Why the Batman Family’s Worst Relationship May Be Its Most Powerful

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While the Red Hood and Nightwing have been at odds before, a new team-up shows just how effective this complicated Dynamic Duo can be.

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Nightwing Annual #1, on sale now from DC Comics.

As the original Boy Wonder, DC fans credit Dick Grayson for creating the Robin superhero mantle and bringing some much-needed light into the Dark Knight’s world. Over the years, Dick has perfectly counterbalanced Batman’s more antisocial impulses. After transitioning to the Nightwing superhero identity, Dick carried this more positive and hopeful outlook to much of the extended Bat Family.

In particular, Dick served as a big brother figure to Tim Drake and Damian Wayne, later generations of Robins who extended the mantle’s heroic legacy. But one relationship in the Bat Family tests Dick time and time again: his relationship with the second Robin, Jason Todd, now entrenched as the bloody vigilante the Red Hood.


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Nightwing Red Hood

Batman drafted Jason into his war on crime after the the then young teenager attempted to steal the tires of the Batmobile. This was some time after Dick had forged his own superhero identity as Nightwing. The pair bonded over how stern and unfriendly Batman could be at times. However, Jason was brutally murdered by the Joker.

In the events of “Under the Red Hood,” Jason was resurrected and adopted the Red Hood persona. With a shift towards vigilantism, Jason now adopted lethal levels of crimefighting, often simply killing criminals that crossed his path. Despite this shift, Dick remained a stable mentor, even if he did disagree with Jason’s new status quo. In Nightwing Annual #1 by Tom Taylor, Cian Tormey, Daniel HDR, Raul Fernandez, Rain Beredo, John Kalisz and Wes Abbott, Dick’s brotherly bond with Jason is tested once again.

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Surveillance footage appears to reveal Jason as resuming his murderous ways, openly executing villains in the back alleys of Gotham City. While the evidence is certainly damning, Dick does not believe that Jason has turned his back on redemption.  He seeks Jason out personally to discover who is truly responsible for this killing spree and apparent frame-up. It becomes clear as Jason and Dick embark on a mission to clear the Red Hood’s name, the crimefighting pair truly see each other as brothers that have each others’ backs through thick and thin. Their brotherly bond stands despite past differences, even though Jason resented Dick for setting an impossibly high Batman sidekick standard.

Dick and Jason are the Bat Family’s resident good-cop/bad-cop pairing, in ways that Nightwing could not achieve with Batman himself. Whereas the Dark Knight always ultimately called the shots, the Red Hood and Nightwing stand on relatively equal ground. They both transitioned into their own identities as young men after growing up under the Shadow of the Bat.

While they can squabble like any sibling rivalry dynamic, it is abundantly clear that Dick still trusts Jason with his life. Jason clearly appreciates Dick’s inherent trust, especially with what the doctored video footage suggests. After all they have been through, Jason has earned Dick’s trust despite his more violent episodes.

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Dick has more of a history with Jason than he does with Tim or Damian, as tumultuous and tragic as that shared history has been in the past. And yet, in their mission together to clear Jason’s name, Nightwing and the Red Hood demonstrate their own take on a Dynamic Duo capable of balancing light and dark in their own special way. Dick balances Jason’s intimidation by knowing when exactly to rein in his more impulsively brutal counterpart. While some fans may see Nightwing and the Red Hood as rivals, the truth is they really are brothers-in-arms that are quietly one of the DC Universe’s most effective superhero partnerships. Once Batman understudies, Nightwing and the Red Hood trust each other implicitly, sharing a common goal to keep the DCU safe.

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