Or – “What Actually Happened When The Question Was Popped…”

NW13.jpg

DC Comics is evil. There’s no other explanation for it… Before Infinite Crisis, Dick Grayson the former Boy Wonder proposed marriage to Barbara Gordon, the former Dominoed Daredoll, and she said “Yes.” Then, the One Year Later gap arrived, and afterwards, Dick was in New York butting heads with Jason Todd, and Babs was running the Birds of Prey, and never the twain shall meet. Then, they really twisted the knife by giving Dick a quickie affair with some bimbo named “Cheyenne,” because apparently “Fabergé” and “Fémalé Pajama” (pronounced “fehMAHlay PAjahmah”) were taken by the new girls at Penguin’s strip club. Now, finally, the story can be told… what happened to the Bat-Weddin’?

NW1.jpgWhat has gone before… Traumatized by the death of his parents, Bruce Wayne became a creature of the night, to strike fear in the hearts of criminals, notably a superstitious and cowardly lot. Some time later, his presence was brightened somewhat when he took another orphan under his wing, Dick Grayson, last surviving member of the Flying Grayson acrobatic troupe. Together, as Batman and Robin, they were a dynamic duo who fought crime and also made horrible puns. Commissioner James Gordon became one of their staunchest allies, and later, his daughter Barbara took up a bat-mantle of her own, using her photographic memory and gymnastic training as the dominoed dare-doll, Batgirl (technically the second to hold the name, but Betty/Bette Kane was a little embarrassing, what with her giant crime-fighting powder-puff and action purse). As they grew, Robin became a Teen Titan, then changed his name to Nightwing, giving the Robin identity over to a younger man (who turned out to be crazy.) Barbara was used by the Joker in a revenge plot against Batman, and was left paralyzed from the waist down. She refocused her efforts as Oracle, a clearinghouse of information and support for other heroes, including being the spearhead of the Birds of Prey. One Year Ago, during the tail end of the events known as the Infinite Crisis, Nightwing proposed, and Oracle accepted… and then something happened. This is that something.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Immediately after the events of this scene, the entire DCU plunged into chaos, culminating in a frontal assault by the entire Society (representing most, if not all, of the supervillains extant) on Metropolis, home of Superman. All the standing heroes were present to make their stand, and apparently, during the battle, Nightwing was blasted out of his boots by Alex Luthor (late of Earth-3). His injuries were severe, and Doctor Mid-Nite and Wonder Woman worked feverishly to save his life. In a coma, Dick/Nightwing, hallucinated attacks by his worst enemies, who then turned into zombies, monstrous ongoing nightmares, capped off by the long-dead Blockbuster (long story) as well as watching The Joker shoot Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon in the spine…

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Barbara orders him back into bed (“Not the tone I remember from when you USED to say that…” Heh.) and gives him the bullet points. The Crisis is over, normalcy has been partially restored, and Doctor Mid-Nite induced a coma to allow his body to heal itself (which is better than the planned death he might have had.) Still worried about his former home of Bludhaven (she doesn’t tell him that it’s pretty much gone), Dick is adamant he has to help until she ORDERS him to lie down. “Wow, it was like you channeled Batman there,” he says, a little frightened of his ex-girlfriend. “Maybe you bring that out in people. Ever think of that?” Ouch. Three points for Barbara. She mentions food again, and Dick realizes he’s famished…

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

The nostalgia of the drink causes him to remember that date, when they were sixteen (I do believe this is a retcon, as Barbara was always a little bit older, in previous stories. SUPERBOY PUNCH!) With Batman off in space, the teenage heroes have skipped their nightly patrol, and instead have gone out for burgers. When the waitress mentions their ‘date’, young Robin sputters, but Batgirl calmly asks “Is that what you want it to be?” A sudden rush of police cars keeps him from having to answer (“Saved by the sirens.”) and they quickly rush to the car to change. Because two teenagers getting naked in a Rolls Royce is never suspect.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Ouch. I’m torn here between the assumption that Barbara knows exactly the effect she has on him, and the thought that she just THINKS she does. In any case, the teen wonders leap into action, finding one of Gotham’s least wanted: Crazy Quilt. What can I say about Crazy Quilt that his very image doesn’t already? Only that he’s a bigger schmuck than he looks, and that’s saying something indeed. CQ is offended that Batman sent the junior league, and Dick and Babs try a simple frontal assault. This turns out to not be smart…

