in the footage. Richard then asks why they are showing him this footage. Damian says it is so Richard remembers who he is.
Richard calls Bruce and Damian demented for showing him this because it just shows he got shot in the head because he was Nightwing. Richard pushes Bruce away when he tries to call him “Dick.” Damian tries to remind Richard that his father treated him like he was his son.
Richard then yells that being shot in the head is the worst fate he could’ve suffered after his parents died. Bruce once again tries to call him by “Dick” but Richard yells again that it is not his name nor is he Nightwing.
Richard then rushes out of Wayne Manor back to Dr. Haas, who loads him up in the car. Bruce yells at Dr. Haas that this is unacceptable and he will find someone who can help restore Dick’s memories if she can’t. Dr. Haas says she just needs time and will get it done.
In the present, Richard tells Dr. Haas he is fine forgetting the memories of Dick Grayson from the last decade. Dr. Haas admits that they are at a crossroads since Richard is physically recovered. She then asks Richard what he would like to do since staying in Gotham City isn’t helping him. Richard just wants to be himself.
He then remembers after leaving his great-aunt and great-uncle’s place that they told him their home is his home. His great-aunt then gives him the book he was reading earlier.
After the Flying Graysons leave Richard’s great-aunt and great-uncle stare at an owl painting in their home. A member of the Court of Owls enters the home and says Richard’s great-aunt and great-uncle did their jobs perfectly to set Richard up to be theirs in a few years.
In the present, Dr. Haas recommends that Richard start over in a place that has some meaning to him. She then hands him a copy of “The Very Friendly Owl,” like the one he read as a kid. Richard is touched by this gesture and hugs Dr. Haas as a thank you for all she has done. Richard walks out while promising to stay in touch.
After Richard leaves, Dr. Haas answers a call from a member of the Court of Owls. The Court of Owls member reflects on how Dr. Haas’ drug regimen and psychological manipulation buried all of Richard’s memories of being Robin, Nightwing and Bruce’s son. He then mentions how this positions Richard right where they want him to be. Dr. Haas puts on a Court of Owl’s mask and declares that Dick Grayson is gone forever. The Court of Owls then place an order to notify William Cobb (Dick Grayson’s great-grandfather) that Richard is almost theirs to have.
On a highway 45 miles outside Bludhaven we see Richard attempting to hitchhike back to the city he feels is home. End of issue.
The Good: It’s amazing how one comic book issue can do the job that sixteen issues of Nightwing could not do at all. And that is finally provide a convincing reason why Dick Grayson would be replaced by Ric Grayson. To Dan Jurgen’s credit that is exactly what he does with Nightwing Annual #2 giving fans a reason to get interested in this story of Richard Grayson.
The big thing that stood out in Nightwing Annual #2 compared to the last sixteen issues of this series is how everything moved with a clear purpose. Even when specific story beats became were hit on over and over again it never came across as repetitive. That has been one of the biggest problems that has caused the Ric Grayson story to fail. Just about every issue we’ve seen Ric Grayson repeat the same inner monologue of not being Dick Grayson or Nightwing.
That happens again in Nightwing Annual #2 for sure. But unlike all those other times it was given with a specific purpose. That purpose was to show the reader the consequences of Nightwing getting shot in the head and how it all played into a bigger story we have seen developed since the New 52 began. Having that bigger picture in mind of Dick Grayson’s family history with the Court of Owls in mind immediately shot up the importance of this Ric Grayson arc.
Jurgens did an especially good job explaining why Dick Grayson has gone back to being called Richard Grayson. Each flashback to his childhood emphasized the positive memories Richard had with his parents. Reinforcing that alongside the brain trauma he suffered makes the name Richard take on a whole new sense of importance to this storyline.
Explaining the importance of the name also goes to answer why Richard has pushed against his life as Robin and Nightwing. While there have been various triggers to that period of his life those have only come with intense pain. And since he still doesn’t understand the life he had between his parents dying and waking up after getting shot in the head it is reasonable that Bruce, Damian and the others pushing him to be Dick Grayson again is what he is fighting. With how much trauma he has suffered getting fed all this information makes the pain even of trying to remember even greater.
