Things are getting a little dicy for Nightwing in the latest issue of the hero's solo series. Though it's just the second part of the Dark Nights: Metal tie-in “The Gotham Resistance” that started in Teen Titans the previous week and continues on in Suicide Squad this week, the truth is, Dick Grayson’s been deeply embroiled in the story of Metal for months now.
We just didn’t know it until now.
There’s a cut on Dick’s forehead and it won’t stop bleeding. This is concerning, not because of the wound itself, but because of who gave it to him, and how old it is. Dick’s first encounter with Dr. Simon Hurt during Rebirth happened back almost six months ago, starting in issue #16 with a story arc titled -- ominously -- “Nightwing Must Die.”
In it, Dick and Damian relive their pre-New 52 team up days by going after the maniacal Professor Pyg -- one of their first masked villains they faced together during their tenure as Batman and Robin -- which lands them in France, where they find themselves caught in a trap with a decidedly metaphysical bent. It turns out Pyg hadn’t been working alone but instead had been creating his “art” (read: victims) under the patronage of Dr. Simon Hurt.
Now. Dr. Hurt is another relic of Dick and Damian’s past but he’s a little less straightforward than your run-of-the-mill masked madman like Pyg. Similar to Hugo Strange, Hurt’s a master psychologist with a deep, unrelenting obsession with Batman. However, unlike Strange, Hurt’s interests skew a bit more towards the occult side of things. In fact, there’s the very real possibility that he might actually be an immortal conduit for the demon Barbatos -- but more on that in just a second.
Hurt first properly came into contact with the Bat-family during the days leading up to Final Crisis and Batman R.I.P., where it was revealed he’s implanted a post-hypnotic suggestion in Bruce Wayne’s mind to trigger him into a sort of psychedelic fugue state. Later, as Bruce was making his return from the “dead” (actually a sort of time-displaced era-hopping romp) Hurt came into contact with both Dick and Damian, nearly killing Dick before running into The Joker, who “killed” Hurt. Apparently, Joker believed there was only room for one real arch-nemesis for The Bat in Gotham -- but it would seem that his methods for ending Hurt once and for all may not have been as effective as the Clown Prince of Crime would have liked.
Or maybe Hurt actually is all but immortal and tapped into the dark energy of Barbatos, which has been keeping him alive all this time.
Hurt’s obsession with Barbatos lead him to conduct any number of rituals in the caves beneath Wayne Manor and it’s never really made all that clear if he’s truly just out of his mind or if he’s actually onto something genuine -- At least, that is, until now.