Nightwing gets used to a "no masks" world in Chicago while on the hunt for Tony Zucco, the man who killed his parents. Nightwing encounters the Prankster for the first time.
Brett Booth's work on this issue is the best art of the week, bar none. His panel to panel story telling and page layouts are fantastic, but his stand outs are these beautifully drawn splash pages, mainly consisting of Nighting "flying" through the city. The layouts are great, but the lighting and colors, especially on that first page, are what really blew me away. Colorist Andrew Dalhouse's work on page one is amazing. There's also a two-page spread, halfway through the issue, is an incredible amount of detail that can only be described as "jaw-dropping."
Writer Kyle Higgins has been crafting a brilliant comic since issue one, and it just keeps getting better and better. While the main focus on the search for Zucco is an incredibly intriguing piece, I find the battle between Prankster and Nightwing just as engaging. I loved their back and forth battle, and although Prankster isn't trained to be a fighter, he is still a villain that can easily give Nightwing a run for his money. It may only be two issues in, but separating Nightwing from Gotham and the rest of the Bat-family was such a great move for this book.
While I've really been loving the overall larger changes throughout this book and mainly in this story line thus far, it's the little things here that are really fantastic. Nightwing's mask gets some red added to it, which looks pretty awesome. On top of that, his suit gets some texturing and small changes, like the padding on his knuckles. His costume has evolved a lot not just from the Pre-Flashpoint world, but it's evolved a ton in the past 20 issues.
It's not just small costume changes that make this issue great. Once again, Higgins throws in some very Chicago elements that most people may not pick up on, like how long it takes the city to fix a single El stop or the fact the weather here is comparative to an emotionally disturbed 12 year old. Chicagoans and ex-Chicagoans (like myself) will pick up on these little nuances and it will put a big smile on our sausage-eating faces.
Lastly, there's another small moment I found to be brilliant as Nightwing plays cards against Johnny Spade and we get to see Dick's detective skills at work, as a panel is broken down and Dick sees Johnny playing cards. Dick sees the signs of "tells" during this scene, and it's a cool little moment that brings the detective element back into this issue.
Didn't have any problems with the issue. It was a ton of fun.
The Verdict - Pick of the Week
I haven't given the "pick of the week" title to a book in quite a while, that I can remember, but I can't remember a time where something was so good that I read it two times, in one sitting, then wanted to read it again. The creative team on this book of Higgins, Booth, Rapmund, and Dalhouse is at the top of their game.
Finally, this character and book feels separate from the shadow of the Bat, which is what it needs. Sure, this character was at one time the sidekick of Batman, but he's come so far, on his own, that he needs to be thought of as his own character, in his own world, not just Robin I. Overall, I highly recommend this issue and this series. If you plan on reading it, please go pick up issue 19 so you have a better understand of what is going on.