At the same time, Jurgens does a great job not making Bruce, Damian or the others come out looking like bad people. Jurgens uses how Bruce and the others try to help Richard remember his life with them to reinforce how important he is to their lives. Dick Grayson is a key member of the Batman Family. Him pushing back against that life is clearly painful for all of them.
Spotlighting Bruce and Damian in Nightwing Annual #2 in particular was a strong choice. Since taking him in Bruce has come to think of Dick Grayson as a son. Meanwhile, Dick Grayson was the big brother figure that Damian needed to shape him into the superhero he has come to become. So this is even more personal for both of them as Richard pushing against his family ties with them hurts the most. Jurgens gets that across during the Batcave scene with Bruce and Damian doing everything they could to make Richard remember his life with them.
The scene in the Batcave also goes a long way into explaining why Richard has acted in the way he has in the main Nightwing series. Now we understand that it is not that Richard doesn’t want to remember those memories. It is more that Bruce and the others, in their stages of grief, went to hard to fast for Richard to remember them that they scared him. It was too much information at once that they ended up making Richard feel like he was being forced to do something rather seeing it as them helping.
This also explains why since being shot in the head the Batman Family, save for Barbara and Alfred in early issues, have avoided Richard this entire time. With how heated things got in the Batcave the worst thing that Bruce and the others could do is push even further. They went to far this time that they need to regroup and think of a better approach to help Richard remember his life as Dick Grayson. That rational makes the Court of Owls entire plan come across as even more brilliant.
Which makes the relationship that Richard shares with Dr. Haas be something you get into believing that the doctor is genuine about helping him. All of the dialogue Jurgens gives Dr. Haas to show how her approach is much different in comparison to Bruce and the others approach. Dr. Haas does everything she can to make Richard feel comfortable in talking with her. That leads to a much easier transition between the present and flashbacks to Richard’s memory of spending Thanksgiving with his family.
Speaking of, Jurgens did a good job in using the Thanksgiving scenes to hint at the Court of Owls connection the Grayson Family has. From the moment Richard’s great-aunt and great-uncle appear there is a sense of manipulation going on. It was all too convenient thing to happen. Which is good because, as we learned in Scott Snyder’s Batman run, the Grayson family has a long history as a Talon for the Court of Owls. This was a reminder of that history without throwing it in the readers face about how far that goes.
Going with this route made the Court of Owls use Nightwing getting shot in the head as there chance to convert Dick Grayson into a Talon a strong reveal. Specifically, learning that Dr. Haas used a combination of a drug regimen and psychological manipulation while Richard was healing laid the groundwork for the entire Ric Grayson arc that has been missing. This hook ending highlighted how much the Court of Owls have always wanted Dick Grayson as their Talon. Seeing how well that plan worked it makes you get behind Richard discovering what is truly going on and anticipate the moment when Dick Grayson returns to wreck the Court of Owls plans.
Travis Moore more than carried his weight for the artwork duties in Nightwing Annual #2. The artwork got you to understand where Richard was at this point in his life after being shot in the head. Moore had a lot of great splash pages that summarized what happened in the past and Dick Grayson’s life as Robin and Nightwing. Those pages all played an important role in showing how overwhelming everything was for Richard.
The Bad: Nightwing Annual #2 made such a great argument for the name Richard Grayson that it just hurt the whole Ric Grayson person we have been reading thus far. This is not necessarily a negative for Nightwing Annual #2 but more of a negative for the direction of the last 16 issues of Nightwing. Jurgens put a lot of effort in explaining why the name of Richard was something that Dick was clinging to after all that happened. It would have been much better if he actually went by the name Richard this entire time. Because Ric Grayson is such a punk name that lacks the importance of Richard or Dick Grayson. It’s unfortunate we are too late in the game right now because Richard Grayson would’ve meant something important if he went by his full name the entire time.
Overall: Nightwing Annual #2 is the comic book that the entire Ric Grayson story desperately needed. Dan Jurgens did more to create a sense of importance in the Ric Grayson story within these 38 pages than the last sixteen issues of Nightwing did combine. I am now finally invested in the Ric Grayson story Jurgens is telling in Nightwing, which I never expected to be. This is definitely an issue that Nightwing fans and those reading the current Batman run should pick up.
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