WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #55 by Tom King, Tony S. Daniel, Danny Miki, Tomeu Morey and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
Dick Grayson has been at Bruce Wayne's side, both literally and figuratively, ever since Selina Kyle left Bruce at the proverbial altar in Batman #50. First, Dick had temporarily assumed the role of Batman when Bruce was sequestered while serving on the jury during the trial of Mr. Freeze. Now, Dick has resumed his identity as Nightwing, partnering with his former mentor not unlike how the pair once teamed up during Dick's days as the first Robin.
In Batman #55, Dick's attempts to cheer Bruce out of his post-rejection doldrums barely crack Bruce's emotionally-hardened walls. Now, though, an unexpected and tragic development threatens to forever change the course of Nightwing's life and career, and send Batman even further into emotional isolation. That development? As Batman and Nightwing meet with Commissioner Gordon, Dick is taken out by a sniper.
And the man behind that sniper rifle is none other than the KGBeast.
The Fate of Nightwing
While Nightwing's injury certainly appears to be nothing short of a fatal head shot, DC Comics' own statements about the character's fate suggest otherwise. The injury has been described in DC's solicitations as "devastating," implying, despite its severity, that it's at least something less severe than lethal. And since the character's title is carrying on, the likelihood that he'll remain a part of it remains high.
Dick's injury stands to change the nature of the character, at least for the foreseeable future. Does he still stand to serve a role in the extended Bat-family, not unlike Barbara Gordon's Oracle once did, if his days as a superhero are through? Will he recover physically, but suffer some kind of drastic personality change? Or will his character temporarily be taken off the table, with other members of the Bat-family stepping in to fill his role?
The Fate of Batman?
Just as significant, what will Dick's attempted assassination mean for Batman? Bruce is already in emotional turmoil in the aftermath of Selina's rejection, and the grievous injury to his oldest partner holds the potential to damage him further. Being left behind by the woman who was nearly his wife, and now coming close to losing the man who was all but his son, potentially leaves Bruce in the most fragile emotional state he has ever experienced.
This tragic development also potentially plays right into Tom King's ongoing subplot that questions Bruce's resolve to continue being the Batman. During his engagement to Selina, Bruce came to the realization that he deserved to be happy, but since then, he has been anything but -- and, in fact, has since been even less so. It also aligns well with Bryan Hill's recent arc in Detective Comics, where Batman's concerns regarding other members of his crime-fighting family, and their safety, are brought to light.
Nightwing's fate very well might be intertwined with Batman's own.