Nightwing #89 (March, 2004)
Script – Devin Grayson
Penciller – Patrick Zircher
Inker – Andy Owens
Colorist – Gregory Wright
Letterer – Clem Robins
Editor – Michael Wright
Cover Price: $2.25
What if I were to tell you that we’re about to discuss a comic that shows what happens when an oversized criminal kingpin discovers a costumed hero’s secret identity… and uses that information to systematically take apart that hero’s life?
You might say something like, “Hey Chris, I didn’t know you covered Marvel books here!” or, “When did Daredevil join the DC Universe?”
We open with Dick Grayson waking up at his ex-girlfriend Barbara Gordon’s apartment… since they’re no longer an item, and because his staying there might get kinda weird… she gives him the ol’ heave-ho. Dick hops on his motorbike, and heads back to Bludhaven. Along the way, he recounts recent events… he’s lost his girlfriend, his day-job on the Bludhaven Police Force… and Haley’s Circus has been burned down.
We shift scenes to the big-bad… Blockbuster, Roland Desmond. He’s chatting up a couple of members of his gang, Giz and (don’t call her Catwoman) the Mouse. Worth noting, because why not… Giz has his trusty pet squirrel (named Goober) sitting on his shoulder. Anyhoo, Rolly offers to double their pay if they make an upcoming… er, we’ll just call it a demolition project… “memorable”.
Dick returns to his Bludhaven apartment building, and runs into a fella named Yoska. At this point, Dick was discovering his Romany roots… something that really seemed to irk many of the readers of the day, though I can’t say for certain why this was such a big deal for them. Granted, I never took the time to research either. Anyhoo, Yoska refers to Dick as “Ryeka” and offers him an adorned bottle of wine perfect for “popping the question”. Dick mutters something about his current relationship status before graciously accepting the gift.
Dick then suits up, and heads out on a rare daytime patrol… he gets out just in time to see… his entire building exploded!
The building is literally gone in an instant… leaving nothing but a smoldering mess. Nightwing rushes back to sift through the wreckage for survivors… and unfortunately comes up empty.
Nightwing discovers Yoska’s body… and finds the beads that once adorned that celebratory bottle of wine, then… walking through the smoke… Tarantula?
At this point in time, Nightwing was acting as something of a mentor for this new female Tarantula. She’s been depicted as… let’s say, unhinged (though, it’s about to get worse), so Dick assumes that she’s responsible for the blast. He lunges at her… and she pleads her innocence. She was only in the area because she knows that the original Tarantula (John Law) lived in the building, and she was trying to save him. She also reveals that the baddie behind this tragedy is… Roland Desmond.
Then… Aaron Helzinger, perhaps better known as Amygdala bursts from the wreckage. Ya see, Aaron’s been released from Arkham, and has proven to be something of an ally and a pal (a pally?) to Nightwing. He was also a tenant of the building, and right now, isn’t quite in his right (gentle) mind.
The Bludhaven P.D. train their guns on Aaron… and Nightwing throws himself in front of the poor rampaging goof. Captain Amy Rohrbach, Dick’s former boss instinctively refers to Nightwing as “Dick”… and gives him a few moments to get control of the situation, which he does… by being brutally honest with Amygdala.
Rohrbach calls Nightwing over to see if he has any info… and he gives her the straight dope on Blockbuster.
Dick’s taking this all as badly as you might imagine… and blames himself for the loss of life. It’s not yet clear whether or not he knows this destruction actually is a result of his living here… but, Dick’s a smart cookie (and he’s being written by that other D. Grayson)… so, I gotta imagine he knows what’s up. On his way out, he is approached by a very overzealous Maxine Michaels, who’d love an exclusive interview. Dick punches her… cameraman…’s camera.
We wrap up with Blockbuster watching the news of his Bludhaven Bombing… and greeting the next member of his gang who is to continue running Dick Grayson through the wringer… Shrike!
So yeah… this is pretty much Daredevil: Born Again… again.
I must not have read “Born Again” before reading this the first time around, because I swear… I never noticed the similarities. Then again, I’ve never claimed to be quickest on the draw when it comes to reading comprehension.
That said, it’s not a bad story… but, then again, “Born Again” has gone on to become one of my all-time favorites, so I might be biased. This story works really well… in a vacuum.
What I mean by that, is… I feel like we’re supposed to forget that Nightwing might be the most well connected member of heroing community. I mean, his “father” is Batman. He’s friends with Superman. He’s been a member of the Titans, Outsiders, and the Justice League of America. What I’m trying to say is, dude’s got this meta-powered army at his disposal… and he’s going to spend the next several issues sweating Blockbuster?
I know a little while after this story hits we get Identity Crisis, that has a major focus on “mind-wiping”… so, maybe that’s off the table (editorially) here… but, I mean… in the DC Universe, that’s gotta be a go-to option in situations like this, right? Hell, right around this time Batman told his entire “family” that he set up dummy identities for all of them, just in case word got out. I dunno… maybe I’m thinking too hard… or, maybe this is a case of trying to force a square peg into a round hole story-wise.
Of course this all kinda culminates in that issue (which we’ve already discussed here)… so, I guess (if we throw this into that vacuum) taking Dick Grayson apart piece by piece kinda “sets up” that event from that issue. It doesn’t really excuse it… but, I suppose I can’t argue that it puts Dick in a particularly vulnerable and “broken” place.
The apartment explosion here… kinda left me cold. I feel like this was part of the plan for awhile, and so we were being introduced to more and more colorful tenants… forcing relationships between them and Dick. They just felt like cannon fodder… which I guess, at the end of the day… they were. Somehow, Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli were able to evoke so much more emotion when they blew up Matt Murdock’s building… and (best I can recall) we didn’t even know his neighbors.
Overall… I can’t argue that this is an important issue… nor can I argue that this was a beautifully drawn issue! It might be worth a look, I suppose it’s a “Your Mileage May Vary” sorta deal.