Why the Batman Family’s Worst Relationship May Be Its Most Powerful

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WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Nightwing Annual #1, on sale now from DC.

As the original Boy Wonder, Dick Grayson is credited with creating the Robin superhero mantle and bringing much-needed light into the Dark Knight’s grim world. Over the years, has perfectly counterbalanced Batman‘s more antisocial impulses. After transitioning to his Nightwing identity, Dick carried that more positive and hopeful outlook to much of the extended Bat-Family.

In particular, Dick served as a big-brother figure to Tim Drake and Damian Wayne, later generations of Robins who extended the identity’s heroic legacy. However, one Bat-Family relationship tests Dick time and again: the one he has with the second Robin, Jason Todd, now entrenched as the bloody vigilante the Red Hood.

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Batman drafted Jason into his war on crime after the then-teenager attempted to steal the Batmobile’s tires. That was some time after Dick had forged his own Nightwing identity. The pair bonded over how stern and unfriendly Batman could be at times. However, Jason was infamously murdered by the Joker in the 1988 storyline “A Death in the Family.”

However, Jason was resurrected during the events of the 2005-2006 storyline “Under the Red Hood,” and assumed the Red Hood persona. With a shift toward vigilantism, Jason adopted lethal levels of crimefighting, often simply killing criminals that crossed his path. Despite that shift, Dick remained a stable mentor, even if he disagreed with Jason’s philosophy. In Nightwing Annual #1, by Tom Taylor, Cian Tormey, Daniel HDR, Raul Fernandez, Rain Beredo, John Kalisz and Wes Abbott, Dick’s brotherly bond with Jason is tested once again.

Surveillance footage appears to reveal Jason as resuming his murderous ways, openly executing villains in the back alleys of Gotham City. While the evidence is certainly damning, Dick doesn’t believe Jason has turned his back on redemption. He seeks Jason out to discover who is truly responsible for this killing spree and apparent frame-up. It becomes apparent as Jason and Dick set out to clear Red Hood’s name that the two view each other as brothers who have each others’ backs, through thick and thin. That bond stands, despite past differences, even though Jason resented Dick for setting an impossibly high standard for any Batman sidekick.

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Dick and Jason are the Bat-Family’s resident good-cop/bad-cop pairing, in ways that Nightwing could not achieve with Batman himself. Whereas the Dark Knight always ultimately called the shots, the Red Hood and Nightwing stand as relative equals.; they both transitioned into their own identities after growing up under the Shadow of the Bat.

While they can squabble like any siblings, it is abundantly clear that Dick still trusts Jason with his life. Jason clearly appreciates Dick’s inherent trust, especially with what the doctored video suggests. After all they have been through, Jason has earned Dick’s trust, despite his more violent episodes.

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Dick has more of a history with Jason than he does with Tim or Damian, as tumultuous and tragic as that has been. And yet, in their mission to clear Jason’s name, Nightwing and the Red Hood demonstrate their own take on a Dynamic Duo capable of balancing light and dark in their own way. Dick balances Jason’s intimidation by knowing when to rein in his more impulsively brutal counterpart. While some fans may see Nightwing and the Red Hood as rivals, the truth is they are brothers-in-arms that are quietly one of the DC Universe’s most effective superhero partnerships. Once Batman understudies, Nightwing and the Red Hood trust each other implicitly, sharing a common goal to keep the DCU safe.

KEEP READING: Will Batman Forever Be Gotham’s Worst Villain – Or Can the Dark Knight Return?

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