First off I will say that I have been saying the praises of this series for quite a while now, and I must say now I want to start singing them. Every time I think the bar has been raised, the creative team seems to trapeze with ease right over it.
For the past 11 issues Dick Grayson has been taken out of Gotham and thrust into the world of SPYRAL and international intrigue. It has been a wild ride thus far and even with Dick being in a new element it’s been him at his most “Grayson” in a long time. Well this issue might just be him at his most “Graysonest” (Not a word I know, but it darn should be) ever. Whether it’s as Dick Grayson, Nightwing, or Agent 37, this team just gets it. So when I read that this would be the issue that he makes his grand return to Gotham, I got so excited. I had my reservations but my faith in this series far outweighed my worries. I was right. This was brilliant.
Those who are regular readers are usually treated to high-octane action, secret agent double crosses, dangerous romantic exploits and quips and jokes by the boatload. Well this month we take a slight hiatus from that format. This is a simple story at its core. Just a story about a man who has been estranged from his family for a long time, and he finds his way home.
First things first, the former first Robin needs to see: The Bat. To his chagrin, Bruce Wayne is and no longer remembers being Batman. Ever.
Alfred, has made it clear to Dick, that during Bruce’s final battle with the Joker, (Back in Batman #35-40 by Bat Lords Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo) Batman finally died but Bruce Wayne survived. Dick needing to see this for himself, decides to dress in disguise to go see a Bruce Wayne who doesn’t remember him anyway.
What makes this scene work so well is that the page is adorned in many thought bubbles. To the not so keen eye, they appear to be random thoughts. To the eyes of an honorary detective however you discover that every single solitary one of them has been seen in print in the pages of a Batman or DC Comic before. I thought this was a fantastic touch, almost a literary semblance of seeing ones life flash before their eyes but with thoughts. They are all excerpts from former conversations between the original Batman and Robin: Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. The writers managed to take the very long history between the two and condense it down into just quotes on one page. A great device that brings the reader up to speed without having the overuse of long-winded narration to get the point across. Before Dick leaves he asks Bruce just one last question. “Are you happy?” Bruce isn’t able to give him a clear-cut answer since he has no memory of his past and isn’t quite sure what to feel. Dick realizes that it may not be the same Bruce Wayne standing in front of him at that moment. One thing is crystal clear though. Batman is not home anymore.
Next stop up, we find Dick getting punked out on a rooftop between his former “Robin boy wonders in arms” Jason Todd and Tim Drake. Like Bruce, Dick has a storied past with both these individuals. They all at one time were the successor to the mantle of Robin in some form and the teen sidekicks of the Dark Knight. Dick tries to explain his side of the story to the both of them but it falls on deaf ears. (Faking your own death to your best friends, has a way of getting to the toughest of us) He goes on and on trying to explain the reason, that it was the greater good and the greatest burden he had to bear to keep them safe. They simply say to him that he shouldn’t have lied to them because above all else, they aren’t just siblings of the Bat, they are brothers. Then and there, Dick understands they are right. Before he leaves he says a small speech to each and presents them with two Batarangs. He tells them Bruce would want them to have it. Like the previous scene with Bruce, this was done very well. First we had Jason slug Dick right in the face and Tim try to break it up. Simple touches like that gives the effect these characters all have a deep relationship and maintains that they are a family. Simply put, all families fight. Especially brothers.
A short time later we find ourselves atop a bridge in the midst of a reunion conversation between Dick and Batgirl herself: Barbara Gordon. This was the one conversation Dick dreaded the most. It’s not just a former caped crusader or sibling or friend, this is the love of his life. The love of his life that he has lied and deceived and no excuse on Earth is good enough for her. So he doesn’t try. He just mans up and lets her know how much he’s missed her and he’s sorry. Unfortunately like in real life, sometime saying your sorry isn’t good enough. Nor should it be. I really liked this approach, another tip of my hat to the writers here, showing they understand that Dick Grayson is a humanized superhero. He is not above reproach or tries to be holier than thou. It’s one of the reasons Dick Grayson is at the top of my list of all time favorite fictional, not just comic book characters. He has a purity in his fallible nature that is refreshing. He may make mistakes, but he always tries to make up from them and more importantly learn from them. Barbara doesn’t have to accept his apology but she at least hears him out. She then leaps off the bridge (that’s a better exit that over dramatically slamming a door any day got to give the girl style points there) and in true chivalrous fashion Dick follows suit. (flying off bridges is nothing for a child of the circus and Batman’s side kick, helloooo)
Once Dick catches up to Babs (as he always called her) and says he just wants to give her something. He hands her the trapeze bar from their first date at the circus when Barbara was still rehabilitating after her torture at the hands of the Joker. Being a human being, this strikes a nerve with Barbara and then hears him out. It isn’t the love fest one would expect but it is heartwarming nonetheless. Barbara then figures out that the deliberate speech pattern and words Dick used and pulls a clue from it. (I won’t spoil, but it is a very clever concept that is repeated through the issue) Before she can get confirmation, Dick is long gone.
Finally we make our last stop. Dick arrives to see Damien Wayne, son of Batman and Dick’s former Robin. (Dick as Batman in Grant Morrison’s run on Batman and Robin is one of the all time best stories in my opinion) This scene was my favorite in the book. It was brief but, near perfect. Damien rushes and somersaults his way with joy right over to Dick as soon as he learns he’s alive. No cold shoulder just a warm embrace for his back from the dead brother. A long hug and a couple of wisecracks exchanged between them and that was all that was needed. Such a great touching moment.
Overall: Like I said before the bar keeps being surpassed each and every single month and it is a true joy as a reader to pick up a book that you don’t want to put down. Those who were looking for fast paced espionage might have been a little disappointed this month but not me. I couldn’t have been more pleased. This was just a good story about a uniquely estranged family which was raw and had a lot of heart. I’ve enjoyed this book a little more every single issue and with Dick back amongst the Bat-Family, it’s only going to get better. Ladies and gentleman the band is back together and this might just be their best performance yet. Keep the lights on in the cave and see you all here in 30 days.
Story: Tim Seely and Tom King Art: Mikel Janin
Story: 9.9 Art: 9.3 Overall: 9.9 Recommendation: Buy