Spoilers for Forever Evil #1 below.
As much as Forever Evil is a story of villains and the relative nature of evil, it's also a major platform for one of DC's oldest heroes: Dick Grayson. Dick's life took a new turn for the worst in Forever Evil #1 last week as he was captured by the Crime Syndicate and had his identity broadcast on every TV, computer, and phone screen in the world.
This is easily one of the biggest developments in Dick's life since transitioning from Robin to Nightwing, and it's one that will almost certainly have far-reaching consequences on his life even after Forever Evil is through. But with DC's ongoing series not reflecting the aftermath of Forever Evil for months yet, it may be some time until we learn just how much Dick's life is overturned.
For now, we're going to take a look at his current place in the DCU and what effects, both immediate and long-term, Forever Evil will have on this troubled hero.
Having your secret identity broadcast to the world creates all sorts of problems, both psychological and practical. And it wasn't just Dick's name that the Crime Syndicate plastered on the airwaves, but his driver's license, birth certificate, and various other private records aimed at proving their claim beyond a shadow of a doubt. Once the world returns to some semblance of normal and Kryptonite-snorting villains aren't lording over everyone, identity thieves the world over are going to have a field day with those records. Basically, Dick's credit score is toast.
With every facet of his life sure to be torn apart, there really isn't any point in being Dick Grayson anymore. That's what separates him from heroes with more or less public identities (Animal Man, Guy Gardner, etc.)
Dick has two choices at this point. He can give up having a personal life at all. That's what Batman would probably do in his place. But for Batman, being Bruce Wayne has often been a necessary chore that gets in the way of skulking around rooftops and punching criminals in the face. Depending on his mood, he might relish the chance to leave Bruce Wayne behind and focus on being Batman 100% of the time.
But that's not Dick Grayson. Dick is the former sidekick who made good. He escaped the shadow of Batman, built his own reputation as a hero, and developed a mature adult life full of meaningful relationships and genuine happiness. That hasn't always been well reflected in the New 52, but this well-rounded nature is very much at the core of who Dick is. It's why outing his identity is such a significant move in the first place.
His only other choice is to start over with a new life and new identity. He wouldn't even be the first Batman sidekick to do so. As we learned in Teen Titans #0 last year, "Tim Drake" is a false identity Batman created after Tim drew the wrath of the Penguin against himself and his family. It wouldn't be much of a stretch for a billionaire superhero to cook up a new life and identity for his first sidekick. And it just so happens that we have an idea for what that new identity should be.
Like Rachel Dawes before him, John Blake was an original character inserted into the Batman universe for The Dark Knight Rises. He has no analogue in the DC Universe, unless you count "Little Johnny Blake," a precocious youngster who had his report card stolen by the Joker in a Golden Age Batman comic. And unlike Marvel, DC has only shown a sporadic interest over the years in borrowing familiar elements from their films to use in the comics. Which is probably for the best, unless you like the idea of Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke being forced to work with Halle Berry's version of Catwoman.
But in this case, now might be the perfect time to induct the adult, badge-wearing version of Blake into the New 52. Not as a separate character, mind you, but as Dick Grayson's new identity. Dick already has a history of serving as a cop prior to the New 52. It speaks to his blue collar leanings among the Batman family. And as we all know, Blake was the closest the Nolan trilogy ever came to delivering a Robin. He had the tragic past, the grim determination to fight evil, the modest amount of intelligence it takes to deduce Batman's true identity, and his real name was actually Robin "John" Blake. Blake proved to be an amalgamation of several Robins, ultimately tasked with the mission of keeping the Batman legacy alive.
We're probably never going to see the continued adventures of Nolan's version of Blake, despite what a great premise for a comic that would make (hint hint, DC). But at the very least, we can see the character incorporated into the DC Universe in a way that doesn't simply shoehorn a new face onto crowded Gotham stage. Changing his name to John Blake and resuming the cop beat would allow Dick to deal with the challenges and new potential of starting completely from scratch and building a new personal life. Maybe he returns to Gotham to serve with the GCPD, maybe he stays in Chicago, or maybe he finds an entirely new city in which to set up shop. The fact that Justice League of America is morphing into Justice League of Canada doesn't exactly bode well for the general state of DC's America following Forever Evil.
Things weren't going so well for Dick even before Forever Evil, so this tragedy could wind up leading to a newfound sense of optimism for the troubled hero. Nightwing writer Kyle Higgins has teased that, while Nightwing looks to still be around after the events of Forever Evil, it won't necessarily be Dick Grayson under the mask. Maybe because he's no longer calling himself Dick Grayson?
Changing his civilian identity may not be enough. Dick Grayson may need to retire the "Nightwing" mantle as well. As Daredevil can attest, there's nothing more annoying than having your enemies taunt you with your own name in the midst of battle. Everyone knows who Nightwing is now, and so the Nightwing title loses its power. He's no longer a feared, larger-than-life crime-fighter. He's a guy that dresses in a costume and hits people with sticks.
This is something Batman would understand as well. Writers like Denny O'Neil have portrayed the act of putting on the Batman costume as an intensely psychological and almost physical transformation. There's a rush that comes from putting on the mask and leaving your old self behind. Part of the reason Bruce doesn't simply walk into the street and punch criminals while still decked out in a business suit is that he isn't the same hero without that cape and cowl. He doesn't think the same. He doesn't fight the same.
That's the edge Nightwing loses now. And rather than follow Daredevil's example, spending years denying his identity until people just get bored, maybe the best solution is to reinvent himself and develop an entirely new costumed persona. Part of Nightwing's appeal as a character is that he's evolved over the decades in a way that heroes like Batman and Superman never will. He's grown up and moved beyond the confines of being Robin. But he's arguably hit a stagnant patch in recent years. Maybe this is the spark he needs to keep moving forward.
