New 52 – Nightwing #20 review

Issue #20 “Flying Blind” is exactly what I needed today. The comics I’ve read so far this Wednesday have been pretty disappointing, but Nightwing is time well spent.

For starters, this comic does a fine job of picking up where the last one left off,even the aftermath of the horrifying torture scene is addressed, but first we need to get Grayson home. Nightwing has had a rough night and his suit is in tatters (tatters is always spelled with 3 Ts, by the way. If you come one “t” short and your sentence becomes instantly hilarious). He manages to sneak back into his new apartment to get some much deserved rest when suddenly we are introduced to his roommates. That’s right, roommates! Plural! And it’s a pretty startling introduction because, while Brett Booth’s artwork has been phenomenal on this series so far, the character is drawn to look far too similar to the “mimic” we saw in issue #19. It doesn’t help matters that the colorist gave her blonde hair as well. Perhaps by adding some highlights or something this could have looked better, but overall Booth’s faces have a knack for looking overly familiar. This single instance, was the only problem I had with the book’s art, though. It’s a stunning comic. But let’s get back to the surprise roommate!

Joey represents some good ol’ comedic relief, a possible love interest, and… a suspect. Not only does she look like the mimic, but she appears to have the same build as the masked Pranskter, too. Overall she makes a nice addition to the book, but a terrible roommate. As someone who has lived with multiple roommates in the past and argued over bills, I tensed up a bit when she told Dick that he could stay since he already paid but this meant that she wouldn’t need to fork over any cash during that time. Hold up! Make this woman contribute, Dick! She should still pay for utilities or something. Oh well, Dick’s lived with circus folk and billionaires, I doubt he gets uptight about finances the way many of us do.

Speaking of Dick’s money situation, as you would know from the last issue the character has taken on a kind of Peter Parker angle where he’s barely scraping by (is Peter still poor? Isn’t he a successful scientist now?). But if he’s poor and cut off his ties with Bruce, then how is he affording and manufacturing all the wingdings and other equipment? This hasn’t shown up as a problem yet, but maybe it can in the future. I’m pleased to see that writer Kyle Higgins and artist Brett Booth have already addressed suit damage. Look close at Booth’s pencils and you’ll see where Nightwing stitched various holes in his uniform. And man, does that uniform look fantastic! (Was the red trim on the eyes there before?) Sure, I still wish that the costume was blue instead of red, but getting beyond that the design is really great (and I’m starting to get used to the crimson. Took about 2 years, but I’m getting there). I especially like the mesh accents under the arms and behind the knees. It’s those little touches that make Nightwing’s suit one of the most believable (and breathable) outfits in the New 52. And if you ever find yourself in a discussion about how overly sexualized women are in comics and the other person says that that’s never the case with male characters, just show them Grayson’s buns in this issue right here. There are butt-shots aplenty in this issue.

But, again, back to the roommate drama, it’s all lighthearted fun and a good contrast to the more intense stuff rising up in the background. However, I do wish that Dick had used an alias when he moved to Chicago. In this day and age, when you get a new roommate the chances are very good that you’re probably going to give that person’s name a Google. I would imagine the first page of results would have loads of links to stories about Dick’s time with billionaire Bruce Wayne and that sort of info raises a lot of questions. But that’s just a very minor nitpick. The nittiest of nitpicks.

Of course, doesn’t turn into the superhero version of “Friends.” There’s a whole lot more going on. While the greater Zucco plot is approached for a moment, it’s far from being the center of attention. Prankster is an ever-growing threat and will need to be taken care of first, however Higgins found a clever way to keep Prankster relevant to the Zucco plot so we don’t go too far off track. AND the way in which Dick gets the necessary info on Prankster is a great nod back to the natural detective skills we saw in issue #0, and I thought that was a nice touch and laid out very well by Booth. There’s no wasted time in this issue. Every scene is there for a reason and it all works really well. It’s a good balance. The only reason I didn’t feel like taking the final score any higher is probably because, while the book is very enjoyable there’s no “oh snap!” moment to really push it over the edge and make it sear into the reader’s mind. But hell, anything I give over a 6.5/10 to is worth flipping through at the shop if you’re really into what the scores represent. But back to the baddie!

When it comes to the Prankster, he/she is making for a pretty formidable villain so far and the final pages of the comic are very exciting. While this is my 2nd SAW references of the day (see the Batgirl #20 review), there are some definite similarities between the new Prankster and Jigsaw in terms of their twisted form of justice in which someone guilty of wrongdoing is placed into a rather ironic death trap that highlights their evil deeds.  

Prankster says he’s surprised to see Nightwing there, but he apparently had a giant deathtrap set up anyway? That was a bit too convenient, but you should be caught up enough in the moment not to second guess it too much. Plus it leads to more complicated questions like how did they have the time to set up 2 death traps in a museum all by their lonesome and why should Dick be worried about removing a mask that only covers his cheekbones? Suspension of disbelief, folks. By establishing such an energetic and fun tone, these problems are way, way more forgivable. It’s why people shrug off inconsistencies in Iron Man 3 but debate The Dark Knight’s plot holes for hours. Tone changes our level of expectations for narrative neatness.
We get to hear a lot more from this villain in this issue and there will likely be much, much more when issue #21 comes around.

I really can’t stress enough what a world of difference Booth, Rapmund, and Dalhouse have made on this book. Their style is EXACTLY what I’m looking for in a Nightwing book. Great movement, vibrant colors, creative page layouts, and a damn good looking outfit. The art and the writing have harmonized in a spectacular way to make Nightwing  a very fun ride. I sincerely hope it can keep this up and doesn’t dive back into the gloom and doom of earlier arcs or fall itself slipping back under the shadow of the bat. These past two issues have given this the feel of a Dick Grayson tale through-and-through.

I laughed for the first half, was on the edge of my seat for the 2nd half, and was wowed by the artwork the whole way. The future looks bright for Nightwing and this particular story has all the potential to be the best arc yet. By the way, I’m happy that the book you all most voted for me to review turned out to be one of the best of the month.

SCORE: 8.5/10