It’s two issues into Kyle Higgins and Brett Booth’s collaboration together on “Nightwing,” which shifted the series to Chicago as Nightwing hunts down the murderer of his parents (who isn’t as dead as everyone thought). While some spots in the comic are still a little rusty, I want to give Higgins and Booth credit: this doesn’t feel like a comic set in Gotham City.
It’s funny, because if you look at it, there aren’t lots of huge Chicago trademarks or moments that would make you think, “This isn’t Gotham City.” But there are lots of little things that do add up, from renting a room in someone else’s apartment to dealing with elevated trains that just feels slightly different than the same-old, same-old of locations like Gotham City or Metropolis. It’s a subtle difference but I like it.
The one part of the story that I’m not quite so wowed about, though, is the all-new Prankster. So far he doesn’t feel that full of pranks, and more of a generic bad guy. He’s at least a somewhat savvy one with a plan, and that’s appreciated. But for a villain to be called something like the Prankster, we need something to back that up, and I feel like we’re not getting it just yet. Now that Nightwing’s starting to interact with him directly that could change in the upcoming months, but for now he’s not making much of an impression.
Booth’s pencils are mostly good, here; he clearly loves drawing Nightwing in acrobatic poses as he leaps through the city. Sometimes they’re a hit, like the first page where it’s a simple splash of Nightwing inverted through the air, his line whipping around him similar to Daredevil’s billy clubs. The musculature of his body and his pose both look like Booth was using a real acrobat as a general guide, and I feel like this is one that works. Every now and then, though, it just comes across as awkward. Nightwing vaulting across the rooftop on page 10 is an example of that; the smaller panels on the page are all good and reasonable, and feel like gymnastics moves were used as a basis. But then we get the main image, and what works well on a pommel horse in the Olympics looks vaguely ridiculous here. At first it just looks like he’s flipping through the air, which is all right — until you see his left leg jutting out to the right and you realize that this isn’t the start of a tuck-and-roll, that instead both of his legs are at 90 degree angles to his torso. Why is he doing this? How is his body being supported in this pose by just a few fingers? Where is his other hand going? This is a piece of art where the more you stare at it, the odder it looks. If we can get past those and into the ones that look a little more natural, I think we’ll have a real winner from start to finish; for now, though, it’s uneven.
“Nightwing” #20 is overall enjoyable, and I want to see what Higgins and Booth continue to do with the new Chicago setting. Early issues of “Nightwing” weren’t afraid to hop around the country, and I like that Higgins is now able to go back to spotlighting places other than Gotham City. All in all, enough fun that I’ll be back for more.