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Eyes back in your head, puppet boy. The thing that is most mortifying, worse even than being bested by Crazy Quilty is the simple reality of two teenagers smushed together in a small space. “That better be your utility belt pressing against my leg.” Ouch. I’m embarrassed for poor Robin and I’m not even there. Batgirl asks Dick why he wears the pixie boots and the short pants, and he explains that it’s camouflage, to make the criminals think he’s nothing but a stupid kid (though the whole ‘captured by Crazy Quilt’ does that as well), and suddenly the whole safe crashes to it’s side, and poor Robin is forced to think about baseball, or hockey, or anything but the hot girl in leather pressed against him. “Think clean thought… think clean thoughts… think clean thoughts…” Heh. Then, the cavalry officially arrives.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Annnd the short pants no longer seem like such a good idea, do they? Days pass, and his rehab considers apace, even allowing Nightwing to get back on the rings and hone his rusty acrobatic skills. Barbara is proud, pointing out that she knows him much better than he knows himself. In a moment of downtime, Dick finally points out the elephant in the room. “We need to talk about the ring.” He tells her that it wasn’t a quick decision, that she has no idea how long he’s wanted to tell her about his feelings… Babs surprises him by pointing out that she knows more than she lets on, remembering a long-ago confession…

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Oh, good. The hits just keep on comin’ for poor Dick. As much as THAT one hurts, her next admission has to really suck. She wanted to tell him that she shared his feelings, but the timing had it that he was rejecting everything that Batman had done, and striking out on his own with the Titans. Since she was PART of the whole Batman thing, Barbara wanted to give him his space. In a tragic shot to the metaphorical nards, she waited too long, and it’s Babs’ turn for the kick in the teeth…

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

I’m sorry, but is that not one of the hottest Starfires ever? She’s actually wearing considerably more than her usual fighting gear, too. Excellent work by Joe Bennett there. Our flashbacks of the history of Batgirl and Robin have reached the critical point: her shooting. At the time, Dick was with the half of the Titans in space, on Starfire’s home planet of Tamaran, but Batman was there to support her (behind the scenes, as no indication was shown in his own books that the moment did anything but enrage him.) When he finally does return, he finds that the reality of things is that her emotional scars are probably worse than her actual injuries.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Now, upon first reading of this, I was in the camp that thought Dick made a kind of smarmy move, especially given a revelation that happens in a few moments. Indeed, looking at it from one perspective, it seems like he’s living up to his first name, but then I mentioned this to Tom Grice, who said this: Imagine if your old friend, a friend that you love platonically and romantically, is hurt in ways you can’t even imagine. He or she reaches out to you in need of contact, of caring, just needing comforting, and it just happens to turn physical. Could you, honestly, just turn away? From that perspective (the right one, I think, especially since Babs initiates the kiss), it’s a completely understandable and possibly unavoidable moment, given their history. (But this doesn’t change the one rule of Major Spoilers: Tom is WRONG, Sir! WRONG!) Unfortunately, part of the reason he came to visit her was to deliver some news the developed while on Tamaran…

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

In a metaphorical parallel, Nightwing is trying to break out of a straitjacket while hung above three foot steel spikes, but his fingers still aren’t back to speed. He falls, barely dodging the spikes, realizing that she used foam rubber. “[Batman] would have used real steel,” he says, but she isn’t playing. “I’m not Batman, and I’m not here to reinforce your guilty conscience.” Then, we see a moment that was only hinted at during the end of Infinite Crisis. Having returned (barely) to action, Dick is approached by Batman while on patrol. The big Bat explains that he’s going to be taking a trip, a long one, with Tim, and he would like Nightwing to come along. Dick starts to make the argument that they can’t just leave, but then Bruce takes off his mask. “I’m not asking as Batman. And I’d like my FAMILY with me.” Wow. That was a pretty powerful moment. but there’s another one coming. When he goes to tell Barbara, she tells him that she knows, Bruce already told her…

…and she returns his ring. “That night we had, after I was shot and you… Well, it was then that I started doing things for ME. Hell, it was when I really became me… That’s what YOU need to do now. Become Dick Grayson.” He makes the decision we already know he would, but not before leaving her a letter telling her the most important thing of all.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

This is… actually much better than I thought it could be. I figured that, with the Bruce Jones run on Nightwing falling where it did on the “grim and gritty” scale that something horrible had to happen to break them up. This was an excellent, excellent book, with beautiful art, showing us all the private moments that we never expected to have happened. It was all about emotions and thoughts and feelings, yet it didn’t feel like a self-reflexive exercise in “feeeeeling your emooootions.”

I’ve had a lot of discussions of late about the star system of rating, and how some of my scores seem to defy what I’ve said about the book, and how a certain scene or character can trigger a higher or lower score than it really seems… This entire book is full of those scenes. It’s a rare story that hits on all cylinders, and even gives us a very realistic look at teenage superheroes acting like teenagers. From top to bottom, even with it’s elements of retcon, it’s a beautiful work, and thus earns the rare 5 out of 5 star rating.

5stars.jpg

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

Previous post

Top 20 Animal Themed Comic Characters

Next post

52- Week 51 - Homecoming

1 Comment

  1. April 29, 2007 at 9:54 am — Reply

    Hah. I figured that them getting into bed was on the same par as in ‘When Harry Met Sally’. There is NO other cure for grief that will have the same effect. Except perhaps for a gallon or so of Ice-Cream.

    Which just makes me think that Fallen Son: Spider-Man will have Pete ending up with MJ. Which just goes to show that Salieri is WEIRD, Mister! WEIRD!

You know you have something to say, say it in the comment section