So long Dick. Thanks for the good times.
This week, Detective Comics #881 hit stands. Arguably the best of DC’s current stable of Batman books, it’s the last issue before the “new 52” launches and completes a brilliantly creepy run by scribe Scott Snyder started last fall, about the time I started buying Batbooks by the bundle.
For the most part, I’m behind the coming DC relaunch. Anything that boosts the publisher’s bottom line is good news for readers. (More sales tends to lead to more books on the shelves = more variety to choose from.) In fact, there are so many interesting books and creative teams, I’m having a difficult time deciding which titles to follow.
Read also: Why I like the DC relaunch
What I won’t miss are all the Batmans running around as part of Grant Morrison‘s expansion of the franchise. That was becoming confusing and a little silly. The premise wasn’t sustainable for very much longer, and Morrison must have jumped at the pass handed to him by Dan Didio and Jim Lee, saving him from needing to write himself out of that plot corner.
Unlike many readers, I don’t really give a crap about continuity, which is one of the reasons the “reboot” doesn’t bother me. There are, however, a few changes coming in the DC relaunch I consider disappointments because they provided really interesting motivations for their characters’ actions: erasing Barbara Gordon’s disability and the return of Swamp Thing’s human alter ego Alec Holland, for instance. But putting Dick Grayson back into the Nightwing togs is the biggest disappointment.
I got turned on to Batman books with the launch of Morrison’s Batman and Robin in 2009. (Frank Quitely‘s art in the first arc was half the appeal.) It was a fun and entertaining read that lived up to the feel of classic hero/sidekick stories but written for a modern audience. There were some crazy new villains and Morrison kicked off a bizarre storyline I’m still not sure I’ve completely figured out.
But I kept coming back for more.
Then, at the end of the enjoyable Return of Bruce Wayne mini-series, I guess the marketing worked because I went on a bit of a bender and started picking up Snyder’s Detective, Tony Daniel on Batman, Morrison’s Batman Inc., David Finch‘s Batman: The Dark Knight, and there was Paul Cornell‘s Knight & Squire mini-series. For the most part, all strong books – Dark Knight being the exception from the pack.
What made them so compelling were the stories of an insecure Dick Grayson trying to live up to the ideal set by his father figure Bruce. In many ways, these were coming of age stories and offered some fascinating moments throughout the titles. Here was Dick thrust into the role of watching over the Robins sooner than he’d liked despite being an entirely capable leader. (My favourite scene is a moment between Jim Gordon and Dick Grayson as Batman, in which Gordon confesses that his officers like working more with Grayson than they did Wayne. I’ll try to dig up the exact book and issue number.)
I’ll go so far as to say Dick Grayson taking on the mantle of Batman has been a more interesting and effective character development than Bucky picking up the Captain America costume and shield over at Marvel.
But like the headline says, all good things must come to an end. So I will cherish these rare stories and commit myself to rereading them next time I wonder what Dick Grayson is up to.
(image by DeclanShalvey, check out his cool DeviantArt gallery.)