Nightwing's Death Puts a Horrifying Final Twist on Bruce Wayne's Origin

Warning: Contains spoilers for DCeased: War of the Undead Gods #1!The origin story of Batman is widely regarded as one of the most tragic and world-changing moments in the DC universe, but Nightwing's death may have lined up a chain of events that proves more heartbreaking. With Dick Grayson becoming the first Bat-Family member infected in the DCeased universe, his demise actually led to Alfred Pennyworth becoming perhaps an even sadder figure than Bruce Wayne himself.


DCeased depicts an Elseworlds reality separate from DC's main continuity as it struggles with a sort of zombie virus outbreak plaguing Earth and the universe at large. When Darkseid discovers the coveted Anti-Life Equation residing within Cyborg, he attempts to retrieve it from the Justice League member's body. Darkseid, however, corrupts the equation, falling victim to the very thing he sought - and setting himself up as one of DCeased's final villains - before sending Cyborg back to Earth. Once there, Cyborg begins unwillingly transmitting the Anti-Life Virus worldwide, infecting anyone who comes into contact with the internet, as well as spreading through blood transmissions such as scratches or bites. At Wayne Manor, Batman and Alfred discover Nightwing and Red Robin are two of the first infected, both becoming rage-fueled feral monsters. When Nightwing bites Batman, Alfred takes a shotgun and kills all three infected Bat-Family members in Wayne Manor before leaving to regroup with other survivors.

Related: DC Confirms Alfred is Just as Deadly as Batman

DCeased: War of the Undead Gods #1 by Tom Taylor and Trevor Hairsine begins the final act of the epic zombie apocalypse saga of the DC universe. The series begins with a bit of relief, as the survivors have discovered a cure to the Anti-Life virus and have begun reviving their fallen allies, including a metal-armed Man of Steel. This relief quickly turns to tragedy, however, as Alfred realizes he will never be able to revive the three infected sons he killed himself back at the franchise's beginning.

Alfred and Damian Wayne in DCeased War of the Gods #1

Alfred's realization puts a heartbreaking twist on Batman's origin. Rather than the son surviving his parents, he has become the father that survives three men whom he considers sons (four including Jason Todd, who was permanently killed by Captain Marvel, Jr. in DCeased: Dead Planet #5). Rather than simply being a bystander to death like Bruce, Alfred additionally carries the guilt of actually being the one who pulled the trigger, saving himself from being infected and effectively robbing the Bat-Family of their cure. Had Nightwing never infected Bruce, it's possible the survivors could have made it out without breaking Bruce's no-kill rule. Alone, Alfred simply didn't stand a chance without lethal force. Damian, Bruce's son who replaced him as Batman, attempts to ease Pennyworth's guilt, but the butler insists there is no absolution for him: "They could have been saved. I pulled the trigger three times. I killed my sons."

Alfred Pennyworth in many ways represents the heart of the Bat-Family, providing Bruce and his Robins a wise, emotionally healthy friend they so often need as a respite from their war on crime. Seeing him punish himself for a moment of self-defense adds an element of sorrow to the highly emotional return to this world. Batman's creation may be DC's defining tragedy, but Nightwing's death paved the way for Alfred Pennyworth to take the crown as this week's saddest Bat-Family member.

DCeased: War of the Undead Gods #1 is available from DC Comics now.