Previously on Nightwing: Covering Issues #1 - 9
Grayson does his normal patrol through the Gotham skyline, reflecting on his time spent as Batman during Bruce’s disappearance, but finds himself wondering about his roots with Haly’s Circus when he spots them visiting the city. After struggling with the concept of facing his past, Grayson visits the circus and meets up with his childhood friend, fellow acrobatic performer Raya. Not long after, an unknown man dressed up attacks Grayson in his civilian guise, calling him the “fiercest killer in Gotham.” Grayson causes a distraction so he can quickly change into his Nightwing garb, but still doesn’t easily take the guy out. Finally, he electrocutes him, but the man sets a car on fire so he can get away, while Nightwing saves the car’s inhabitants.
After cleaning up at home, Raya comes over and tells Grayson she needs to get to Atlantic City. Grayson uses one of the Wayne jets to get there easily, but finds out that Raya really wanted him to come so he could talk to Old Man Haly, the owner of the circus and its adjoining holdings. Haly reveals that he knows Grayson’s antics as a superhero, and that he’s leaving Grayson everything; however, while on the way home, the unknown man—finally calling himself Saiko—calls up Grayson and tells him that he has Haly. Grayson turns the jet around and does battle with the man, but still does not win. Haly dies, but reveals at the end that the circus has a dark secret that has affected Grayson his whole life even without him knowing it.
Haly’s son is upset about his father’s death and Grayson’s ownership, and Raya pushes Grayson away from their rekindled friendship and intimacy. Grayson tracks down an old member of the circus who might have some ties to Saiko, but discovers that he’s nothing but a wannabe bad-guy and easily takes him down. No closer to learning the truth of Saiko or the circus’ secret, he decides to travel with Haly’s Circus as they do their normal tour. Batgirl shows up as Barbara Gordon, thus putting a dent in Grayson’s relationship with Raya, but asks Nightwing to track down a shapeshifter. The two finally find him near an arms dealer and take him down, but without really learning anything new for Grayson’s quest.
At a stop in New Orleans, Jimmy the clown is whisked away by a demon bound to a woman who is obsessed with him. Nightwing easily defeats the demon and unbinds him, saving Jimmy’s life, but leaving Raya high and dry on a dinner date. Raya is shown to be working with Saiko against Grayson, and the identity of the man is shown to be that of Grayson and Raya’s mutual childhood friend, Raymond, who is believed to be dead. As part of the plan, Raya and Haly’s son tell Grayson they’re going back to Gotham for a tribute show for the Flying Graysons on the anniversary of their deaths. Knowing that something is up, Grayson is visibly distraught about the situation.
Raymond attacks Grayson and traps the entire circus and their audience as a means of grabbing the hero’s attention. While fighting it out amongst themselves, Raya has a change of heart and opens the doors to allow the people out, distracting Raymond enough so that it allows Grayson to take him down for good. After confronting Raya about the situation and making sure she’s processed by the cops, Grayson heads to the Batcave to check on Bruce after his ordeal with the Court of Owls. While there, it is revealed that Grayson’s great-grandfather was an assassin for the Court, and that Grayson was supposed to be one as well—the secret that Haly kept. And, to top it all off, the murder of two low-level thugs comes to light with planted evidence implicating Nightwing.
Not long after, the Court makes their move, and Nightwing dashes off to City Hall to protect the mayor from assassination. He fights a battle with one of the Court’s Talons, but soon finds himself facing his own great-grandfather, an undead assassin highly skilled in the ways of death. Nightwing fights courageously but has lost a lot of blood in the effort and collapses before he can defeat his elderly kin. It becomes a ruse, however, to get his enemy to reveal his plans and past before incapacitating him with a spat of liquid nitrogen. In the end, Nightwing prevails and takes his family back where he belongs - on ice.
Tie-Ins: The creative team, and DC in general, did a really good job of tying in the secret of Haly’s Cirucs with that of the Court of Owls within Gotham, making them both lead to the same situation in the last couple of issues by different means. Normally, I don’t like it when the company tries to tie-in things too much, but this time they did a really great job of it, one that I didn’t even expect until it actually happened.
Haly’s Circus: Given how essential the background of the circus is to Grayson’s character as a whole, I was very disappointed when I found out exactly what the circus did to its children, and that Old Man Haly had a hand in it. It does make things interesting, especially when you take into consideration the connection to the Court of Owls, but the fact that the big secret is that the circus provides assassins for the Court, I was very disappointed. I was honestly hoping for something more shattering, and much more comprehensive, given that the circus travels all over the world.
Personal Relationships: The title explores a lot of Grayson’s personal relationships, both those of his past and his present, and I’m very interested to see how much further is explored, especially concerning Batman and Batgirl. Up until he took on the mantle of the cowl, Nightwing has always tried to operate alone, but now things seem to have changed to the point where he has a stronger partnership with Bruce than ever before (at least on the surface). Will that hold out as the Night of the Owls come to fruition?
Night of the Owls: Now that the relationship between Haly’s Circus and the Court of Owls has been shown, what is Nightwing going to do in relation to his great-grandfather being a Talon? Is there a way to make his great-grandfather stop being undead, and, if so, is there a way to rehabilitate him from being a killer?
Circus Ownership: Despite Raymond’s actions of burning down the warehouse and nearly destroying the circus completely, Grayson still has ownership of it. So, what does he plan to do with it? It can’t be filled with happy memories, especially given Raya’s betrayal.