Dick Grayson has had many alter egos. From Robin, to Nightwing, to even Batman for a brief time, he’s constantly becoming someone else. It’s that quality that makes him uniquely qualified to embody the idea of the DC Rebirth reboot. While characters like Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman stay (relatively) the same, Dick actually knows what it’s like to choose to be someone else entirely.
For those who haven’t been following the character, Dick’s spent the last few years as a spy for the uncreatively-named Spyral. Now, he returns to Gotham to reclaim the Nightwing mantle after the Parliament of Owls tried to steal it from him. However, before he can do that, he’s got to take his little brother to the arcade. Well, that’s not entirely true. Bruce Wayne’s son, Damian, is just the latest Robin and Dick is only taking him to the arcade so Damian is more pliable when he tries to remove a bomb from his brain later.
Let’s back up a step. Previously, in the Grayson series, the Parliament of Owls tried to steal the Nightwing mantle and threatened Damian’s life to convince Dick to let them. For those who read that series, what happens here seems like a rather easy–and frankly lame–solution to that problem. For those new to the series, the issue–unlike many of the other Rebirth firsts–feels more like wrap-up than a beginning. On some level, that’s necessary storytelling. Becoming a spy was a big change for Dick. It’s a big deal that he’s taking the Nightwing mantle up again. However, showing how fun and strange that life was also sort of makes the story set up here seem less interesting in comparison, like a Batman story with “Nightwing” carelessly slapped on the cover.
Granted, writer Tim Seeley does try to draw a distinct line between Dick and his former mentor. Namely, that Bruce is the father figure and Dick is the rebellious, prodigal son. Being Nightwing has always been about Dick stepping out of Bruce’s shadow. Even the name is about Dick giving Bruce a big ol’ metaphorical middle finger. As he explains at the beginning of the issue, Nightwing isn’t an oblique reference to Batman, it’s the name of a Kryptonian hero Superman (both Batman’s greatest ally and foil) told him about. Like his namesake, Dick is meant to be constantly reborn. It remains to be seen if his latest incarnation is any better than the others.