Current Reviews


Batman Adventures #12

Posted: Monday, March 22, 2004
By: Ray Tate

"Duo Dynamic"
"Hidden Display"

Writer: Ty Templeton;Dan Slott
Artists: Rich Burchett(p), Terry Beatty(i), Heroic Age(c)
Publisher: DC

The original Nightwing was an alter-ego specifically based on Batman and created by Superman for a few adventures in the city of Kandor, where he lost all his powers. Jimmy Olsen became his Robin as Flamebird. When Superman and Jimmy ceased their extracurricular crime fighting activities, another pair of Kandorian Kryptonians adopted the identities.

Shortly before the Crisis, Dick Grayson decided to molt his Robin identity and become a new Nightwing. Though he would not operate in Kandor. Jason Todd who was orphaned when Killer Croc killed his parents would become the new Robin. I should point out that Batman without hesitation or prodding decided to take Jason as his new ward. Batman used to be kind. He did not need a partner. Jason needed a home. Jason would choose to become Robin, and Batman would not immediately warm to the idea, for in his eyes, as in the eyes of many others, Dick Grayson would always be Robin.

When the Crisis struck with the force of an avalanche, Nightwing stayed, and Robin's--that is young Dick Grayson's--history with Batman like everything else became questionable. Schisms burst between Batman and Robin (Nightwing). Whereas the original reasons for Dick becoming Nightwing were largely without emotional baggage, the post-Crisis Nightwing was a whining whimpering poster child for the Oprah Winfrey Show. His appearances always followed a pattern. He would drop in announced and uninvited, blame his problems on Bruce and then go away. Think of a maladjusted Duncan Yo-Yo, and you have the post-Crisis Nightwing in a nutshell.

The animated series for its entire run on Fox kept Dick Grayson as Robin. He was introduced as the teen partner to Batman, and the series established a solid origin, based upon the original, as well as a time frame for exactly when Batman adopted Dick Grayson as his ward. Again, Batman's motive is pure kindness. Like the pre-Crisis version of Batman, the animated Batman is kind. He is human, and the animated series never let you forget that. Try to watch "Robin's Reckoning" without catching something in your eyes. Kevin Conroy's voice breaks as he expresses concern over the orphaned Dick Grayson.

When the series joined Superman's second animated season on the WB, the producers as symbolism and to continue the time frame showed that Dick Grayson had indeed become his own man as Nightwing. Feeling that Robin's identity is hampering his relationship with Barbara Gordon, Batman reveals that he and Bruce Wayne are one in the same to Batgirl, whom he knew for some time was in fact Babs Gordon. The Bat-Signal interrupts their chat about Dick Grayson, but Babs will not let Batman go to face these criminals without sufficient back-up. Thus, for the first time, the Dynamic Duo is Batman and Batgirl. In the aftermath of the fight, Robin reveals that he believes that Batman manipulated Babs into becoming Batgirl to join the fight and risk her life. Nothing of course could be further from the truth, but we learn in another episode what precipitates this change of opinion that Robin has for Batman.

In an episode that's framed in the present but focuses on the past Nightwing relates to a new Robin Batman’s heinous action against a criminal lackey. Batman threatens and frightens the criminal in front of his family. Robin begs him "Batman, not this way," but Batman ignores him and continues his Dark Knight bluff. This is the moment when Robin wishes to be done with Batman. What he forgets is that Batman is kind, and this was why in the first place he took in the orphaned Dick Grayson. Nightwing and Robin in the present encounter this same criminal lackey as a security guard. The ex-con explains how the Wayne Foundation secured him a job. Nightwing in this episode takes his first step in becoming his own man. He admits his mistake and returns to the fold.

Forgive me for waxing poetically about Nightwing. In all honesty I never particularly liked Robin's transformation into Nightwing. Batman Adventures will soon be cancelled, and I doubt I'll ever be writing again about Nightwing. Neither will Ty Templeton or Dan Slott. Thus this issue serves as Nightwing's swan song.

In "Duo Dynamic" Ty Templeton shows the result of Nightwing's maturation into being truly his own man. For the most part, the maturation is good for the character and the reader. Nightwing lives in Bludhaven--as he does in the post-Crisis but in a far different manner. He is not alone, for another familiar face to animated series followers also has chosen to reside in Nightwing's city.

Unlike the city in Nightwing's continuity book, this version of Bludhaven likes Nightwing. He is a celebrity, and one may at first come to the conclusion that the treatment borrows heavily from the Flash's relationship with Central City. However, taken in conjunction with the second story in Batman Adventures and the animated series, one can see a deeper psychological motivation for his more open style of crimefighting.

Batman operates through subterfuge and big bad bat's bluff. He is "the world's greatest detective." He needs little help to solve mysteries or scare the living snot out of criminals. He needs somebody to handle that chap with the knife aiming for his back while he deals with the would-be assassin's five friends. Nightwing operates through daring-do and devil-may-care. He will never be "the world's greatest detective." That job has been filled. He would rather outgrace and outwit criminals rather than frighten them. There is nothing particularly frightening in his costume. It's functional rather than symbolic.

While Gothamites love Batman and feel safer knowing that he exists to protect them, these feelings remain largely unspoken--especially given Mayor Cobblepot's current crackdown on urban vigilantes. Bludhaven's residents openly whisper sweet nothings to Nightwing's ears. Batman avoids attention. Nightwing thrives on it. Batman though still at heart a kind man tries to avoid warmth. Nightwing seeks warmth. For Batman, his fight against crime is a crusade. For Nightwing, it's a performance. Nightwing chooses to serve Bludhaven. Batman is driven to save Gotham.

Mr. Templeton does not make Batman's and Nightwing's team-up frictionless, but by comparison to the post-Crisis cosmology, their partnership practically ends in manly hugs. Batman questions Nightwing's methods but does not demand answers. He respects his partner that much, but his son's style is so alien to him that naturally he would have concerns. Batman is so used to doing things himself or depending on a trusted few that Nightwing's reliance on strangers would definitely shock him. Batman in one scene tells Nightwing essentially "he has this one." He trusts Nightwing. He acts as if he were still his partner.

The characterization and the use of setting in that characterization as you can see affected my reading more than the plot, which I feel is rather simple. I may be brilliant, but the Riddler's clues to the mystery really seemed obvious. The explanation of this villain's involvement does however make sense, and you do feel sorry for the Riddler's plight. Riddler being such a sympathetic figure makes you realize how badly miscast he has been during the post-Crisis. Riddler should be a protagonist. He should be a character who is not interested in doing good but for the challenge of solving larcenous puzzles. The good would result from his actions. It would not be his goal.

The second story by Dan Slott quite movingly remarks on Batman's kindness. It is Alfred, in the story, who reasons with Batman that he is neglecting his fatherly duties toward young Dick Grayson, but it is Batman who decides to follow Alfred's advice and do something kind, not necessarily easy or even smart, all for the sake of his son.

When the story evolves to the near present period of Batman, Mr. Slott shows the result of Batman's growth as a father to Robin. How do you say good-bye to your son? You don't. You instead remind him how much he means to you.

In the second story, Rich Burchett and Terry Beatty echo the Bob Kane and Dick Sprang dynamic without specifically copying that style. In the first story they adapt to a more abstract look, and their expertise issues from the pages in such scenes as the transformation of no-nonsense cops to the smiling pals of Nightwing.

While the mystery in the main plot is somewhat lacking, the characterization of the Dynamic Duo more than make up for the loss. The second story is another perfect vignette reinforcing the relationship between Batman and Robin--er Nightwing.

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