Flash back to the past, where a young William Cobb and his love Amelia Crowne are passing through the Crowne mansion late one night, when her father, Burton Crowne, calls William into his study. Using William's lack of understanding "pure" "black and white" aspects of chess, Burton does the rich guy dick move of being that guy who points out that while a slum kid like William is living large at the moment, he's still in Burton's eyes, that kid from the slums, aka shit.
Back in the present, a bleeding Dick Grayson asks the Mayor and his deputy to get to any sort of panic room, while he has a one on one with William, that consists of tackling great-grandpappy out a high story window, all the while William calls his heir a "waste."
As they plummet to the ground, William demands his great-grandson to impress him. Dick uses his grappling hook to try and lessen the fall, but already being weak, takes a bit of a digger on the landing, and begins to black out, with William again demanding to be impressed.
Back in the past, things didn't get much better with William and Amelia, who soon found out she was pregnant. Furious, Burton ended up covering it up by arranging Amelia to marry a second cousin, so when the child was born, everyone would believe it to be a Crowne. In turn, William was forever locked out of his love, and child's life, proclaiming:
"I had started as nothing, and in the eyes of those who mattered, would always be nothing. No matter what. That was Gotham City."Back to the fight, William taunts his great-grandson, trying to make him see how they are one in the same, how he is second to Batman, asking if it hurt when Bruce "rejected" him, thus revealing William was conscious that entire time. William mocks the way he and Batman operate, insinuating that being a Talon, what Dick was destined for is how you really change Gotham. Dick manages to briefly string up William with one of his lines, but as he crawls away to a subway tunnel, he collapses due to the loss of blood, as William eventually drags him deeper into the tunnel, where he pins Dick to a wall and finishes his story, telling him it's important for him to realize what he could have been.
In the past, depressed, William sits alone on the circus grounds, where he's approached by a man named Nathaniel (who I'm going to guess is Nathaniel Haly to be exact) suggesting that there may be a way for him to change Gotham.
We next see William at the base of the great owl statue within the Court's maze, after months of starvation and torture. But in return, he became the Court of Owls' new champion, the best Talon there ever would be. He felt he had finally found his place in Gotham. Knowing that his time would eventually end, William wanted to make sure he could cement his legacy in Gotham, so there was only one thing he could do.
Sometime later, William sneaks into the Crowne mansion to see, and abduct his son. He hands the boy over to Nathaniel, telling him that he must be prepared for his true purpose. In William's mind, the child was both a child of Gotham, but at the same time not. Not black, not white, but gray, "the Gray Son of Gotham."
William asks his great-grandson if he understands the legacy he had betrayed. Dick, barely able to support himself, tells William that he's wrong, Gotham does change. For example, he points out the subway, which when it became more modern, power companies needed ways to insulate their cables, thus figured out a way to pump liquid nitrogen through it, the exact reason Dick struggled to make his way to the Subway.
Dumbfounded, William doesn't even have time to react before Dick manages to rupture a cable above him. With his body shutting down in the cold, William tells his great-grandson that he can't escape, that he should embrace his fate. In response, Dick tells William that the one thing he believes in is "that destinies don't exist"
I'm definitely going to say I enjoyed this issue more than this month's Batman. It was fantastic. I absolutely love the reveal about how the Grayson name came to be, so god damn clever. What this issue manages to do is illuminate the history of one of these Talons much more than any series could do, which by the nature of who William Cobb is, and how much Nightwing tied in from the start, is understandable as to why it'd have an advantage. Regardless, simply a superb issue.
The one drawback is that Eddy Barrows didn't complete a full issue, again... which is just annoying at this point. I think if I knew it was coming, it'd be fine (like knowing when you're going to get Marco Rudy on an issue of Swamp Thing as opposed to Yanick Paquette) but these just aren't fun surprises, especially given how good Barrows has been when he's been drawing the series. To Andres Guinaldo's credit, he did do a better job of fitting Barrows' style than the past fill ins, and it was probably better than anything I saw from him in Gotham City Sirens (perhaps due to Mark Irwin's inks) but it was still fill in, and I found that the different colorist made it more jarring than the actual artist. Eh, whatever, could have been worse.