It isn’t easy being a legacy superhero, even in a fictional universe lousy with them. The inheritance of an established costumed identity brings with it public recognition and a degree of prestige, but the cape is heavy with the weight of expectation. Perhaps no one understands that better than Damian Wayne, the current Robin.
Operating in the long shadow cast by his father, Batman, even while resisting the siren’s call of his birthright — he’s the grandson of Ra’s al Ghul, and trained by the League of Assassins — Damian is riddled with insecurities about how he measures up to those who bore the name Robin before him. Don’t let the bravado fool you; beneath the precocious, self-important exterior, he’s just an insecure 13-year-old. A 13-year-old with lethal fighting skills, unnerving intellect, high-tech arsenal and an enormous pet dragon bat, but a 13-year-old nonetheless.
That becomes evident once again in “Nightwing” #16, by writer Tim Seeley and artist Javier Fernandez.
After re-forming the Teen Titans in a, let’s say, unconventional manner during the first arc of that relaunched series — Damian being Damian, he captured Starfire, Beast Boy, Raven and Kid Flash — and declaring himself team leader, he then reaffirmed to himself as much as to anyone else that he’s not an al Ghul but instead a Wayne. Yet even in rejecting that part of his heritage, Damian asserted a need to spread his wings, out from under the watchful eye of his father.
Those “new” Teen Titans ultimately accepted him as not only a friend but as their leader, a role previously held by the believed-dead Tim Drake, whom Damian once challenged for the right to be Batman’s sidekick. Heck, he’s somehow even found time to spy on Jonathan Kent, and then lead him astray, in “Super Sons.” Life for this Boy Wonder should be sweet, and yet … in “Nightwing” #16, he uncovers another affront to his status, and his ego, this time on social media.
While searching Chirper (the DC Universe counterpart to Twitter) for mentions of his name, Damian is outraged to see Nightwing referred to as “#BestRobin” and, worse still, “Batman of Blüdhaven.”
Incensed by “the effrontery” and “the ignorance,” Damian turns to his teammates for reassurance that, should Batman ever retire, he and not Nightwing would inherit the mantle of the Dark Knight. Perhaps unsurprisingly, their responses do nothing to soothe his rage, or that nagging self-doubt. Like a certain Leader of the Free World, the 13-year-old is unable to let a perceived slight go unchallenged, and so Damian sets off from San Francisco to Blüdhaven to confront Dick Grayson.
As humorous as a showdown between the two might be (and, to a certain degree, is), it comes just as Dick is dealing emerging crises that have nothing to do with the bruised ego of a teenager or even a gang of horse mask-wearing criminals. However, Damian is rarely one to put the needs or concerns of others before his own, particularly once he’s built of a head full of steam.
This is a multilayered dispute, between former mentor and mentee, between adoptive brothers, and between a former Robin and the current one. But it’s not just any former Robin — this confrontation would never occur between Damian and Jason Todd, for multiple reasons — but with the first one, the one against whom subsequent Boy Wonders are judged. More than that, Dick Grayson is the gold standard by which all sidekicks are measured.
Still, as galling as it is that somebody might think anyone is better than Damian at anything, the notion that he could be supplanted as Batman’s true successor cuts to the core of who he is. “Do you think you can take the mantle from me?” he asks a distracted Nightwing. “Do you think you can steal my legacy? You will address me now, Grayson! I am the heir to the Wayne name! I am the Son of the Bat!”
After turning his back, again and again, on Ra’s al Ghul and the criminal empire he rules, atoning for the wrongs of his past, and trying his darnedest to be “good” (even if his definition may be a little loose), the Wayne name and the Batman legacy are all he has. Well, that and a menagerie of oddball pets.
However, Nightwing, who’s just learned his girlfriend may be pregnant, has littlepatience for teen angst or for Damian’s deep-seated issues. “I don’t have time for a Robin meltdown right now,” Grayson says with the weariness of someone who’s endured far too many. When Damian begins to protest, Dick flips the boy over his shoulder and onto the ground. “You’re a self-absorbed thirteen-year-old with raging hormones and all the patience of a kid on Christmas morning,” Nightwing fires off with the wounding astuteness of a brother.
In that moment that’s precisely what they are; not former partners or rivals in a one-sided fight to succeed Batman, but brothers. In Damian’s mind they still may be jockeying for the love or respect of their father, and the adoration of the public, but anyone with siblings will recognize the tugging strains of familial bond in the quick resolution to their heated argument. Damian even goes so far as to float an apology … well, from Dick.
The Boy Wonder trails Nightwing to his apartment, where he finds his one-time partner shaken by the discovery that his girlfriend has been abducted. And just like that, Damian sets aside his grievance (for now, at least), and comes to the aid of Richard. Not Grayson but Richard.
Oh, sure, he pretends his reasons for offering to accompany Nightwing are entirely practical, and more than a little egotistical — “When you’re in this kind of state, you’ll surely get yourself killed without someone as focused and infallible as me watching your back” — but they have an underpinning of pure emotion; maybe even love.
But don’t mistake sentiment for “goodness.” After all, Damian did carjack their old Batmobile on his way to Blüdhaven, proving (for the time being, anyway) that he is the #BestRobin.
“Nightwing” #16, by Tim Seeley and Javier Fernandez, is on sale now from DC Comics.
- Ad Free Browsing
- Over 10,000 Videos!
- All in 1 Access
- Join For Free!