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Comic Book Review: "Nightwing #9: The Gray Son"

Updated on September 14, 2012
Nightwing #9
Nightwing #9 | Source

Richard Grayson’s battle against his past and the Court of Owls continues in Nightwing issue 9, “Night of The Owls: The Gray Son”. Written by Kyle Higgins with art by Eddy Barrows and Andres Guinaldo, this story reveals the history and demise of Williams Cobb’s hope and dreams and his descent into becoming the most feared assassin in Gotham City. This chapter of the "Night Of The Owls” story brings more revelations to Richard “Nightwing” Grayson about his family’s past and the how his entire life was predestined a century before he was even born.

“The Gray Son” begins in Gotham City during the early part of the 20th Century. William Cobb is talking to Burton Crowne, his sweetheart Amelia’s father. He tells William that Gotham City is like the game of chess. It has two sides; there is no middle. It is Black and White. William may have pulled himself out of the slums but he is still living in filth. The two sides are always separate and can never mix, and William can’t change that. He is not good enough for Burton Crowne’s precious daughter; it doesn’t matter that they are in love.

In present day Gotham, during the Night Of The Owls, at 8:22 p.m. in City Hall, Nightwing kneels injured by knife wounds. His great-grandfather, the resurrected Talon, William Cobb, stands over him. Richard asks Mayor Hady and Deputy Mayor Kavanaugh if the building has a panic room. It is on the 4th floor. He tells them to get to it. He rushes Cobb and they both crash through the window. They crash land hard on the street. Cobb’s bones are broken, but they regenerate. He tells Richard to impress him. He calls his great-grandson a betrayer to the family heritage.

Cobb explains that Burton Crowne’s disapproval kept Amelia and William from marriage; He wouldn’t allow it. When Amelia and William found out that she was pregnant, she had to choose either William or her rich family. William recalls that it really wasn’t a choice: Her father arranged for her to marry a distant relative, to hide the true nature of her pregnancy. Cobb started as nothing and to those who mattered, he would always be nothing. The child would be raised as a Crowne.

He tells Richard that he is the best Talon, that’s why the Court of Owls woke him first. He says that Batman and Nightwing are weak. Nightwing is a just pathetic imitation of a naïve man.

Richards tries to get away, so he can recover from his injuries, but he passes out. Cobb grabs him and drags him down into the subway. He tells him that he has to understand: to truly choose to become something, you must first understand what you could have become.

In the flashback, William Cobb, dejected, is talking to Nathaniel, who run Haly’s Circus. Nate asks Will if he really loved Amelia. Cobb replies that it doesn’t matter now. Nate says there’s a way for him to really matter in a place like Gotham City.

Cobb chooses to be turned into a Talon. Drugged and conditioned; he was initiated in the ranks. The Court of Owls is the middle of the two sides of Gotham; they are in between the black and white, they are the gray.

As a Talon, he was making a real difference in the city; killing those the Court deemed necessary and it was liberating. He finally found his true place in the world; he was shaping the future. But the Court would need more from him after he’s gone. So he sneaks into the Crowne home and kidnaps his infant son. He gives him to Nathaniel and tells him to raise him in secret at the Haly’s Circus; his “Gray Son of Gotham”. He will be his legacy for the Court of Owls.

Cobb tells Richard that that is how he betrayed his heritage. He wasn’t just chosen; he was bred to serve the Court. Unless Richard embraces his true destiny as a Talon, he will only ever be a weak fake; an imitation Wayne. Gotham City never changes, the Court of Owls is the only protection and law the city truly has; Batman and his kin are worthless.

Nightwing tells Cobb that the city has changed. For example; as the city grew, the engineers expanded the tunnels for the subway train. The subway system began using liquid nitrogen to insult the cables. Talons don’t like the cold and that why he lured Cobb into bringing him down into the tunnel. He cuts the hanging cables and sprays Cobb will coolant. Cobb tells him to embrace his destiny as he freezes. Richard says that what he embraces is, “that destiny doesn’t exist”.

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As the "Night Of The Owls” begins to conclude, Nightwing learns more and more about The Court of Owls, his great-grandfather and the original plan for Richard’s life. Not only is his great-grandfather, William Cobb, an undead assassin for a shadowy organization, but he created a whole legacy of offspring to follow in his footsteps: going so far as to name his children “Grayson” in honor of the Court’s gray/middle position in Gotham society. This issue simply oozes Star Wars: It is very Anakin Skywalker vs. Luke Skywalker Revenge Of The Sith / The Empire Strike Back. Like Vader, Cobb turns to the “Gray-side” out of love (or lack of) and chooses to embrace a violent, hard-edged view of life. Like Luke, Richard is removed from the same path of his predecessor and raised in a more positive light. Nightwing’s dynamic world view helps him outsmart Talon’s rigid world view. Richard knows that choice and destiny are decisions someone makes; they’re not made for them. That’s the wisdom of Batman; nothing is inevitable, there’s always a choice. That’s why Batman is needed. He’s not the useless entity that the Court of Owls believes he is; and neither is Nightwing. This story, along with the entire Nightwing series, recreates Richard Grayson’s story and his view of the past and world around him. The road he walks is his own; nothing and no one will take that independence from him.

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