First, Dick Grayson was Robin. Once he graduated/was fired from that role (depending which story you consult), he was inspired by Superman to take on the mantle of Nightwing, one half of a Dynamic Duo native to Krypton. But as far removed as he is from the Kryptonian Nightwing, on some level Dick is still carrying on a legacy. Perhaps to truly mature as a hero, he needs to develop a wholly unique superhero identity. One that has nothing to do with bats or birds, and one that involves more than an easily removable domino mask to hide his face. He's been Nightwing so long that we picture a great many readers resisting the change. But done right, this transformation could lead to even bigger and better things.
Of course, the other option is for Nightwing to move in the exact opposite direction and take the mantle of Batman again. Despite the fact that Final Crisis never happened in current DC continuity and Bruce Wayne was never blasted back through time by Darkseid, Dick's time serving as the replacement Batman still stands. He's proven himself more than capable of wearing the cape and cowl, regardless of how distasteful he might find it. And maybe what he needs most after this ordeal is a return to the comfortable anonymity that being Batman provides.
As Batman, Dick wouldn't have to worry about being mocked or having his civilian identity thrown in his face every night. Every criminal is afraid of Batman, regardless of what city they live. Even after all this time, he's viewed as a supernatural force. They say he drinks blood. They say he can't be killed. No one knows who Batman is or how many Batmen there might be at this point. Batman Incorporated was all but dismantled at the end of Grant Morrison's Batman saga, but it seems Bruce Wayne is still supporting his team of international allies in some form or another. If he can clear the bad blood between he and his former partner, maybe they can agree to put Dick on the payroll as the Batman of Canada or something. There is going to be a Canadian Justice League team soon, after all.
It's also worth pointing out that there appears to be a new Batman in the pages of Forever Evil. This Batman, decked out in full black attire, is apparently part of Lex Luthor's group of rebel super-villains that rise up in opposition to the Crime Syndicate. The identity of this mystery player has been one of the big questions surrounding Forever Evil so far. Our first guess was that this was Thomas Wayne Jr., the supposedly long-lost brother of Bruce who was introduced in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Court of Owls storyline and who took on the mantle of Owlman in opposition to his brother. Perhaps the appearance of Earth-3's Owlman and the apparent death of his brother convinced Thomas to adopt the Batman mantle for himself.
But while that's still a plausible theory, the events of Forever Evil #1 have us wondering if it might be Dick Grayson wearing the costume instead. Geoff Johns has made it clear that Dick is integral to this story. But what place does Nightwing have in a war between two factions of villains? Maybe he sees the Batman costume as a way to transform himself and his place in the war. Maybe he too sees it as a way of honoring the apparently dead Bruce Wayne. Whatever the reason, we're beginning to suspect that Nightwing will make at least a temporary return to serving as Batman. But will he find the job a little more agreeable this time?
The problem with being a superhero and having your identity revealed to the world is that it affects much more than just yourself. Everyone Dick Grayson is close to is a potential victim of the fallout. Look what happened when Spider-Man unmasked himself and then had second thoughts about it.
He became a fugitive from the law, his aunt was mortally wounded by a sniper bullet, and he was forced to make a deal with the devil and sacrifice his marriage in order to save her. Dick doesn't have a marriage to sacrifice, but he does have plenty of friends and loved ones who could wind up on the wrong end of a sniper's bullet.
Fortunately, whereas Nightwing's unmasking would instantly jeopardize the entire Batman family in pre-New 52 continuity, Batman has done a better job of covering his trail now. Dick Grayson wasn't Bruce Wayne's ward. Instead, he lived in an orphanage following his parents' deaths (hey, just like John Blake!) and worked for Bruce as a cover for their nightly escapades. That relationship only lasted a single year, after which Dick set out on his own. Because Dick, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake are so much closer in age in this continuity, the average man on the street has no idea there have even been four Robins, or that one of them grew up to become Nightwing.
So there's a certain safety net protecting the other members of the Bat family. But that doesn't mean that some enterprising criminal (possibly one Edward Nymga) couldn't take the information the Crime Syndicate released and extrapolate the identities of other Bat-family members. Bruce himself is probably safe. He already admitted to financing Batman's operations when he debuted Batman Incorporated. The idea of him actually being Batman is viewed by most as too obvious to actually be true. Moreover, Bruce is a man of near limitless wealth and resources. Having him go on the run because of an exposed identity just doesn't carry the same weight or danger as it does for someone like Dick.
The question is what happens if some villain connects the dots between Dick and Tim, or Dick and Barbara Gordon. These characters have plenty to lose by being dragged through the secret identity quagmire. Babs is still emotionally fragile after recovering from her paralysis, returning to active duty, and now dealing with the fallout of Joker's latest rampage. How would she be affected by being victimized again? How would her father be affected if word got out that the commissioner of the GCPD is also the father of Batgirl? Even within Nightwing's world, how will someone like Sonia Branch react to the news that her one-time love interest is Nightwing? Are there legal ramifications to giving a large bank loan to a costumed vigilante?
Speaking of legal ramifications, this development may allow DC's writers to more firmly establish what the relationship between DC's American heroes and the government is. Amanda Waller has emerged as a very Nick Fury-like figure in the New 52. The Justice League have operated with a fair degree of autonomy so far.
But after all that's transpired during Trinity War (especially with Superman being forced into killing Dr. Light) and now Forever Evil, Waller and the folks at A.R.G.U.S. may decide that the time has come to crack down on metahuman activity. Like Civil War at Marvel, this could mean some form of registration and mandatory training. And with his identity out there, Dick Grayson could find it that much harder to stay a free man.
Source : ign[dot]com