NIGHTWING VOL. 4: SECOND CITY by Kyle Higgins, Brett Booth, Will Conrad, and Norm Rapmund
Collects Nightwing #19-24
When it comes to Batman’s corner of the DC Universe, my favorite supporting male hero has to be Dick Grayson. Yes, he has matured into his own man and can sustain his own tales (or you wouldn’t be reading this review), but you know what I mean when I refer to him as a “supporting” character. There’s undeniable appeal when it comes to someone who was Batman’s first apprentice and eventually broke out on their own. Dick Grayson, as Nightwing, has won over legions of Batfans and deservedly so. I also greatly enjoyed his several year tenure in the cape and cowl as Batman, but he’s not my favorite when it comes to those who have taken up the mantle of Robin. But my favorite Robin is a story for another day.
Writer Kyle Higgins is obviously someone with a great affinity for this character and you won’t have to take in many pages to realize that. He’s even said that Nightwing is his favorite superhero. A scribe like this is exactly what you need to make a prolonged run with a character work. He seems to know exactly what makes Grayson tick and delivers a riveting story chock full of clever dialogue.
Let’s not forget about the artists who contributed to this book. Yes, there were several, but they do such a fantastic job that you won’t mind the shift between chapters. It’s very hard to say which one I prefer, but I’d have to go with Brett Booth by a narrow margin; the guy is like the second coming of Michael Turner. Will Conrad is certainly no slouch. Sometimes you will have to do a double take to make sure that his backgrounds aren’t actual photographs. The action and whimsy of the character are captured rather well by all illustrators involved. Although we’re dealing with a very limber and acrobatic character, Dick seems to do the splits A LOT; this book could have easily been called “Tainted City”, if you catch my drift.
The story itself follows the events of Death of the Family and sees Dick leave for Chicago for two reasons: 1) his attitude toward Batman is a bit jaded at the moment and 2) he has a credible lead that Tony Zucco, the man who killed his parents, is alive and well in The Windy City. It’s actually apparent from the start that things will be much different than they were in Gotham when Dick is vehemently pursued by Chicago Police. It seems that masked vigilantes have a less than sterling history in this town.
The main villain of the piece, at least of the costumed variety, is The Prankster. His New 52 costume is a bit goofy and I find his behavior to be highly reminiscent of Jigsaw from the Saw movies. Regardless, he is a highly credible threat. Shades of grey aren’t exactly uncommon in modern superhero stories, but this book has more than the usual, making for a complex and rewarding narrative. One example, and I don’t mean to spoil much, sees Nightwing eventually form an uneasy alliance with a supposedly reformed Zucco to take down The Prankster. Zucco is the lynchpin of the story, as he not only killed Dick’s parents, but also works for the mayor and knows Prankster’s true identity and motivation. The Zucco-Mayor-Prankser dots all connect rather well in the end and the concluding pages deliver their share of surprises.
The story arc contained within these pages is tied up nicely, but exciting new seeds are planted for the next. You can either read the concluding arc of Nightwing now by picking up the final six issues at your local comic shop or wait for Vol. 5, which will be released later this year if collected editions are your preference. This book breaks the mold in many ways and should make for a welcome addition to the shelves of Nightwing fans everywhere. The character may be continuing his adventures in the pages of Grayson, but I hope to see him back in his (black and blue) Nightwing threads before long. Score: 8.5/10