Every cause needs it’s effect. Just as every light needs it’s dark. And as a tale as old as time, every hero needs it’s villain. In this case, and in this reviewers opinion, you’ll find no better counterbalance to Nightwing than Raptor. When DC announced their Rebirth titles and slotted Nightwing for one of them, I know I’m not the only person who was curious as to where it would go. Coming off the heels of Wing being forced to side with The Parliment of Owls (Robin War), Wing is given a partner by the name of Raptor, who quickly establishes himself as the lead. Boasting a philosophy of showcasing not only his wickedly dangerous and utility filled claw (Suyolak, is a Romani wizard who has knowledge of every cure. He is chained to a big rock and if he were to break free he would destroy the entire world) as well as his own credence of how everything Wing, Batman, The Court, and all of these capes are doing is to feed the three-headed demon of Market, Branding, and Advertising, Raptors is not afraid to step the envelope to the next level in an attempt to show Wing that he is not only better than Batman, but that everything Batman has taught him is a lie. In truth, he usually shows this through force. Just seems to be the Raptor way of life.
As it goes, just when Raptor is becoming trusted by Wing, we get a glimpse of Raptors dirty tactics by duping the Book of Wisdom (A ledger that shows every person who has put money into the Court) for Kobra. As we start to see the truth of how Raptor is, we leave the Better Than Batman arc (Part 1 of Raptors story) and follow into The Rise of Raptor (Part 2)
Kobra, of course, took matters in their own hands and retaliated against the Parliament, slaughtering numerous in their stead. Turns out one of the students of Spyral found the backdoor transmitter that Raptor installed. Naturally, Nightwing went to confront Raptor, who was singing a merry tune in celebration of the Owls demise, calling their deaths justice, as well as admitting to have used the money paid to him by the Owls and Kobra to help those the Owls had enslaved. Naturally, Nightwing was NOT okay with this. Side note about their fight scene in this, the mere fact that there’s a keyboard and a tune sheet called “Raptors Theme” might be the best part. The one thing that’s been alluded to during this run so far is that Raptors knows Mart Lloyd, Nightwings mother. In typical Raptor fashion, he throws Wing through a wall into a room that is built almost like a serial killer obsession: pictures dating back to Wings days in the circus, to now and everything in between. Naturally Nightwing wants answers, to which he gets drugged and left with the threat that Raptor is going to take everything away from him, to make him suffer, because he is not yet ready to learn the truth…to which he goes and kidnaps Bruce Wayne in the middle of a press conference. As Nightwing awakens, he finds a picture that shows him the link he had been missing: an image from the early days of Haleys Circus featuring Mary and Mr. Numb, a.k.a. Raptor.Raptors idea was to show how the greed of the rich can be their downfall, by rigging a machine set upon the dollar amount of the Wayne Enterprises stock: once it reached 200, a silverspoon would be jammed into Bruces heart. Nightwing arrives where a battle ensues not only physically but also verbally. Raptor explaining a bit of his history with Mary, and why he’s done what he’s done, with Nightwing explaining how Raptors stuck in one moment and festering too much anger and hate for everything. The battle ends with Raptor being beaten down and having his arm broken. Bruce finds a way out of the machine by picking the lock with a metal pick he somehow had hidden in his mouth. Spyral takes Raptor into custody. So The End right?
Only if you’ve NEVER read a comic before.
During a daring rescue in releasing Deathstroke from a maximum prison, Red Lion also happened to release Raptor, so they could help him reclaim his property from the government. So…in short, Raptor is free. And he’s pissed.
Nightwing has been dealing with other problems in Bludhaven, and upon the news that Raptor has been released, goes on high alert, but had no way of knowing what to expect. (Exit Rise of or Raptor, Enter Raptors Revenge)
Months went by without a word, until an attack by Kobra at the casino was used as a distraction for Raptor to cause even more anarchy, but this time putting one of the “little guys” he’s always defending in danger, almost as if he’s just doing it to cause a ruckus. As such, in an act of desperation, Nightwing seeks out Roland Desmond, the current Blockbuster (Think the Hulk but more controlled), who is the current kingpin of crime an dunderworld bruhaha.
Speaking of Roland, he is attempting to hold a press conference for the future leaders of the world during a graduation, but was attacked by Raptor before he made it out, with the purpose of showing these people exactly who Roland is, an uncontrollable monster. And even though Roland is trying to save the Blud, somewhat, he and Nightwings sketchy alliance has caused Nightwing to feel the ire of Huntress, via a knee to the groin. On the otherside of the town, The Run-Offs (A group of former small time villains trying to turn over a new leaf) are trying to leave town, but not before Defacer (Shawn Tsang, former sidekick of the villain Pigeon, and current ex girlfriend of Wing) wishes to give Pigeon a heads up about the oncoming war. When Defacer arrives at her apartment, she finds Raptors mask on the bed, and realized that Raptor and Pigeon are working together.
