Nightwing Becomes A Member of the Joker Family

Nightwing has become a part of the "Joker Family", as yet another twist that Joker has pulled out as DC's "Joker War" event kicks off. (Spoilers) In Nightwing #72, Barbara Gordon/Batgirl answers an impromptu fiery Bat-signal from Ric's girlfriend Bea. Barbara comes in her civilian guise, but Bea has a story to tell that requires some Bat-style help. Joker ambushed Nightwing and tried to use the same mind-altering crystal the Court of Owls used while trying to turn Dick/Ric into a Talon. According to Nightwing's story, he defeated Joker and smashed the crystal - but when Ric starts acting weird, Bea fears something up.

Barbara suits up and goes looking for Dick, Rick, Nightwing, or whatever he's become in his new red-and-blue suit. She ends up finding him on a rooftop, though Ric has a bit of multiple-personality fun at Batgirl's expense. However, the reunion is short-lived: Ric and Barbara are ambushed by Joker's new sidekick Punchline, who goes a round with Batgirl in the fight fans want to see (right after Punchline's recent scrap with Harley Quinn, of course...).

In a final twist of the issue, Ric intervenes in the fight between Batgirl and Punchline, only to reveal that he in fact got brainwashed by the crystal, and is now Joker's "son." As Joker emerges from the shadows, Joker-Ric reveals that he has been given the honor of slaughtering Batgirl himself. Joker just gives his "kids" a hug, wishing that Bruce Wayne/Batman could be there to see.

Nightwing Joins Joker Family Batman Joker War
(Photo: DC Comics)

Assuming that Barbara survives this assault by Joker-Ric, this is still a pretty tragic turn for Dick Grayson's character. The years since DC's "Rebirth" event haven't been kind to Dick Grayson. He was shot in the head by KGBeast and lost his memory, developing the questionable "Ric" persona; the court of owls scrambled his memories/brains trying to program him into a Talon; it's all given Dick an existential breakdown about being influenced by Batman, The Court of Owls, or anyone else; and now his mind is enslaved to Joker. Even if Nightwing comes out of "Joker War" alive and back in control of his own mind, the trauma that Joker will have caused him will probably reverberate through DC Comics for years.

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So far, "Joker War" is kicking off with Joker having stolen Bruce Wayne's entire fortune and assets; Catwoman and Harley Quinn are gravely injured and off the board; all the other villains are in hiding, and now Dick Grayson is Joker's right-hand man. The stakes for this event couldn't be higher.

"Joker War" is now kicking off in Batman comics.