Monday, 1 September 2014

Nightwing Vol. 4: Second City (DC's The New 52) Review

Nightwing Vol.4: Second City (The New 52)
Psst: Don't tell X-Men: Days of Future
Past that you stole their cover!
Writer: Kyle Higgins

Artists: Brett Booth, Will Conrad and Norm Rapmund

Collects: Nightwing #19-24

Background Information:

The Nightwing series in the New 52 started off great- a six-issue story arc. The two volumes that followed it... weren’t as great. Being tied to the New 52’s Batman meant that stories outside the crossover had to fill in the blanks. To say that they did so poorly would be unfair; they weren’t awful stories Paragon’s story arc certainly wasn’t totally awful and the fallout from Death of The Family felt relevant, but Lady Shiva’s story definitely fell flat. Sure, Nightwing’s Death of the Family and Night of the Owls arcs were entertaining, but they definitely hurt the series, leaving other story arcs to become filler (I’m convinced that the Paragon story arc could have been fantastic if it was six issues instead of four). At the end of the day, I came out of Volume 3: Death of the Family certain of one thing; if Nightwing was going to catch my interest again, he would need to be separated from Batman.


I was right. Can I say that? I WAS RIGHT!!!

Nightwing’s separation from the rest of the Bat-Family in the previous volume the shot in the arm that his series needed. No longer reliant on Scott Snyder’s, I’ll admit, excellent run on Batman, Kyle Higgins feels like he’s truly in his element- something we’ve not seen since his first volume; Traps and Trapezes.

The notion of change has been a constant thing for Higgins’ Nightwing. He went from re-joining the circus to taking the circus to not having a circus anymore to now moving to Chicago. Here, he hopes to track down Tony Zucco; the man who killed his parents. The problem? Chicago isn’t exactly super-hero friendly. An unspecified incident has led to the city banning anyone wearing a flashy costume. Things aren’t made better when Nightwing finds himself forced to team up with psychotic hacker, the Prankster.

Firstly, yes, his name is the Prankster. And yes, there’s a certain amount of Joker-lite about him. Mostly in the way he justifies his actions by saying “where’s the prank?” when he’s about to nearly kill someone. But this is Nightwing; who, even in Higgins’ run, has been referred to as “Batman-lite”. In a weird way, the character works. Actually, he soon shakes off that Joker-lite-ness about him later in the issue when we finally get a background story. So far, the Prankster has to be the best Nightwing villain of Higgins’ run.

But it’s about more than just the villains. The society in which Nightwing finds himself fits Dick Greyson like a glove. I’ve never been to Chicago; it may as well be any other American city in my opinion. Nonetheless, a certain sense of grittiness comes across here. It actually comes across as a new kind of Bludhaven- full of dirty secrets, evil mobs and no hero in sight. Dick Greyson’s not hiding his identity because he wants to protect those he loves here. Due to Chicago’s inherent hate for superheroes of any kind, Dick really has to hide his identity to stop being arrested. It’s a realistic take on superheroes that not even recent Batman comics has managed to pull off, but Higgins handles it with aplomb.

Tony Zucco makes up a huge portion of this story, naturally, and his character is SO interesting. Having changed his name and taken up a new life, he freaks out when Nightwing comes to town, and tries his best to hide from a guy who’s been after him for ages. It’s more the character transformation, however, that caught me. I won’t spoil it, but the Tony Zucco you think you’re meeting at the beginning isn’t the one you see in the end.

But there lies my only issue with the trade. The end of the last Nightwing volume; Death of the Family, showed us a Tony Zucco that appeared to be a mob thug. Now, Zucco’s a clean-cut father working for the mayor. It’s this weird inconsistency that never gets addressed, and that becomes disappointing.

Chicago cops rate one above Stormtroopers, but several
million below... y'know... decent marksmen.
I can’t leave this review without talking about the art. Last volume art duties were taken from Eddy Barrows and handed to Brett Booth, who worked on the abysmal Teen Titans. Last volume, his work was pretty ugly. Unmasked, Dick looked too much like Rocky after a few rounds- and that wasn’t intentional, I gather. Here, the work is much better. Dick looks much better this time around and Booth even makes additions to Nightwing’s costume that look alright. I still miss Barrows’ Nightwing, but this one serves just fine.

Second City is the best Nightwing story to come out since Higgins’ first New 52 volume. It gets a four and a half out of five Rocky-lites.


+ The Prankster is genuinely enjoyable.

+ Tony Zucco is done so well.

+ Nightwing in Chicago is gold.

- Some continuity issues with Tony Zucco.

Alternate Option: Nightwing: Traps and Trapezes

Another one of Higgins’ proudest moments with Nightwing. Read it.

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