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Light in the darkness: How Nightwing illuminates Dark Crisis

With Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths reaching its explosive climax, here’s how Nightwing stepped up to become the heart and soul of the DC Universe.

Nightwing in the multiverse
Image credit: DC Comics
Note: This article includes spoilers for Dark Crisis on Infinite earths

The epic DC Comics crossover event Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths by Joshua Williamson and Daniel Sampere has come to an end. Throughout all the multiversal chaos and expansive supervillain armies, the steady source of leadership and inspiration for the superhero community has been Dick Grayson.

With the Justice League presumed dead after a disastrous battle against Pariah and the Dark Army, Nightwing quickly took point to reassure the world of its safety while leading the grieving heroes at the start of the story. And as the fires of Dark Crisis light the way towards the Dawn of DC, Nightwing has been firmly positioned as the heart and soul of the DC Universe moving forward.

Here is Nightwing’s role throughout Dark Crisis, how Dick stepped up in the climactic battle to rally the heroes and save the day, and how Nightwing’s character arc throughout the crossover serves as the culmination for a long-deserved journey for the original Boy Wonder.

Nightwing Carries the Light

Nightwing awakens in darkness
Image credit: DC Comics

Dark Crisis opened with Nightwing leading a candlelight vigil in front of the Hall of Justice mourning the fallen Justice League while assuring the gathered public that he would ensure that the light never goes out. This declaration is tested immediately, with the corrupted Deathstroke leading the Secret Society of Super-Villains to attack Titans Tower where Nightwing and his longtime colleagues on the Titans had been training the next generation of superheroes, leaving the Tower destroyed and Beast Boy gravely wounded. Barely surviving the battle, Nightwing’s sense of self-confidence was shaken to its core; it took words of encouragement from Justice Society of America chairman Alan Scott to remind Dick to rise again and regroup.

Across the series, Nightwing and Jon Kent worked to form a new iteration of the Justice League while preparing for an inevitable rematch with Deathstroke and the coming of the Dark Army to Earth. Along the way, if Green Lantern had been Nightwing’s source of restored confidence, Black Adam voiced any lingering self-doubt Dick may have had, feeling Nightwing ill-suited to lead the heroes against the coming darkness. This crisis of leadership came to the forefront in the story’s climactic showdown as Deathstroke was monstrously transformed by the Great Darkness and confronted Nightwing at the Hall of Justice where their final battle took place.

Dick Grayson’s Brutal Crucible

Nightwing is tortured by the Great Darkness
Image credit: DC Comics

As all-out super-powered war rages around them, Nightwing and Deathstroke engage in a psychic confrontation within the confines of their mind. In this vision, Dick and Slade Wilson revert to their physical appearances from their very first confrontations when Dick was leading the New Teen Titans, with Dick transforming into the teenage Robin and Deathstroke back in his classic costume. The longtime enemies engage in a telepathic brawl, mirroring the brutal fight the two endured with each other at the start of Dark Crisis, which had seen Dick briefly triumph over Slade after a grueling, drawn-out fistfight.

In reality, Deathstroke uses the Great Darkness to bind Nightwing’s body in an attempt to incapacitate and corrupt him while the larger battle unfolds. While Black Adam steps in and keeps Deathstroke’s physical form at bay, Nightwing eventually is able to reject the darkness and fling the chains back at Slade as he frees himself and regains his senses. With Ravager among the figures liberated from the Great Darkness, Rose Wilson is able to convince her father to finally stand down, with Deathstroke surrendering to Nightwing and the assembled heroes, bringing the battle to an end, a victory for the light.

Big Brother to the DCU

Nightwing hits Deathstroke with chains
Image credit: DC Comics

Nightwing’s ascent to leadership has truly been a long time coming, stretching as far back as Dick’s time leading the Teen Titans. As Batman has welcomed an entire parade of Robins to replace Dick, it has fallen on Nightwing to mentor each subsequent sidekick to follow in his footsteps. While mentoring Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and Damian Wayne, Nightwing has stepped up to lead other superhero teams beyond the Titans, including the Outsiders and a brief incarnation of the Justice League when the regular roster was missing in action.

Beyond the Bat-Family, Nightwing has similarly taken on the mentor/big brother role for young heroes surfacing around the DCU for years. From Ravager herself to the new Superman Jon Kent, Nightwing always takes the time to lend crucial advice and participate in team-ups that continue to dissuade any doubts these heroes may have about their own superhero competencies. With the maxi-series Teen Titans Academy, Nightwing became a full-fledged teacher and headmaster as he supervised the institution dedicated towards training young heroes from all over the DCU as the ultimate portrait in what a young hero could become.

Robin is the most iconic superhero sidekick not just in comics, but also in the entire superhero genre, but more than that, Dick represents that continuity doesn’t have to remain static. Dick has grown from wide-eyed Boy Wonder to a standalone superhero and team leader in his own right, a protege that became a master. And with Dark Crisis serving as a generational story between the superhero community, from the Teen Titans and Young Justice to the Justice Society, Dick is a figure that spans generations, effectively unifying them.

Nightwing Lights the Dawn of DC

Batman and Nightwing run into the light
Image credit: DC Comics

More than just a sidekick who made good, Nightwing has often provided much-needed light and levity to the grim and dour corners of the DCU that the Bat-Family occasionally inhabits. Ever the showman, befitting his circus upbringing, Dick is quick to crack wise and brings a swashbuckling sense of fun to the rooftops of Gotham City and Bludhaven, contrasting Batman’s propensity for intense brooding. Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s Nightwing run illustrates this sensibility perfectly, with much of the series’ artwork brightly lit and vibrantly choreographed, with Nightwing often sporting a huge smile as he saves the day.

In a story where the Great Darkness is a literal driving force, threatening to rob all light from reality, Nightwing is the emotional and thematic counterpoint to Pariah's insidious agenda. Beyond light and dark, Dick’s generational reach makes him the logical arch-nemesis to Deathstroke, with Slade intent on preventing the light from inspiring new generations of heroes to follow him. More than just a longstanding grudge match between bitter enemies, Nightwing was always going to save the day by rejecting what Deathstroke stands for at every turn and providing a shining example of what young heroes should aspire to, leading with his actions as well as his word through the latest Crisis.

Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths is written by Joshua Williamson, illustrated by Daniel Sampere, colored by Alejandro Sanchez, and lettered by Tom Napolitano, with an epilogue by a whole host of guest artists. The series is available in individual issues, with a hardcover collection slated to go on sale June 20 from DC Comics.

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