- Do you understand the significance of what you could have become, Richard? The significance of what you've betrayed? It's not simply that you were chosen by the Court to help save Gotham... It's that you were bred for it.
- -- William Cobb
Appearing in "Night of the Owls: The Gray Son"
- Mayor Hady
- Deputy Mayor Thomas Kavanaugh
- Nathaniel (Flashback only)
- Amelia Crowne (Flashback only)
- Burton Crowne (Flashback only)
- Gotham City (Flashback and main story)
Synopsis for "Night of the Owls: The Gray Son"
William Cobb thought his future was bright once he'd fallen in love with Amelia Crowne. He rarely met Amelia's father, given that for most of the year that he courted her, he had been busy with Haly's Circus. One day though, it became painfully clear that Burton Crowne did not approve of the pairing. When Amelia became pregnant, William was forced to sever all ties. She was made to marry someone else. However, his friend Nathaniel provided him with an opportunity. He was recruited by the Court of Owls, driven mad in their maze, and then trained to become a Talon.
His chest filled with knives, Nightwing is surprised to see that William Cobb has managed to escape the Batcave. Through gritted teeth, he urges Mayor Hady and Thomas Kavanaugh to hide in the vault on the fourth floor, and not come out for anyone. The Talon launches himself at Nightwing, and the two crash through the window of Gotham City Hall. He condemns Dick as a betrayer of his own blood. He challenges his descendant to impress him.
On the street below, the Talon easily repairs his bone fractures and mocks Dick. He mentions that he could see when Batman punched Dick in the Batcave. Despite being in stasis, the Talon could see everything. And most of all, he saw how Dick has become nothing but a second rate imitation of the naive Batman. Injured, Nightwing tries to put some distance between him and the would-be assassin. Unfortunately, his wounds are significant, and he collapses. The Talon drags him down into the subway system, explaining that it is necessary to learn that Gotham is not a place of choice. Much was sacrificed to create the future that Richard Grayson rejected.
As a Talon, Cobb had felt liberated. He had the freedom to make a difference, working outside the law to remove obstacles for the Court of Owls. To work in between the black and the white of Gotham. The Court provided the grey area he was seeking. In his own way, as a Talon, he could shape the future. He considered that the Court would need a way to shape the future continually into the future. To facilitate this, he broke into the Crowne estate and kidnapped his own son. He passed the child on to Nathaniel, and ordered that the boy be raised in Haly's circus in preparation for his legacy. This would be the Gray Son of Gotham.
The Graysons were bred to become the perfect Talons. None of what Dick does now matters or works. He is merely an imitation Wayne; a knock-off bat. With the Court of Owls, though, he could become the greatest Talon of all. Nightwing responds that plenty about Gotham has changed. For example, the need for insulated wiring in the subway system. He punctures the insulation in the pipes above them, spraying Cobb with the liquid nitrogen inside. As he succumbs to the cold, William Cobb warns that Dick would be better off embracing his destiny. Hoisting the immobile Talon over his shoulder, Nightwing responds that the one thing he does embrace is that destinies don't exist.
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