WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Nightwing: The New Order #5, by Kyle Higgins and Trevor McCarthy.
For the past four issues of Nightwing: The New Order, readers have been wondering what could have possibly turned Dick Grayson on his friends, and superheroes in general. The story takes place in the year 2040, in an alternate reality where metahumans are monitored and hunted by Dick Grayson’s Crusaders. Over the course of the miniseries, we’ve learned a few tidbits about what happened in the past. Somehow, Dick had gotten hold of an Apokoliptian device that was able to nullify superpowers on a worldwide scale and, for a reason that left many fans of the character shocked, Dick used it against his fellow superheroes, in a bid to safeguard the future of mankind.
Readers have followed Dick along in this new world, curious as to how the man who was in many ways the best of the superhero community could suddenly turn into its worst enemy. The answer finally comes in issue #5, and it’s a shocker.
Grayson is now on a desperate run from the authorities he once led, hoping to save his teenage, superpowered son Jake from a fate he helped create. With a bit of help from the new Titans, the ragtag group of heroes finds itself in Metropolis, protected by a de-powered, yet still formidable Superman. It’s during a talk between Jake, Superman and a surprisingly reformed Lex Luthor that we finally discover what happened 12 years ago, and exactly why Dick turned on his own.
It turns out that all of this was sparked by the death of Bruce Wayne. In previous issues, we were made aware that Bruce had died, and that it had, in some way, contributed to Dick’s change of views on superheroes. Now, we finally discover how Batman died — he was brutally killed at the hands of Superman. In a single splash page, we see a flashback that shows Superman overpowering Batman, blasting him to bits with his heat vision. It’s a scene that easily rivals the violent death of the Joker in Injustice, another reality that explores a grim and authoritarian future.
In Injustice, Superman killed the Joker because the supervillain had used Scarecrow’s fear toxin to make Big Blue accidentally kill Lois Lane. In Nightwing: The New Order, Superman was also under the effect of a poison that made him kill someone he loves — Black Kryptonite. This form of the radioactive element is known to either split Kryptonians into two separate beings — one good, one evil — or of turning them evil for a short period of time, as seen in Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman. We don’t yet know how or why Superman was infected by the Black K in The New Order, but we do know it wasn’t Lex Luthor’s doing, at least, according to the reformed villain.
The devastating loss of his father figure at the hands of Superman, combined with the prospect of being a father, is what ultimately led Nightwing to strive to create a new, better world. Now, we know The New Order‘s horrible truth. But there remains a question. Who used the Black Kryptonite on Superman, and did they know that it would lead to the downfall of earth’s super-powered defenders?
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