Pros: Nightwing is really at his best as a hero here as his lighthearted approach to crime fighting takes precedent. The moral message here is great. The change in artwork does a great job in matching and reflecting the change in tone.
Cons: The ending might not be for everyone.
Overall: Nightwing is in a brand new city taking on brand new enemies in this story of epic proportions. This is a fantastic Nightwing story that examines him as a character while still showing off his superhero prowess. He tells jokes, catches bad guys, and overcomes his inner demons all in one fun adventure. This is the Nightwing story that fans have been waiting for and it is well worth the wait.
The New 52 Nightwing series has seen its fair share of ups and downs throughout its existence, with most story arcs managing to avoid being bad while still falling shy of being great. Nightwing Vol. 4- Second City is the volume to change this. It is a departure from the rest of the series in terms of setting, tone, art, and overall quality. This is a book that shows Nightwing at his finest and is definitely the best Nightwing story of the New 52 so far.
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Part of what makes this book so good is the true lighthearted tone that permeates it. The past few volumes have been extremely tied to Batman and thus may have been effected by the darkness that follows the suitably named Dark Knight. This left parts of the last few volumes feeling less like Nightwing and more like Batman-lite.
This series takes that and spins it right around. While there are plenty of serious moments in this collection, it stands out in that it clearly makes an effort to be lighthearted. Nightwing hangs from the mayor’s ceiling and makes jokes at his expense, gets kissed by redheads who he saves, and overall just has a fun time. This is the Nightwing fans know and love, rather than the Batman clone from previous volumes. Personally, one of my favorite moments in this volume is when Nightwing jokingly claims that “personal tragedy and boxer briefs” are the two required elements for all super heroes.
On top of this, the story is just all around good. The Prankster portion is mysterious and intriguing, the hunt for Tony Zucco is an ever-present thrill in the background, and Nightwing’s personal quest for self-development is just a joy to see. Almost every portion of the story is filled with substance and all of it is entertaining.
The only part that didn’t sit well with me, at first, was the story’s conclusion. I was disappointed to see that The Prankster was not a deep or unique villain at all, he was simply another supervillain avenging his father. In many ways, I had hoped for something more, making this generic origin all the more disappointing.
However, after reading on and thinking about it more, Kyle Higgins’ message becomes more clear. The Prankster is everything Nightwing could be if he lets his hate for Tony Zucco consume him. Seeing how Zucco has changed his life for the better throughout this collection really makes the reader question the validity of Nightwing’s entire mission and put him in more of a moral grey area than ever before. Though, at the story’s conclusion, Nightwing is able to put that behind him and obtain a different kind of closure than he believed he wanted. Higgins has been telling stories of Nightwing overcoming his past since this series began, however the message of these stories has never been told as elegantly as it is right here.
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This volume features a large change in terms of the art. This mostly involves the departure of Eddy Barrows and the addition of Brett Booth and Will Conrad. In terms of quality, the new artwork is relatively the same as the old. Both feature above average artwork that looks somewhat standard for a comic coming out of DC Comics.
The biggest difference is in the tone. Like the story, the art also experiences a significant tone shift in this volume. The new artists bring a brighter and more lighthearted art style which further helps in separating this book from the books that came before it. Perhaps moving the location out of the typically grim city of Gotham helped in this or maybe it was simply an editorial decision. Either way the darkness of the past now makes plenty of room for the bright future. The art in past collections was not bad but, personally, I think this change up suits this book for the better and I am all the more excited to see what is coming up next for Nightwing.
This volume flows directly out of the events of Nightwing Vol. 3: Death of the Family (Review). The story then continues in Nightwing Vol. 5: Setting Son. Besides the previous volumes in this series, this collection does not reference any other series. In fact, even previous volumes in this series receive minimal mentions, making this a great jumping on point for new readers.