Thursday, May 16, 2013

Nightwing #20

(w) Kyle Higgins     (a) Brett Booth

Last month, I gushed about how much I enjoyed the new direction for Nightwing. Moving Dick Grayson away from the Bat family was a stroke of genius so simple, it's a wonder it hasn't been done before (I'm not counting Bludhaven, which was right next door to Gotham). Nightwing #20 extrapolates on all the plot lines set up in the last issue.

One of the best parts about Dick moving to Chicago is that he's no longer being bankrolled by Bruce Wayne. It always bugged me that Nightwing so badly wanted to be his own hero -- with a separate name, sister city, the works -- yet he continued to accept financial support from Batman. I understand the logistical reasoning behind the decision, but it belied the concept of independence Dick was going for. Here, Kyle Higgins truly throws Nightwing out on his own. He's subletting a room in an apartment whose normal resident decides to stick around, a situation many people are all too familiar with. It's story elements like this that make Nightwing #20 a treat; Dick's civilian life needs just as much focus right now as his superhero side.

On the Nightwing side of things, Dick finally comes mask to mask with the Prankster, who is a far more menacing villain that I originally anticipated. Cyber crime and pranks don't sound too intimidating, but when it's paired with social responsibility, there's a charm to the Prankster's criminal tendencies. I really do like how Higgins is framing the Prankster as a champion of the disenfranchised, not because those kind of 'villains' don't exist, but because he's presenting it in a much more original fashion. The Prankster isn't some mercenary street general looking for a revolution. He's a sophisticated analyst who sees weaknesses and exploits them one at a time, bringing down his enemies through computer hacking and blackmail designed to cause emotional and professional damage.

Nightwing is getting better and better the more it's not focused on Bat family issues. Kyle Higgins is proving that Dick Grayson can stand as his own hero without having to live in Batman's proverbial shadow. He's an anomalous character because, unlike Jason Todd, Tim Drake, or Damian Wayne, Dick was able to properly process Bruce's teachings and heroic lifestyle. While the other three Robins mostly retained the darkness and bitterness, Dick stayed positive and is still the most optimistic member of the Bat family.


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