SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Titans #23 by Dan Abnett, Brandon Peterson, and Ivan Plascencia, in stores now.
Over the years, Dick Grayson has truly become the quintessential replacement for Bruce Wayne in DC Comics. Apart from his stint donning Batman’s cowl, whether it’s as Robin or an older Nightwing, he’s always displayed a sense of virtue and heroism. In short, he’s just like the Dark Knight, only with way less brooding.
With a revamped Titans lineup under his leadership, we’re yet again seeing how similar he is to his mentor and father-figure. However, one issue which has immediately popped up with his new Justice League-sanctioned team is their view on using lethal force in the field. In Titans #23, Nightwing quickly has to address this and lay down the law, although it seems his ‘no-killing’ policy is falling on deaf ears.
Following the events of No Justice and the breach in the Source Wall suffered during Dark Nights: Metal‘s conclusion, meta-energy has been leaking onto Earth changing humans into metahumans. The Justice League, after disbanding the old Titans, sanctioned this new roster and provided them the necessary resources to deal with what’s been dubbed the “Emergent Event,” with the first mission being the handling of this energy crisis.
Nightwing leads his new team — Raven, Steel, Donna Troy and Beast Boy — to investigate a massive incident in New York, while Miss Martian, the liaison Martian Manhunter appointed to the team, is at HQ linking them up telepathically and overseeing the mission. However, Nightwing quickly realizes his new crew isn’t just rough around the edges — there’s a bloodlust in the air, as seen when Donna slays a bunch of mutated rats without question.
Nightwing is appalled at her rash decision; after all, she slaughters the creatures without even wondering if they may have been humans whose physiology was altered or merged with the animals. What’s more shocking is she does this with absolutely no compassion in front of Beast Boy, no less, who she well knows holds a connection to all animals as something more than just kindred spirits.
Donna is far form alone in her merciless attitude; Raven doesn’t seem to mind doing what it takes to get the job done ASAP, either, and Miss Martian seems to be outwardly proposing that murder is an unavoidable side effect of their mission. This attitude is given the spotlight in the issue’s finale where they discover a young kid, Tyler, who’s suddenly able to shoot energy beams, but in an unstable fashion. Miss Martian disobeys Nightwing’s orders and joins the team on the street, her arrival coinciding with another goblin-like metahuman attacking the heroes. They can’t stop the creature, which is put down by Tyler himself, who blasts it in the head, killing it.
Tyler is clearly traumatized but Miss Martian seems to be more or less happy with the outcome, telling them there will always be collateral damage. This triggers Nightwing after she reveals only meta-energy could have killed the goblin, which means Tyler was the lone solution to the problem. Bruce’s protege wades into her, even asking her if she manipulated Tyler’s mind and made him a weapon, an accusation she vehemently denies.
At this point, Nightwing is at his wit’s end, and reminds everyone they cannot and should not kill, no matter what. More than that, they shouldn’t let anyone else kill, either. He makes it clear this is what separates them from the villains, and if they’re to remain onboard, they have to abide by these rules.
It’s uncertain how long they will though, especially with Miss Martian acting as a spy for Martian Manhunter (and maybe the League itself). As of now, Nightwing can only his message has gotten through to its intended targets, because if his crew is to carry on like this, crossing the line could also cost them, not just their sense of altruism, but their humanity — and maybe even their lives.
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