Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing Nightwing 22, originally released July 10th, 2013.
Scott: Some things just feel right. Like Dick Grayson, I once moved to Chicago seeking answers. For me, it was during college, and after growing restless at school in my home state of Michigan, I transferred to Northwestern University in northern Chicago. Knowing no one, I was able to shed a lot of the inhibitions that followed through my life and grow in ways I probably couldn’t have if I’d stayed closer to home. It’s a common story- a change of scenery leads to a rejuvenation- and it’s impressive that something so simple could inject such new life into Nightwing. In Nightwing 22, the title feels less restrained than ever. As Dick’s involvement in Chicago expands and the characters around him grow more complex, Kyle Higgins may have to find excuses to keep Dick in Chicago longer. Nightwing feels right at home.
Nightwing confronts Mayor Cole about his relationship with Tony Zucco, promising to stay in Chicago until the Mayor gives Zucco up. Dick then consults his roommate Joey, a cyber security specialist, for tips on protecting himself from Prankster, a computer-hacking villain. Dick’s other roommate, Michael, is busy breaking a story about Nightwing’s apparent alliance with Prankster, which worries Tony Zucco, who is laying low in Wisconsin with his family. Prankster, meanwhile, has assembled a new team of outlaws and announces his plan to wreak havoc on the city until Mayor Cole returns all of the money he has extorted, over $52 million. He starts by crashing an L-train car and, as a second act, threatening to kill a room full of cops.
Creating an entire new cast of supporting characters in just a few issues is no small task, but Higgins has done a pretty remarkable job of introducing new players and quickly ramping up their involvement in the grand scheme of this arc. I was glad to check in with Joey and Michael, who remind us that Dick has at least a semblance of a personal life in Chicago, even if he’s mainly there on business. Without it seeming too forced, Higgins gives each of Dick’s roommates professions that could play either to Dick’s benefit or his detriment. I’m particularly interested in Michael’s situation: he’s faced with the dilemma of trying to get page views vs. trying to tell the truth. If he wants to move up the ranks of the journalistic world, it seems he’ll have to compromise his ethics and bend the facts a little. If he ever figures out that Nightwing- the man he owes his big break to- is subletting his apartment, things could get real sticky for him.
Perhaps the best thing the change of scenery affords this title is a new set of villains for Nightwing to call his own. I love it when a story incorporates multiple villains, each occupying a different realm of villain-dom- something you can see happening in Nightwing 22. First you have the obvious bad guy in Tony Zucco, the one we’re all supposed to hate. Even though Higgins increasingly tries to make Zucco’s character sympathetic by portraying him as a caring family man, he’ll always be the guy who killed Dick’s parents. As long as Dick remains our protagonist, we’re going to hate Tony Zucco. Also, as cute as Tony’s relationship with his son is, tell me you don’t see the seeds of a future murderer in that kid at least a little bit.
Yeah, he stole that kid’s robot, just like Tony stole John and Mary Grayson’s lives. A little heavy handed, don’t ya think, Kyle Higgins? I jest, of course, but that little red-headed sociopath does kind of give me the creeps.
Beyond Tony Zucco, there’s the villainous dichotomy that is Mayor Cole and the Prankster. One vows to imprison all Masks, the other wears one. One extorts millions from the people, the other promises to give it back to them. One builds L stations, the other destroys them. I guess you can debate whether it’s worse to steal $52 million dollars from the city you’ve been elected to serve or to blow up a train with innocent people on board, but there’s no denying that they’re each doing more harm than good to the people of Chicago. One thing they have in common is that they both claim to be honorable men, although Prankster actually seems to believe it. Of the three “bad guys” I’ve mentioned, he’s the only one who isn’t living a lie- he takes full credit for all the damage he inflicts. Is it weird that I think he’s kind of awesome?
Will Conrad takes over artistic duties this issue. I love the way Conrad draws Nightwing, and his action sequences are captivating and full of amazing detail, but there were some panels I found unsettling. Aside from drawing a little kid in a speedo, a lot of the acting felt very stiff, almost mannequin-esque. Take Mayor Cole, who’s super-detailed, porcelain like features were approaching uncanny-valley territory. And why are his arms always so far out from his body?
Shelby, despite this minor quibble with the art, I really loved this issue. And there’s so much I didn’t really get to mention, namely: Dick Grayson. I’m sure you have lots to add, and I’m curious if you’re as enamored with this title right now as I am. I’m also wondering what you think about Prankster. Is he just some Joker rip-off, or is his tech savvy-ness enough of a spin to make him feel like a fresh character to you?
Shelby: This issue looks like just the beginning of a great big fight scene in the town I live in, which is thrilling, but there is actually a lot more going on here concerning the difference between justice and revenge. Higgins is doing a lot more than trying to garner sympathy for Zucco with his family. It’s true, Tony Zucco is the man responsible for the Graysons’ deaths, but he also went to jail and served his time. He’s a convicted felon, but according to the legal system, justice has been served. I’m not trying to make the statement that our legal system totally works (especially here in the Windy City), but it begs the question can Dick make any sort of claim that he is in Chicago seeking justice? Even if Zucco wasn’t convicted for Dick’s parents murder, if he was convicted on a lesser charge, is Dick especially different from Prankster holding the city hostage?
Scott, you make the point that the Prankster’s Robin Hood-esque motives make him kind of awesome, but I don’t think that I agree. He claims to be fighting for the people, but how many people did he kill when he blew up State and Lake? For those of you non-Chicagoans, that is a major train hub downtown; seven train lines run in the vicinity of that stop. Is demanding a corrupt politician pay back from his own pocket the money he stole from his constituents admirable? You bet it is. Is killing innocent commuters and police officers an admirable way to do it? Most definitely not, even if your method of killing is kind of clever.
I have a hard time respecting a guy for being honest when the thing he’s being honest about is his plan to kill as many people as possible. I love the parallels Higgins is drawing between these two masked men; Nightwing’s quest is on a much, much smaller scale, but to Zucco’s family it’s just as important if not more so than Prankster’s. Both men are seeking revenge disguised as justice. It may be revenge that is deserved, but it is revenge nonetheless. Not only is Dick going to have to contend with that idea at some point, he’s also got to contend with the fact that the Prankster’s current rampage is his fault. According to the P-ster, the mayor stole that money to hide Zucco, a plot he wouldn’t have known about if Dick hadn’t gone to him for help. Dick’s meddling in an unfamiliar town and his personal quest for revenge has endangered the lives of millions; it’s no wonder the Second City has a blanket “no masks” policy.
I, too, hope Higgins keeps Nightwing in Chicago for a while. Not only is he giving us some pretty complex moral issues to mull over, every issue is like a little treasure hunt of Chicagoland sights for me, and I love every second of it. Seeing Prankster hack
Comiskey U.S. Cellular Field and the Crown Fountain, a site I can walk to on my lunch break, makes me smile real big. Who knows, maybe the Prankster will finally figure out how to clean up Chicago’s corrupted political scene; just kidding, this is a work of fiction, after all.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?