Spoilers for Nightwing #95 are ahead. Nightwing is one of the most central characters in the DC Universe, and his current crusade puts him on the path to becoming DC Comics’ own Daredevil. While Nightwing and Daredevil have been compared in the past, due to the fact that they are both expert martial artists with balletic grace and almost identical weapons, Nightwing’s ongoing series imagines Dick Grayson in a role that Matt Murdock played in 1980s New York: a community hero. By angling Nightwing against the corruption of Bludhaven, he emerges as an important Daredevil-like figure, proving that Dick Grayson should be seen as more than just a future candidate for Batman.
The version of Daredevil that Nightwing resembles most is from Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr.’s run, which began in 1987. Nocenti and Romita Jr.’s Daredevil run is characterized by its focus on both Matt Murdock and Daredevil’s relationship to his community in Hell’s Kitchen, as well as the myriad of social problems facing the city at the time. Facing issues such as housing inequality, pollution, environmental racism, and more, Matt Murdock devoted himself to addressing his community’s needs by running a legal aid clinic with his girlfriend, Karen Page, despite no longer being able to practice law. This put him in the crosshairs of his old foe, Kingpin, whose real estate plans in Hell’s Kitchen were foiled by Matt’s actions. As such, Nocenti and Romita Jr.’s Daredevil proved how indispensable Matt Murdock is to Daredevil’s heroism, not because of his knowledge of the law, but because he wasn’t afraid to put his private life and identity in danger for the greater good.
In Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s Nightwing, Dick Grayson is fighting a similar fight, as his nemesis Blockbuster seeks to control several fronts of Bludhaven. In addition, Dick announced the creation of the Alfred Pennyworth Foundation, which aims to eradicate many of Bludhaven’s social problems. As a result, as both Nightwing and Dick Grayson, the hero is being targeted by Blockbuster for the same reasons that Daredevil was with Kingpin. This is the perfect role for Nightwing in the DC Universe, because it emphasizes his power as a common man. Rather than immersing readers in an entirely escapist fantasy, Nightwing invites readers to be engaged in human problems like corruption and inequality, treating them as the high stakes issues that they are.
Dick Grayson has always been seen as a hero who can be “better than Batman,” due to his approachability and well-adjusted nature, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that being Batman is his ultimate heroic form. As such, Taylor and Redondo’s Nightwing makes the case for why a role like Daredevil is a better fit for Dick Grayson. Even with someone as personable as Dick in the suit, Batman’s persona is ultimately a frightening one, designed to give the hero an inhuman affect and appearance. In contrast, the simplicity of Daredevil and Nightwing’s costumes makes it easier for both heroes to reach out to their communities, even if one of them is dressed as the Devil. Bruce Wayne’s heroic identity was created to be larger than life from its very inception, but Nightwing has already proven that he excels most as a hero in his most human and approachable form. With all of the good he’s accomplished in Bludhaven already, why abandon this crucial part of his identity?
Nightwing and Daredevil stand out because of their unending dedication to improving the lives of others around them. By mounting a crusade against Blockbuster and Kingpin’s corruption, the two heroes carry an evergreen sense of urgency to social problems in American cities. While this specific vision of Daredevil’s character may not be as visible in his current series, Nightwing continues the spirit of Matt Murdock as he battles to save his city.
Nightwing #95 is available now from DC Comics.