The Barbara Situation
Dick and Barbara are one of DC’s oldest and most popular couples — which of course means they have no shortage of baggage to go along with them. Prior to the New 52, Barbara and Dick had been so habitually on-again-off-again that they’d been engaged prior to the “One Year Later” time skip. The engagement, of course, broke off (rather inexplicably) and they maintained a healthy friendship that only occasionally delved deeper right up to the final days of that continuity.
When the New 52 restored Barbara to the role of Batgirl, things kicked up anew with the liberal use of reconfiguring their new history within the new timeline. Still, the Nightwing tradition of perpetually flirtatious non-commitment held true, especially in this continuity there was no room for something like a marriage proposal between the two of them.
But be that as it may, there was enough context to work from for both fans and other characters on the page to ascertain that there was clearly something happening between Nightwing and Batgirl, even if they themselves refused to put a name on it.
Rebirth has only build on this unresolved tension by placing Dick and Babs in proximity with one another to varying emotional effects -- in Rebirth, they are “officially” broken up, whatever that might mean for the two of them -- but arcs in Nightwing and Batgirl have both directly addressed the fact that there is a vacuum between the two of them...It’s just a vacuum that neither of them have the time or the emotional energy to deal with at the moment.
That is, until Shawn and Dick called it quits.
Breakups and Make Ups
Shawn and Dick’s relationship ended about as quickly as it started, but it wasn’t actually Dick’s decision to call things off. After a pregnancy scare (and a kidnapping, and a confrontation with Dr. Hurt and Professor Pyg…) forced Shawn to come to terms with the reality of Dick’s dual identity and responsibilities as a superhero, she came to the bleak realization that the relationship was going nowhere. Thus, she promptly and emotionally called things quits -- just in time for Helena to come back into the picture.
It was business that brought Helena to Blüdhaven -- she’d been working a case involving Spyral, so naturally Dick was also involved -- but circumstances conspired to make it more than that. Immediately. And with the finesse and casual ease only a Nightwing comic could have.
Dick’s ongoing comics traditionally have no shortage of lovingly rendered moments that blend situation comedy and fanservice -- in fact, it’s one of his most endearing qualities. So the fact that Helena popped into Dick’s apartment just as he was getting out of the shower was anything but surprising. Still, the readiness both of them had to immediately hop back into bed with one another may have been a bit jarring, all things considered. It would seem whatever had been stopping Helena from really engaging on her feelings back in Birds of Prey had become less important over time -- or maybe her resolve was broken by the sight of Dick’s glistening, freshly showered body -- but either way, Helena and Dick have decidedly reconnected.
It’s unlikely that they’ll be more eager this time around to actually label what they have or what’s going on between them -- they never have, after all, not in the decades they’ve been orbiting each other -- But still, the spotlight Rebirth Nightwing has refocused on their tension is undeniable. So where does that leave Shawn or Barbara in the immediate future? Well, that’s anyone’s guess.