Dick and Damian were partners, brothers, friends, and they complimented each other very well. At the end of Nightwing #17, Damian helped pull Dick out of his funk, only for him to fall into a deeper hole in #18 with his death. The issue is decent, but it has its fair share of problems that I feel wasn’t an entirely proper send off to their long and meaningful relationship.
There is some genuinely good writing in this issue, and a lot of it does have to do with Damian. Dick is mourning the loss of his partner pretty badly. He misses Damian, he loved the boy, and together they were Batman and Robin before Bruce and Damian were a team. In a way that reminds me of when Bruce lost Jason, Dick seems lost, angry, confused, and sad because it was the death of the last family member he had that he could trust. The flashbacks help enforce that idea in the beginning, that Damian was doing what any sidekick does, cheer on the hero, and kick him into shape. Damian never stopped being Dick Grayson’s friend, and Dick never stopped being a mentor and older brother figure to Damian, and this issue makes that perfectly clear. The two were close, and Dick does heartrendingly admit this by the end that he loved Damian, not just as a partner but his brother in every sense of the word. Both had the difficulties of having Batman for a father figure, but Dick’s love and patience with the boy won him over and was rewarded by Damian being the one who helped Dick regain his composure after the events of Death of the family. In the issue, Dick deals once more with The Dealer, a Super Criminal Memorabilia auctioneer he met while he was The Batman in the pages of the Black Mirror arc of Batman, back before the Nu52. The Dealer is now selling a Flying Graysons outfit that was defaced by the Joker during the Death of the Family. At the same time, Dick reevaluates who he is as a hero and instead of saving the outfit from the fire, he saves the criminals who were bidding on the auctions instead, realizing that he could let the past go, and had to instead focus on being who he is, which is a hero. Really, the best parts of the issues are when Dick is thinking about Damian and speaking at his grave.
There’s also the ongoing problem Dick now has with Bruce, in that he no longer trusts him, and it reminds him of the old days when he struck out as Nightwing in the first place. Their relationship is strained, and Dick does not trust Bruce. It’s fitting that in the wake of Death of the family, and how lost Dick seems in the issue, that he has no guiding focus in his life. He’s literally trying to find himself and like when he was first Nightwing, he needs to do it on his own, and without the Batman. Dick Grayson’s always been his own man, and reminding the readers that this is not the first time Dick has been lost and on his own is a good story telling device and brings back some nostalgia for long time Nightwing readers who remember another time when Dick was unsure of himself and had to go his own way, with no help from anyone. There’s also the reveal of Tony Zucco being alive, the gangster who had Dick’s parents killed, which is a neat hook for people to look forward in the wake of all these disasters in Dick’s life. While I feel it wasn’t handled as graceful as it could have been, it did get me excited for the next issue and to see what was next for Dick. With Zucco alive, Dick now has focus, a goal, something he can do to really rebuild himself.
I liked the issue, but there’s a lot of things about it that made me annoyed. One is that it’s constantly the same deal we’ve seen with Dick at the fallout of every crossover. He’s been beaten, he’s been licked, and now he’s moping and sad. That’s absolutely fine for losing Damian, someone he’s been close to, but this is the same reaction we’ve seen at the end of Court of the Owls, and Death of the Family. This issue focused on far too many things that it should not have, including Sonia Zucco, This should have been more like Batman & Robin #18, an issue that solely explored Dick’s relationship and loss of his brother. There’s also the silly thing of Dick leaving the game that Damian asked him to buy so that they could play together at his grave. Out of all the things Dick could have left as a memento on his partner’s grave, it’s the video game? It’s weird and out of place rather than touching. I guess that’s what”s really disappointing to me about the issue. We never truly get too deeply into Dick’s despair and loss over Damian. We never entirely see his confusion and isolation, but merely get glimpses of it. The parts where they do shine through are the best parts of the issue, but those aren’t as various as they should for Dick Grayson. Dick’s always been in touch with his emotions, and yet he seems to be simply half there at times. It’s a good to have an unspoken sadness, but Dick just does not the emotional reaction I was hoping for that the cover teased at. In a way, Dick should be more broken up than Bruce is at losing Robin. While losing Damian does have an effect on him, I feel it was a wasted opportunity that tried to juggle the plot and Dick’s reaction at the same time.
Another problem is the art is not consistent. Sometimes everything looks great, and other times it looks terrible. This is most noticeable with Dick’s face outside of the costume. The background details are great, the coloring is done well, but those faces just drive me up the wall. Dick’s reaction near the end when he’s looking at something on a table is almost a reaction picture goldmine just because of how funny it looks. Again, it’s the lack of consistency with the art that bothers me so much. Dick looks fine on the spread of him swinging around with Batman, but it looks terrible when he’s inside the building fighting The Dealer’s men.
The issue is fine, but I can’t help but feel disappointed in the lack of Dick’s emotional reaction to Damian’s death. Perhaps some would say that’s Dick Grayson, that he’s not a mourner, but someone who prefers to remember someone’s life rather than their death. There is some emotion there, and it’s touching to hear what Dick has to say. Without Damian, Dick feels like he’s lost someone truly important, and that he has to be strong without him.
I’d give it a 7/10, it’s worth picking up, but it’s not the issue I was hoping it’d be.