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|First Published:||March 21, 2012|
|Previous Issue:||Nightwing #6|
|Next Issue:||Nightwing #8|
As a boy, Dick Grayson had watched his parents fall to their deaths while Haly's Circus was in Gotham City. It was an event which could either have destroyed him or defined him.
Today, Dick is Nightwing, and a memorial show in Gotham for his parents has taken a disastrous turn. His childhood friend Raymond has come back as an assassin called Saiko, despite the fact that he is supposed to have drowned in a car accident on the same night that Dick's own parents died. The stadium is now on fire - a magnesium fire, which prevents it from being put out with water - and all of the patrons and circus folk have been trapped inside. Nightwing and Saiko battle high above the trapped patrons, and Saiko taunts that none of this would have happened if Dick had just stayed with the circus.
Mr. Haly had made sure that the car the police found was empty. Raymond had not died, but he had been taken. Taken by the Court of Owls and broken until he could be trained to become a Talon. Haly's Circus had been supplying the Court with children for years, destroying their lives and making them killers. However, the Court didn't think that Raymond was good enough, so they left him out in the woods somewhere, and birds clawed out his eyes.
Dick realizes that in order to put out a magnesium fire, it must be smothered with something like sand. He knows that much of the city - including the stadium - is built over catacombs filled with sand. He cuts the cables holding up the stadium's massive scoreboard, and it crashes down through the floor and into the catacombs, sending a cloud of sand up to smother the flames. Unfortunately, it has the side-effect that the innocents below are suffocating in the sand.
Among them is Raya Vestri, who had conspired with Raymond to make all of this happen. Now, seeing the suffering and damage she has helped to cause, she begins to regret her decision. Nearby, Bryan Haly tries to explain to her that he didn't know it would end up like this - that innocent lives would be endangered.
Raymond reveals that Raya and Bryan were in on the plan to Dick, and he believes that Raya will do whatever it takes to being this to an end. However, Raya is no longer on board with the plan, and she unlocks the doors, allowing the patrons to escape. With renewed vigour, Dick lands several punches on Raymond, shouting that his estranged friend is just one more crazy with a victim complex looking for someone to blame for his own actions. He may blame Dick for what happened to him, but Raymond ought to know that it was the Court of Owls who did it. It was nothing to do with him.
Except it had everything to do with him. Raymond explains that the book that Dick found full of names - it was the selection book. The Court had wanted Dick as their next assassin until he was taken by Bruce Wayne. When Dick was beyond their reach, the Court came for Raymond instead.
Tossing Raymond over the pit below, Dick warns that this will end tonight, but not how Raymond wants it to. Before Raymond can fall to his death, Dick sends a grapple through his leg, leaving him dangling. Looking up, Raymond shouts that Dick doesn't get to have the chance to save him, as he cuts the cable and falls down into the catacombs below.
Later, Dick sees Raya being taken away by the police and begs to know why she helped Raymond. She merely glares at him as she is placed into the back of a cruiser.
Afterwards, Dick receives a call from Alfred Pennyworth, informing him that Bruce has finally returned after weeks of tracking the Court of Owls. In the Batcave, Bruce is busy examining the body of the man who had been hunting him - the Talon. Somehow this man has been resurrected from death using a complicated chemical process, but that is not the most interesting thing about him. His name is William Cobb, and he is Dick's great-grandfather.
Bruce won't tell him more, and Dick becomes angry, accusing his adoptive father of trying to avoid having to show any emotion. He tries to explain the trouble he's been through over the last few weeks, but he is interrupted by the feeling of Bruce's fist coming down hard against his cheek. The force knocks out one of his teeth, and Bruce waves it in front of Dicks's face. The tooth is identical to one that was found in Cobb's mouth, infused with a special alloy that aids in the reanimation process. Dick was meant to be like Cobb - a Talon of the Court of Owls. Despite this, Dick believes that he is the man he chooses to be, and warns that while Bruce's perspective of Gotham has changed, the city does not belong to the Court any more than it belongs to the Batman. It is just a city.
Still, it is a city that can make or break you, and Dick realizes that his pain at the loss of his parents is not what defined him. Tragedies and turning points are not as important as they seem. It is instead the choices that are made in the face of those moments that are defining.
As he leaves, Dick is stopped by Alfred, who has been notified that the police suspect him in the murder of a thug, due to the presence of his escrima sticks at the scene. Dick decides that this will just be one more of Gotham's challenges for him to face.
- Raya Vestri
- Saiko (Dies in this issue)
- C.C. Haly (In Flashback Only)
- Bryan Haly
- Gotham City Police Department
- James Gordon (Mentioned only)
- Alfred Pennyworth
- Court of Owls (Mentioned only)
- William Cobb (Appears only as corpse)
- John Grayson (Dies in flashback)
- Mary Grayson (Dies in flashback)