I’ll address the #1 concern first: the art. Almost everyone seemed to be in love with Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund’s new look for the Nightwing series and there was a great deal of outrage when it was revealed in an interview that Booth and Rapmund would be abandoning Dick Grayson’s adventure for the higher profile Justice League of America book. Would Nightwing lose its newfound energy? Would Kyle Higgins’ most ambitious arc yet collapse due to a fill-in artist’s vastly different approach?
Well, it’s not like DC was just going to pick anyone off the street to draw the next issue so put your fears aside. They went with Will Conrad, an inker and penciler who has done some Red Lanterns work most recently, and he did a pretty damn good job in my opinion. There are some panels in which characters have almost unrealistically good posture and come off as a bit too stiff and broad-shouldered and there are a few Nightwing poses that look a little too Spider-Man-like, but those are the only real complaints I can muster. It also helps that Andrew Dalhouse is still around to maintain consistency in color even as we transition between artists.
Since comparisons will inevitably be raised, I will say that Conrad does a far better job with faces. No two characters look alike (this was definitely a problem with the female characters in previous issues). Everyone has their own distinct look and that attention to detail is also seen in the clothes they wear and the world they inhabit. For instance, the mesh under Nightwing’s arms and the stitching from when he had to mend the costume himself are all still there (the baddies have quite a bit of detail on their armor as well)! In fact, his Nightwing costume might even be more detailed because I don’t recall Nightwing wearing his eskrima sticks on his thighs before, a nice touch (now if only we knew where Nightwing was hiding all those wingdings). Conrad’s ability to render life-like, highly detailed backgrounds in every scene is also just as good if not better than what Booth was delivering, in my opinion. But the one thing everyone is probably most curious about is the sense of movement. Is Nightwing shown to be as quick and acrobatic? Well, there wasn’t as much of an opportunity in this issue for Conrad to really show us a Nightwing who is bouncing around and performing somersaults and such (but don’t worry, he doesn’t take a grim approach like Barrows often did. Conrad’s Nightwing smiles quite often). However, that isn’t to say that there’s no action to be seen. There’s loads of it! It’s just so intense and large scale that the character shouldn’t exactly have time to make it pretty. What’s evident is that–when lives are on the line–Nightwing is lightning fast, efficient, and brutal.
Is the change in artist the end of Nightwing? No, I find it hard to imagine anyone flipping through this book and dropping it from their pull list because of the art.
As for the story, this issue’s first half is a bit slow because it’s full of setup. It’s a middle-issue that supplies the necessary development before things get really crazy and, rest assured, things will get crazy. While the first half of this comic is rather talkative and features quite a bit of Nightwing out of costume and Tony Zucco with his family, those moments are all important to the plot and will clearly lead somewhere interesting in the future. But if all that sounds slightly boring, I assure you that if you push your way through you will be rewarded. There’s more than enough action in the comic’s final pages to satisfy those hankering for more bombastic conflict.
Worry not! Will Conrad delivered some great artwork and Kyle Higgins still has the story on track. It’s a slower issue than the previous chapters, but those who stick with it will be rewarded in the end with some of the biggest action that Dick Grayson has seen so far.