Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund bring their artwork to follow Kyle Higgins’ story in “Nightwing” #19, which sends the former boy wonder to the Windy City on a quest to (once again) find his parents’ killer. The foldout cover filled with “HA!”s might have readers expecting a return engagement with the Joker or, as I hoped, the (not-so) New 52 debut of the Creeper. The original solicits didn’t include the word balloon present on this book’s cover, which contains the inquiry: “Why so serious, Nightwing?” Alas, it is neither Joker nor Creeper, but the debut of the all-new Prankster.
Higgins’ story opens up with Nightwing on the run from the Chicago police department, who are pursuing him via helicopter. Some flashbacks and background details reveal that Chicago isn’t very tolerant of vigilantes, with “No Masks!” flyers flitting all around in this issue. Higgins sets Nigthwing up with the rudimentary basics of a supporting cast: a roommate, an informant and adversarial bosses to provide a challenge. The establishment of those pieces opens up some subplots and begins to provide some structure around the plot that brings Nightwing to the Windy City: the search for Tony Zucco, the man who murdered Dick Grayson’s parents.
As Humberto Ramos is well suited to draw the adventures of Spider-Man, Brett Booth is equally matched for the escapades of Nightwing. One of the most agile and acrobatic characters in the DC Universe, Nightwing is a grand subject for Booth’s lanky, spindly character designs. Fit and trim, Nightwing is depicted as all sinew and muscle, almost continuously in motion throughout “Nightwing” #19. The unfortunate drawback to Booth’s style is that every character is lanky and exaggerated, including Michael, Dick Grayson’s roommate. The character holds up a finger to get Grayson’s attention, but it looks like he’s holding up a sausage link. Booth’s backgrounds are sketchy and wild, which leads to some cluttered storytelling in spots, but definitely makes Chicago a city full of life. In addition to Booth and inker Norm Rapmund, colorist Andrew Dalhouse joins the creative team in “Nightwing” #19 and brings a lot of oranges, yellows and a propensity for seafoam green.
Higgins choice to move Nightwing to Chicago for a little bit is sound and immediately reaps results, giving “Nightwing” #19 a booster shot from the opening panel. Booth’s energetic drawings help, of course. I’m fairly certain this team has not completely settled into their working mode yet, but there is a lot of promise in what Higgins and Booth are beginning to work with here. Distanced from the rest of the Bat-family, it’s time to find out what Nightwing can do and be and how Higgins and Booth can electrify his adventures going forward.