At this time, we find Raptor at Nightwings day job, where they have a final conversation about their shared history with Nightwing having finally figure out what happened. Raptor always kept on eye out on things to ensure Mary would be safe, but on the night her and John (Nightwings father) were murdered, he was distracted by the arrival of Bruce Wayne, with his thieving wiles wishing to part Bruce from the very expensive watch he wore. But a moment before Raptor could snatch it, everyone reacted to the fall of The Graysons. Raptor spent his life in self-hate and anger, wanting to make things right since he couldn’t protect the woman he loved, and attempted to do the same with Nightwing, but obviously it was turned against him. So now, he has aligned himself with Pigeon, to bring about punishment and destruction.
And they have a plan: to show the Blud exactly what sort of people they are by unleashing the same serum that makes Blockbuster transform all over the town. They send cannisters out upon birds to ensure distribution, where one press of a button can unleash the virus. A final showdown commences.
The battle takes place on a rooftop, while the city half destroys itself from those who have already been changed by the Blockbuster serum, between Roland, Nighwing, Pigeon, and Raptor, while the Run-Offs are working on unleashing an antidote among the city the best they can. Raptor is still in thought about Mary, pondering the song she used when she performed (The Man on the Flying Trapeze) and how he knew he could never compete with “The Man” being John, and how if he must lose her, he would like to be a bird, something like a Robin, to which she said he could never settle for bugs or worms, but would be the type to go after the big kill, and with his golden eyes, he was more like a raptor. (For the record, a raptor is the short name for The Birds of Prey, to which this specific bird is one of them, which happens to be a buteo, the same name as Raptors airplane).
Right before Roland cracks Pigeon in the head with a board, she is shown angry over the fact that Raptor is still thinking of Mary instead of focusing his love on her. The fight becomes bloody on all ends, with Raptor increasing the violence with each step, reminding Nightwing that he has nothing more to teach him, and that he will die as the Lost Son of Mary, not as Nightwing. Pigeon, on the other hands, goes toe to toe with Roland, dosing him with a double slap of the Blockbuster serum, which makes him unable to control the form. As Pigeon rages about being the Avatar of Ishtar, and how all monuments that aren’t to her must fall, Defacer arrives and crushes her with one of those monuments, because reasons.
As Defacer checks on Nightwing, his is bleeding out, she gets news that all the Mockbusters have been taken care of thanks to the work of The Run-Offs, but Raptor still has the trigger. After backhanding Defacer away, he threatens to hit the button, to which Nightwing comes like a raging fire to fight back, and tries one last attempt to reason with him, about how he could give up, serve his time, and when he comes out, he could be the guardian Bludhaven needs, he could finally be the man Mary wanted him to be. For a moment, it seems like Raptor is strongly considering it…until a double-dosed and enraged Blockbuster interupts with a fist knocking both of them away. Raptor laughs about how Roland is an idiot because Raptor can’t feel pain…just as the mask on his face shatters and blood begins to poor from every orifice in his face. Raptor drops, hard, as Roland attempts to calm himself down. He and Nightwing make a new deal, to “rule the city together” and as they shake on it, Nightwing sticks Roland with the last syringe of antidote, which gets rid of the Blockbuster serum completely.
As Defacer ties Roland up, Raptor speaks, on his last breaths about how the worst part of it was not that he wasn’t there for Mary, but also that he was never there for Nightwing, how he was always in the shadows, hiding. As Nightwing removes Raptors claw, Raptor brushes Nightwings cheek with his bad hand and says “You didn’t even know I was there. You didn’t know me because I didn’t let you. You didn’t know my real name” And just to stab the knife into our hearts a little more, the next panel shows Raptor and Mary in a soft kissing embrace, as Raptor finally tells Nightwing a truth that shocks him to his very core.
“My name, my name…is Richard”
To realize and know that your entire life you’ve been the namesake of a man your mother loved when no one else would, someone who wanted only to protect you and help you but was to scared to come from the shadows because of his shame.
This whole comic has been one of the most beautifully written and drawn pieces of literature I’ve ever had the chance to read. Seeley, Fernandez, and Sotomayor told a fantastic story with an amazing character and drew me into it’s heart. I’m saddened to see Raptor go, but hopefully DC will pull it’s magic and bring him back in some form, because he’s too great of a character to leave out. He may have given his past a rest now with the knowledge that came out, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be formidable in the future.
Until next time,
(Review by BizarreVizard)