It’s the conclusion to what’s definitely the best arc of the Kyle Higgins’ Nightwing so far, but it also wraps things up a little too quickly and a little too neatly.

When we left things off 2 months ago, Prankster had henchmen causing chaos all over town and he had even turned the entire city against the mayor by declaring that their elected official had stolen 52 million dollars from them. To make things even more interesting, Tony Zucco, the man who murdered Dick Grayson’s parents, showed up on the final page to offer his assistance to our hero.

In this installment we not only find out what Zucco has to offer, but we see a vital chapter in Prankster’s origin story (with a reference to John Carpenter’s Halloween — In my opinion, Michael Myers makes a better slasher movie than Freddy or Jason) and before you know it we’re having a final confrontation between hero and villain and the day is saved. Not a page is wasted and everything moves at a very brisk pace. So I suppose my complaint about issue #24 is that I wanted more. Maybe it’s because my expectations were high due to all the other chapters being so stellar or perhaps it’s because I was anticipating it too much after the month-long hiatus during the Villains Month event of September, but I finished this issue feeling like I didn’t get everything I had hoped for. I was pleased, but not satisfied if that makes sense.

I believe that the source of these feelings is Tony Zucco. The man who murdered the Flying Graysons was the catalyst for this entire arc. Dick would never have moved to Chicago had he not learned that Tony Zucco was there and when Prankster took center stage in the Windy City it felt like the Zucco storyline was getting placed on the back burner. Maybe we would get an interesting game of cat and mouse out of it later on or a really complicated morality tale in a Zucco-centric arc. In the few cut-aways to Zucco we’ve seen in the past few months it certainly felt like we were taking the more complex route by examining how evil Zucco really is and if such a man can find redemption. When issue #23 ended with Zucco and Nightwing coming face to face it felt like we were really going to sink our teeth into this topic once and for all, too. However, with this being a race-against-the-clock scenario to stop The Prankster there’s no time for any profound philosophical discussion, a heartfelt moment, or a brutal grudge match. Zucco and Dick’s conflict doesn’t matter now, what matters is the lives of the people of this city and the two hardly speak at all. What’s in the past stays in the past after and we don’t get any satisfying closure between these two because revenge is petty and there are more important matters at hand. By the end of the issue I felt just as unfulfilled as Dick Grayson and I think that was the point.

As for the real threat, The Prankster, he felt simplified. He seemed watered-down into something more easily defeatable in this issue. Before he had a whole horde of henchmen and access to all the technology in the city, but here he loses his mystic as his origin and true motivations are revealed. The henchmen are gone, he only has one gadget-related trick up his sleeve, and all he wants is to get even with a single person. Things often become less scary when we understand them and Prankster’s father/son revenge back story was a surprisingly unoriginal origin for such a mysterious figure. Of course, there’s some clever stuff in here as well, but in the end I both Zucco and Prankster were a lot less formidable. I’ll cover all of this in more detail within some spoiler tags.

Spoiler Points:

Spoiler

  • As a child, Prankster sent a mask to his father’s killer and the man hung it from his cell wall. I don’t think they let you have masks in prison.
  • Zucco argues that Nightwing shouldn’t haul him in yet because they need to work together to bring Prankster down, but Zucco already told Nightwing all the useful information that he had. There’s no reason to not drop Zucco off at Police HQ or at least tie him to a lamp post Gotham-style along the way to the train station.
  • Nightwing didn’t have time to arrest Zucco but he had time to untie him? This proves to help Nightwing in the end, but I’d think if he was mad enough to keep him bound and never risk losing the killer of his parents again.
  • I found it clever that the Prankster’s greatest prank was making the world think he was a prankster. While I found that simplifying his motivations to offing one specific guy was a little weak, I did like this aspect of it.
  • Don’t the good guys still need to find a way to prove that the mayor didn’t take all that money?
  • When did Dick have time to work a killswitch into his suit? He’s barely had time to patch his suit’s holes.
  • It would’ve been a better finale if Prankster had shown up to stop Nightwing BEFORE the bomb was disposed of. It would’ve been much more intense to have had Prankster holding Nightwing back from driving the train to the bridge. A fight over the control board or something. Anything. The cruise to the bridge came too easily.
  • Zucco had a gun on him? So Nightwing tied him up earlier in the story without frisking him?
  • It had been so long since the last issue of Nightwing that it took me a moment to adjust to the ending teaser and recognize who Maxwell is. At first I thought that the artist, Will Conrad, had drawn a beat-up Dick Grayson and there was a mistake with the speech bubbles.

Artist Will Conrad did a great job pacing this story out. The issue has incredible momentum from start to finish and a darker look due to a new colorist joining the team. The level of detail and colors chosen for the flashback sequences were the most impressive but the action scenes were quite engaging as well. There were some questionable angles, such as when Dick is embraced by his roommate, which seemed like the “camera” was placed there just to show off the roommates’ butt. Also, I found it odd that when Nightwing shut his eyes the lids were red. I like the red outline that was first introduced just a few issues ago, but actually seeing red lids seemed kind of… off, but I suppose that’s the color they’d be.

I really hope this series is done swapping out its art team. I like what Will Conrad is doing here and it would be nice to have an arc that features the same penciller from start to finish. If Nightwing can retain a quality artist like Conrad and maintain a lighter, more energetic tone then it’ll continue to be a must-read each and every month.

Recommended If…

  • You’ve followed this story up until now. This is the conclusion and therefor not really a new-reader friendly purchase
  • You like action movies when there’s a race against the clock… a ticking clock? One that might have disasterous consequences if– there’s a bomb. I’m saying there’s a bomb
  • You want to see what Dick Grayson will be going up against next

Overall

While I enjoyed this action-packed issue and thought it wrapped up the best Nightwing arc yet, I also felt a little short-changed when it came to Tony Zucco’s role in the tale and the Prankster’s origin story.

SCORE: 7/10