As Nightwing continues to lead Teen Titans Academy, the original Boy Wonder finally gets to avenge an Infinite Crisis tragedy.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Shazam #1, available now from DC.
Dick Grayson has been especially busy in the Infinite Frontier era, dividing his time between his solo superhero activities as Nightwing in his home city of Bludhaven to serving as one of the leading teachers and student mentors for Teen Titans Academy. And as Grayson leads the next generation of aspiring Teen Titans into action, he finally gets the chance to avenge Bludhaven in Shazam #1, by Tim Sheridan, Clayton Henry, Marcelo Maiolo and Rob Leigh.
Nightwing failed to properly defend his adopted home from the toxic villain Chemo in a past iteration of the DC Universe that was completely obliterated during the 2005 crossover event Infinite Crisis, but this issue sees Dick Grayson lead a team of Titans against the radioactive villain.
In Shazam #1, Chemo launches an attack on New York City’s Liberty Island, Nightwing leads both the veteran Titans and a handful of newer members to evacuate the popular tourist attraction while ensuring that Chemo’s toxic chemicals aren’t unleashed into the Hudson Bay as he is defeated. With Chemo noticeably stronger than usual, Nightwing makes a call for reinforcements only for the Titans to be surprised when Shazam arrives on the scene. While Billy Batson has struggled with controlling his magical transformation, prompting his enrollment in Teen Titans Academy, the Earth’s Mightiest Mortal is able to forcibly carry Chemo to a safe distance away before Raven transports the supervillain from the scene through a well-paced portal.
Although this seems like a fairly standard superhero operation, it allows Nightwing to do protect New York from the threat he failed to save Bludhaven from. Nightwing spent several years defending Bludhaven as its guardian superhero upon learning that Gotham’s sister city was just as corrupt as Batman’s home. Determined to root out corruption from the inside, Grayson went as far as to enlist in Bludhaven’s police department while continuing to work outside of the law as Nightwing before he was eventually ousted from his burgeoning law enforcement career. While Nightwing attempted to infiltrate Deathstroke’s operations, the Secret Society of Supervillains dropped Chemo in Bludhaven during Geoff Johns and Phil Jiminez’s Infinite Crisis #4 in a show of force, completely destroying the city while Nightwing was away.
For much of the post-Infinite Crisis DCU, Bludhaven remained a smoldering, irradiated ghost town and served as a grim reminder of how the heroes had failed to work together to stop the Secret Society from decisively drawing first blood. This sense of failure was especially and acutely felt by Nightwing, who was away unsuccessfully attempting to get the jump on Deathstroke at a time when his city needed him the most. By the start of the DC Rebirth era, Bludhaven and Nightwing’s connection to the city would quietly be restored, with no overt mention of its destruction during Infinite Crisis and any potential circumstances behind its eventual return, completely habitable — if just as corrupt — as it had been before.
Whatever history Nightwing and Chemo may now share, the supervillain has soundly been defeated by the combined efforts of the Titans with Grayson back at the helm. Recently, the citizens of Bludhaven have reminded Nightwing just how much of a difference he has made defending them over the years, stepping up to save their own under the threat of the city’s new, resident supervillain Heartless. Bludhaven may have endured a catastrophically grim fate during Infinite Crisis. but its second chance at being a thriving city in the DCU has not gone unspoiled, with Nightwing back as its own shining knight. And while Shazam’s powers may still be in flux, the teenage superhero just helped took down one of the DCU’s most corrosive supervillains.
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