Nightwing Took Batman’s Title By Defeating the Dark Knight’s Oldest Enemy

AbraxasOctober 8, 2021

For a couple of years, Dick Grayson enjoyed a rather successful tenure as Batman. As the original Robin, Nightwing was certainly a worthy successor to Bruce Wayne’s cape and cowl. One major step in claiming the title of The Dark Knight came in 2009’s Nightwing #152-153, by Peter Tomasi, Don Kramer, Jay Leisten, Sandu Florea, Rodney Ramos, Hi-Fi Design, Travis Lanham and Sal Cipriano, when Grayson defeated Ra’s al Ghul in single combat.

During one of the final issues of Nightwing, Ra’s sends a group of his assassins to abduct Dick. After easily dispatching these henchmen, Dick goes to meet Ra’s in the desert. As it turns out, Ra’s wanted to confirm what he suspected: Bruce Wayne was dead, following the events of Final Crisis. When Nightwing attempts to leave, Ra’s challenges him to a sword fight, similar to one of his famous duels against Batman. All the while, Ra’s bemoans that it wasn’t he who killed Batman, as he believed he was meant to. During this fight, Dick lives up to his mentor’s standards in several ways.

Related: Batman Just Proved Why Nightwing Doesn’t Belong in Gotham

Nightwing defeating Ra's al Ghul one-on-one

First, Nightwing responds that Ra’s could never have beaten Bruce, also insisting that Ra’s knew that deep down. Moreover, Dick wins the fight, cementing Ra’s’ respect for him. Ra’s even wants Dick to keep his sword after the duel, in the hopes that their paths would cross again. At this moment, Ra’s essentially acknowledges Dick as the true successor to the Caped Crusader.

Dick refuses the sword, but by the time he returns to the Batcave, he finds it waiting for him. In his mind, Ra’s even thinks, “Welcome to the black hole, detective.” This is a huge moment, as Ra’s calls Dick by the classic nickname that he’s only ever used for Bruce before. After beating Ra’s, earning his respect and earning the name “Detective,” it seemed that Nightwing was well on his way to becoming the next Batman.

The following issue furthers Dick’s journey towards the cape and cowl, echoing some classic Batman tales. Nightwing makes his move to Gotham City, in a page that evokes the opening pages of the 1987 classic Batman #404, by Frank Miller, David Mazzuchelli, Richmond Lewis and Todd Klein.

This page homages “Batman: Year One,” with Dick Grayson taking the train into Gotham just like a young Jim Gordon. Dick even likes taking the train, thinking “I wanted to be closer. So I can see the enemy,” just as Gordon did.

Related: Batman: Fear State Puts a Classic Gotham Hero Back in Action

Dick Grayson riding the train like Jim Gordon in "Batman: Year One"

Interestingly, this echoes the more down-to-Earth journey of Jim Gordon, rather than Bruce Wayne, who flew into Gotham in his first year as Batman. Additionally, Dick thinks that he also wants to see “the people I’m here to protect and serve,” showing that he has a brighter, more optimistic perspective than either Batman or Gordon.

Several similar moments in this issue show how, while Dick is certainly worthy of the Batman mantle, he is committed to doing things his own way. Near the end of the issue, there is a tribute to 1976’s Detective Comics #457, by Dennis O’Neil, Dick Giordano, Terry Austin and Ben Oda. In this tribute to “There is No Hope in Crime Alley,” Dick muses about the Wayne murders.

At the same time, however, Nightwing thinks about all the good that Bruce’s crusade did for him personally, ensuring that Dick wouldn’t have to suffer the same loneliness and isolation. It was Bruce’s influence on Dick that made him worthy of becoming Batman, while ensuring he would be a very different kind of Caped Crusader. In these final issues of Nightwing, Dick is seen surrounded by friends, including the JSA, Wally West and the greater Bat-Family.

It was this larger sense of connection and community which Bruce gave Dick that allowed him to become the optimistic, good-hearted hero that he is. It’s true that Dick didn’t officially take up the Batman mantle until the ending of “Battle for the Cowl.” Still, these final issues of Nightwing play out like the beginning of “Batman: Year One,” preparing Dick to become Batman before he even put on the suit.

KEEP READING: Tom Taylor Unveils the Origin of Nightwing’s Canine Companion, Bitewing

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