Dick Grayson has never had much respect for authority. The whole reason he traded in Robin’s yellow cape and green underpants for Nightwing’s sleek black and blue bodysuit was because he wanted to get away from Batman’s control. However, even as Dick spent Grayson travelling the world as an agent of Spyral, he’s never quite been as independent as he thinks.
Writer Tim Seeley proves that in ways both big and small in Nightwing #1, the simplest being a strained conversation between Dick and his old mentor, Bruce Wayne. Though Dick left the Bat Cave wishing for autonomy, as he himself admits, Bruce was always his “net,” ready to swoop in and save him if things hit the proverbial fan. And while Dick never had much reason to regret his decision, that doesn’t mean Bruce doesn’t resent him for leaving in the first place. In fact, Batman is downright hostile during the exchange. As he puts it, Dick wanted to do things on his own, now he’s going to let him. While the moment works on its own as a way of showing how Dick damaged his relationship with Bruce, it also functions as a way of pointing out that Dick has a tendency to profoundly misunderstand other people’s motivations.
There’s an arrogance to Dick’s conviction that he can just go out on his own without consequence and while his altered relationship with his father figure is an unfortunate side effect, it’s not as dangerous as his underestimation of the Parliament of Owls. Dick doesn’t object when the Parliament blackmail him into threatening dignitaries and beating people up because he believes he’s a step ahead of them. He thinks he can use the situation to infiltrate the organization without having to compromise his morals. But Seeley calls that into question in brutal fashion by issue’s end.
Unsatisfied with his methods, the Parliament forces Dick to take a partner, a mysterious mercenary named Raptor who will do anything for the right price. Their first meeting is such a stark contrast from the lighter, wittier tone of the rest of the issue (particularly considering it comes after a scene where Dick flirts with his old paramour, Batgirl) that it’s actually a little jarring. As Raptor beats the snot out of Dick and insults the two most important people of his past life (Batgirl and Batman), it becomes clear that Seeley’s goal is to teach Dick what it really means to be on his own. You can’t make a deal with the devil without getting burned.