SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for Nightwing #51 by Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Travis Moore, Garry Brown, Hi-Fi, Nick Filardi and Deron Bennett, on sale now.
One of the most revered sagas in the history of all comics was Batman's Knightfall storyline in the '90s. It changed the status quo of the Dark Knight, with Bane breaking Bruce Wayne's back in the field, leading to a replacement Batman, Azrael (Jean-Paul Valley), patrolling Gotham. However, Bruce was left no choice but to hustle back into action to retake the mantle. This was due to his successor's violent tendencies, which was severely tainting what the Bat-family stood for.
In Nightwing #51, we're witnessing the start of a very similar journey for Dick Grayson after a near-fatal assassination attempt took him off the field. What shapes the recent turn of events as Dick's own version of Knightfall is that he's not just mentally broken, but now someone has also taken up his costume, ready to dole out a deadly brand of vigilantism using the Nightwing symbol.
After the KGBeast put a bullet in Dick's head, he barely survived, losing quite a bit of his memory in the process. With his psyche fractured, he's remembering bits and pieces of his old life, now going by Ric Grayson (meshing his first name "Richard" and the abbreviated version "Dick") in Blüdhaven. In essence, he's a new person, but he's still reconciling the past, unsure of how healthy he'll be once fully recovered.
While he's trying to find himself, though, he doesn't know the hidden aspect of his world is coming apart at the seams. The final page of Nightwing #51 reveals Dick's base of operations has been infiltrated by a cop, the mysterious Detective Sapienza, who dons his costume and is wielding a gun, ready to become a new and improved version of Nightwing. He seems a tad obsessed, wanting to become the hero he thinks the city needs, the symbol Dick decided to evolve into after moving on with his post-Robin crimefighting career.
Sapienza bears a strong resemblance to Dick, and it's quite coincidental he's a cop, given Dick's past in law enforcement. But currently, we have no clue as to how he found the hideout or if he actually knows Nightwing's civilian identity. What we do know, however, is the Knightfall comparisons are front and center, because while Bruce had a broken back, Dick's injury has broken his mind. This means the ex-Robin might not be well-equipped to deal with his doppelgänger when the time comes, which is the opposite to Bruce, who was sound of mind and could have handled Azrael when the moment of confrontation came.
That said, what makes this bump in the road similar to Knightfall is Dick will also have to convince Nightwing 2.0 to turn away from the darkness, or actually beat him into submission. This evil vigilante is clearly looking at this path of aggression as a solution to crime, a perspective Azrael didn't want to let go of, so the original Nightwing is going to have to correct his rival's moral compass one way or the other.
It's so ironic seeing Dick placed in this position, tasked with stopping a twisted personality who could ruin his legacy as a superhero, because it seems the more he tries to break away from Bruce's shadow, the more he actually becomes like Batman. However, in his case, even if he manages to extinguish this present Azrael-esque threat, the Nightwing symbol may well be tarnished with blood. And if Dick makes his stand too late, everything he built and stood for in Blüdhaven might be destroyed beyond repair, leaving his reputation in a state of total disarray.