Do you love the “Go Sports Team!!” banner at the bottom left-hand corner of the cover as much as I do?

Anyway, the good news is that Nightwing #23 is very good. The bad news is that with Villains Month happening in September you’ll have to wait until October to see the finale of this arc. That’s especially aggravating because this issue ends on a pretty terrific cliffhanger.

The issue starts out a couple of days after Prankster’s initial attack, an approach I found odd and a little confusing initially because I fully expected this to pick up immediately after the events of issue #22. I mean, that was a pretty big calamity and it looked like Nightwing was on the warpath and the hostage situation from the final page required an immediate response. So while we do jump into some really fun action right from the get-go there was an odd sense of catching-up to do as it was explained to the reader in various ways how the hostage situation turned out and how much time has passed.

Thankfully it didn’t take too long for me to acclimate myself to the new circumstances and give into the journey Kyle Higgins and artist Will Conrad wanted to take me on. A good thing too because once this issue started it did not let up. The city is in shambles and from the very first page we already see Nightwing in a fist fight atop a skyscrapper and he appears to be having a pretty great time. And it is this moment that really expressed the new tone of the series and delivered what fans have been begging for for far too long: Nightwing is making crime-fighting look like fun.

Outside of Nightwing combating Prankster’s forces, the story takes time to show us what each of the supporting characters are up to and, most importantly, how the city itself is responding to Prankster’s announcement that the mayor has stolen millions of dollars. However, with the news coming out about Tony Zucco that also means that the media is reporting on all of Zucco’s past crimes which of course include the murder of the Graysons. This is handled really well and there’s a great scene in which Zucco’s family learns the truth about him, but with Dick’s roommates hearing this story as well? Surely a light bulb has to be going off in their heads. Dick didn’t use a fake name when he came to Chicago, they know he came from Gotham, Nightwing started appearing in Chicago as soon as he arrived, and now the man who killed Dick’s parents is apparently in Chicago? As much as I don’t like it when a secret identity is leaked there’s really no way around it here. One of these characters is even a reporter so I would hope somebody puts two and two together.

The whole issue is just a perfect storm, really. All of the plot threats are getting weaved together at once. Zucco, The Mayor, Prankster, and Michael’s reporting gig are all connected here and it’s really satisfying.

Spoiler
However, there is mention that there’s more to Prankster than we’ve ever known and I would have liked to have seen more of a hint to that in previous issues because that added twist came a little out of left field. I also thought it was odd at first that Zucco said that Nightwing has been hunting him for years when Nightwing has actually believed Zucco to be dead, but in the end the line makes sense. Zucco is an incredibly paranoid guy so of course he would think that Nightwing had been hunting him all along.

And I think all doubts about Will Conrad can definitely be set aside now. Issue #22 was no fluke. Conrad is proving to be a great fit for this series. Some of the skylines are looking a little too perfect, a little too traced, but everything else is hitting the mark terrifically. Characters are expressive, he’s putting a lot of detail into the Nightwing suit, the action is fun and energetic (something we couldn’t be too sure of in the last issue) with a great sense of movement, and even my complaint about some characters looking a little stiff in the shoulders seems far less common. One detail I was a bit nervous about, however, was when Nightwing shared a scene with his roommate Michael but thankfully the character’s face was kept relatively hidden. Seriously, there’s no way that Michael should be able to look Nightwing and not know it’s his new roommate. Lastly, I thought that the colors looked a little too clean. Chicago is in a terrible position right now but everything appeared as bright and chipper as the beach resort Zucco and his family are staying at. I definitely would’ve liked a different color scheme used when the story momentarily cut to Gotham. Gotham City should have a different look and feel to Chicago (there’s a joke at Nolan’s expense in there somewhere).

Spoiler
I hope I’m wrong here, but I get the sense that Zucco is going to find redemption by death at the end of this story.

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Overall

A very fast-paced, and action-packed issue of Nightwing with funny lines and surprising twists and turns. I’m excited to see how this arc ends, but unfortunately the best New 52 Nightwing story so far is going to be interrupted by Villains Month. After this issue’s stunning cliffhanger, October feels very far away indeed.

SCORE: 9/10