Dick Grayson is on his first mission as Spyral's Agent 37. Teamed with veteran Helena Bertinelli, he's tasked with kidnapping a mule hosting a super-bomb from the Trans-Siberian Express. Dick's acrobatic, stealth and fighting skills come in handy, but he finally resorts to Spyral's 'hypno' techniques in a bid to succeed.
After the horror that was the final issue of Nightwing, I'm delighted to report that this is a fun debut for Dick's new direction. He's away from the murderous madness of Gotham and in the middle of a spy romp bonkers enough for 007.
Tim Seeley and Tom King's story skirts the edges of campness - Helena's codename is Matron, which brings to mind Mother from Sixties show The Avengers, and the mule's moniker is Lenin backwards - without going full-on Batman 66. The tone suits Dick, who seems in control of his life for the first time in awhile. It's true that he's on a mission for Batman, undercover in a shady organisation that has to know he's trying to play them, but Dick knows they likely know what he's up to, so fun reversals are nigh on guaranteed. Born into a family of aerialists, our hero likes walking a tightrope. Spyral will be trying to turn Dick, while he'll almost certainly bid to recruit Helena for the good guys.
Spyral are an interesting lot, claiming to be saving the world but obsessed with learning the secret identities of heroes; there's confirmation here that they know Batman is Bruce Wayne, along with the reveal that they recognise Cyborg as Victor Stone - which is a tad underwhelming, given the JLA-er doesn't actually seem to maintain a secret identity.
Given how most super-people dress, I laughed when Seeley's script had Dick and Helena's boss, Mr Minos, refer to Midnighter as 'black-ops fetish-man'. Interesting character, Mr Minos, with his vortex face visual and burning need to know who the heroes are; I look forward to finding out his story.
While Andrew Robinson's eye-popping cover - revised to deduct Dick's cool new haircut - makes much of our hero wielding a gun, inside he uses it like a batarang. I was afraid DC would rewrite Dick as a killer, but so far, so Batman family.
And to entice Dick's female (well, mostly) fanbase there's the old Grayson charm, and shameless fan service as he relaxes at St Hadrian's School (for Secret Agents).
For action fans, there's the surprise of a Midnighter appearance. Surprisingly for a member of Stormwatch, he seems to have no idea who he's facing. I suspect he's too distracted by Dick's peachy bottom.
The fight scene is just one excellent page among many by artist Mikel Janin, who clearly relishes the high adventure set-up - whether he's drawing spies, scenery or hardware, it's obvious there's a smile in his pencil. Kudos, too, to Jeromy Cox for effective colour work and Carlos M Mangual for commendable lettering. And if it weren't for a 'Dick in agony' scene from the recent Forever Evil crossover, the opening page would be perfect - can't we just ignore how we got here and enjoy the next stage of Dick's journey?
Because on the basic of this blisteringly entertaining opener, I'm confident I'll like this series a lot as it bridges the gap between espionage and superheroics. There's no doubt that Grayson will become Gotham's Nightwing once more in time, but for now it's great to see the original Robin fly free.