Writer: Devin Grayson
Artists: Rick Leonardi (p), Jesse Delperdang and John Nyberg (i)
The book opens with the various members of the Batman family gathered around the hospital bed of Dick, who was shot in the arm last issue. As Dick finds himself being pestered by Barbara, Bruce & Alfred, we see he does manage to have a conversation with Batgirl, as he wants to know who Deathstroke has come to kill in Bludhaven. As Batgirl manages to locate the apartment where Deathstroke has been observing the police station from, she is able to get her hands on a disk that tells us Deathstroke's target. However, when Deathstroke returns before Batgirl can slip away, we see the two are soon involved in a furious fighting display, where neither one is able to deliver a decisive attack upon the other. However, when Deathstroke pulls out a grenade we see Batgirl is forced to break off her attack, but she does manage to escape with the disk. Meanwhile, back at the hospital we see Dick finds himself visited by the investigative reporter who has come to Bludhaven to produce a story about Nightwing, and she is convinced of the fact that Dick Grayson is Nightwing. As she makes it known that she is going to pursue this story, we see Dick has other concerns as the disk shows him his former partner, Amy, is Deathstroke's target, and in spite of his injury, Dick suits up in time to rescue Amy from an explosive attack, but while doing so he manages to expose his secret identity to Amy.
This issue offers up a battle that I'm sure Batgirl fans will take note of, as Deathstoke is one of the DCU's most formidable opponents when it comes to hand-to-hand combat, so a tussle with him makes for a wonderful test of a character's fighting prowess. Now I've avoided Batgirl's title, because it appeared to be too closely linked to the main Batman titles, and frankly I had very little interest in following a character whose main claim to fame is that she is next to impossible to defeat. I mean one of the main reasons why I normally avoid Batman's main titles is because fan expectation has turned him into a fighting/deductive machine who is never allowed to make mistakes, and I've always been a big believer that a hero who isn't allowed to stumble from time to time is not a particularly interesting character. I mean there's a reason why "Batman: Year One" & the "Dark Knight Returns" stand up as my favorite Batman stories, as in one he's a raw rookie who is still learning the game, while in the other he's fighting against a battle scarred body that isn't quite up to the rigors of combat. Now this issue has Batgirl throwing it down with Deathstroke, and if nothing else this display simply reaffirmed my desire not to become a regular reader of her solo title, as while it's an impressive display of motion, the fight was almost too tentative, in that it's a collection of near misses & graceful dodges, than a real fight, where damage is done.
The other half of this issue has Dick making a somewhat successful attempt at protecting his secret identity from a curious investigative reporter, and in a rather refreshing twist on the staple we see the reporter is not only 100% positive that she has discovered the identity of Nightwing, but she makes it fully known to Dick that she knows his secret, and that she views his attempts to protect it as almost a game. I mean this isn't simply a case of a reporter having a suspicion and taking careful steps to gather the proof, but rather this is a bold attempt by the reporter to let the hero know they know, and that once she has enough evidence the entire world will know. Now the whole attempt by Dick to keep her from getting a photo of him struck me as a bit odd, as the police are sure to have a photo of Dick in their files, and given Nightwing high profile position in the Titans, I'm sure there are photos on him circulating around. Still I like the idea that she is being so bold about expressing her intentions to Dick, and since her actions could also impact Bruce Wayne's secret I imagine Batman will start to express a real interest in her work. The final page of this issue also has Dick managing to expose his secret identity to another person, which makes him about as successful at protecting his secret as Daredevil.
Rick Leonardi is a very solid fit for the pages of this book, as when the action does break out his work is really at it's best. Now the centerpiece of this issue would have to be the fight between Deathstroke & Batgirl, and while the lack of punches and kicks that actually made contact did rob this battle of some of it's impact, the art does a fantastic job conveying a sense of motion. The art also has some fun linking Dick's struggle to protect his identity from the nosey reporter with Batgirl's efforts against Deathstroke, though her more dramatic efforts efforts do draw attention away from Dick's side of the page. The art also does some nice work on the little details like the look of surprise of Deathstoke's eye as he realizes Batgirl is going to be tougher to take down than he expected, and the fact that Dick's wound is still bleeding as he suits up for his second round against Deathstroke lends a nice sense of urgency to that final page. The big impact visuals are also nicely done, as Batgirl's escape from the exploding building is a great looking shot, as is Nightwing's effort later in the issue as he rescues Amy from the missile attack. Now I'm a little disappointed that Michael Golden doesn't look to be providing the covers anymore, but Dave Johnson is a very solid cover artist, and he provides a visually exciting teaser of the story inside.
If you're a regular reader of Batgirl then you might enjoy this issue, as the character manages to put in a fairly impressive showing against a villain who is arguably the best hand-to-hand combatant in the DCU. Now Nightwing readers aren't left completely out in the cold, as we do get some nice movement on the plot involving the investigative reporter who has arrived in Bludhaven looking to do a story on Nightwing, and I have to say it's nice to see Dick's out-of-costume display of his agility didn't go unnoticed. The issue also ends on a strong note, as we not only see Dick manages to drop the ball once again when it comes to his secret identity, but we also learn that the person Deathstroke is gunning for is a regular member of this book's supporting cast, so next issue's rematch has a real sense of urgency to it. As for my thoughts on Batgirl's fight, I have to say I found it felt a bit like all these characters were doing was showing off their fighting skills, as the entire affair lacked any real sense of danger.
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