Grayson #12 review

It's fair to say this is the issue I've been waiting for, as Dick Grayson returns to Gotham City and lets his friends know he's alive. Well, all except Bruce Wayne, who's currently a new man, free of any memory of his life as Batman. That situation makes for a compelling opening scene as Dick, wearing a blond wig and beard as 'Mr Sparrow', asks the new Bruce if he's happy. Reborn Bruce has no idea he's sitting opposite the person who was for years his pseudo-son and crimefighting partner. 
They're interrupted by a Spyral agent who insists, rather forcefully, that Dick return to the bosom of the espionage organisation. If he doesn't, she'll tell the world that Bruce is - well, was - Batman. The agent, unidentifiable due to Spyral's Hypnos tech, gives him one day to say his goodbyes.

Cue encounters with Red Robin and Red Hood, Batgirl and Robin, AKA Tim, Jason, Babs and Damian. There's a lot of anger that Dick allowed Bruce, still Batman at that point, to tell them he'd died at the hands of Lex Luthor - but one of them gives him a great big, forgiving hug. 

This is a typically brilliant comic from writers Tim Seeley and Tom King, artist Mikel Janín and the rest of the creative team. The encounters between the Batman Family members gain depth and resonance by the writers' inclusion of dozens of dialogue bites plucked from Dick's lengthy comics history. Seeing how many you can identify makes for a fun game, without distracting from the thrust of the issue. Will Dick return to Spyral or will he make good on his plan to turn his back on the shady group? Have his bonds with the men he thinks of as his brothers, the woman he once loved, been broken beyond repair?
Seeley and King deserve extra kudos for pointing out something that had never hit me in >cough cough< years of reading about Dick Grayson and Alfred Pennyworth - their shared performing background. I knew Dick had been an aerialist, that Alfred trained for the stage, but I'd never considered that the coincidence would bond them. As the script points out, both continued to perform despite joining Batman's crusade - one as wise-cracking Boy Wonder, the other as faithful  manservant. It's rather wonderful to gain new insight into characters after decades of reading about them, via story points that are natural rather than contrived. 

I shivered at this panel. 
I hate the miserable git Tim Drake became in the post-Flashpoint DC Universe, but King - he's writing the script, having plotted with Seeley - gives us a powerfully sad moment using the hand he's been dealt. 

And despite his professed contentment, there's a massive melancholy to Bruce that perfectly connects to Scott Snyder's characterisation over in the Batman series. 

There's even a bit of fun for lovers of British steamed puddings... but that would be a spoiler too many. 

Janín's storytelling is exemplary. Mainly static scenes, such as Mr Sparrow's meeting with Bruce, crackle with quiet drama, while the fight scenes are mini-masterpieces of choreography. It's a treat to see him draw Batgirl and the Robins; it's especially impressive that he finds a convincing middle ground between the thoroughly adult Babs who flirted with Dick for years, and the current teenybopper in DMs. And I love that he's dug up one of Dick's old New Teen Titans disguises. 
Janín provides pencils and greytones, and some inks, with Hugh Petrus and Juan Castro also pitching in on finishes. Jeromy Cox supplies the rich, moody colours, with the big fight spread showing his intelligent eye for making a scene pop. Letterer Carlos M Mangual merits a bonus for all those flashback word balloons. Rebecca Taylor edits, Mark Doyle oversees and I'd like to thank every one of them for 'A Fine Performance'. 

Take a bow. 

Comments

  1. I have avoided this book since it began, and will probably continue. The premise was just too silly for me to get behind. Richard Grayson/Robin/Nightwing, has been such an integral part of the DC Universe, and that was chucked for him being a secret spy (whom the world knows is dead, but also know what he looks like!) and banter with a Batman analogue in the form of Midnighter.

    This review does have me interested and I'll probably thumb through it if I have the chance. I'll probably read the whole thing when Dick is back in an outfit again and the mess with him is resolved.

    Didio had him on the chopping block since Infinite Crisis and has been after him ever since. In comparison ti Superman, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel, Dick has really been dramatically altered, but like the aforesaid, he's too stable a character to exist in the DC Universe these days.

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    1. Please do give the book a flick. I was very much against the idea of Dick as a spy, but tried the series and really enjoy it. Let us know what your impressions are, if you get a chance.

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  2. I don't understand the objections to this book that many seem to have, it is a brilliantly written book, with exceptionally beautiful art, and thrilling action pieces that are made all the more thrilling by the fact that Grayson is such a fun normal guy. He isn't wearing crazy outfits, flying, phasing through walls, or anything like that, and as a result, he is all the more super.

    I note that you don't mention who greeted Dick with the hug, and I won't either, but it really touched me, and rang 100% true to the history of those characters. It was my favorite moment in the issue.

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    1. Yes, the hugger stays shady! I just loved that moment, it makes so much sense for the characters and their history.

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    2. Dick is one of the most balanced characters in the DC Universe, and because he doesn't loan himself to dysfunction, he's been in the crosshairs of Didio for over 10 years. When he became Batman (2nd time) and was a good influence on Damian, better than Bruce, it was the realization of DC's first, and best, legacy character. N52 wrecked that, one, then outed him, two, and then repackaged him in a form that he can easily survive in, but not one that I'm willing to invest in. He has a lot more to offer as Nightwing or Batman than as a spy, and that's the real drag. He's not a leader or a mentor anymore, he's generic cool guy, and Richard Grayson is much, much than that in terms of a character.

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    3. I have to disagree, and since you haven't been reading the series you may not realize it, but Dick Grayson is not just a spy, he is essentially a double agent, working to help protect his fellow super-heroes, most of whom are not even aware of how much Spyral has on them and how dangerous an organization it really is.

      I get it, he's not the Grayson you grew up with, he wasn't mine either, but I learned to appreciate that he really is still that very same Grayson, he's just not wearing a costume (though the hypnos are a kind of costume, aren't they?) and that this Grayson, like the Grayson he has always been, will do a great deal, including place himself in terrible danger, to protect the people he loves and has worked with over the years.

      But, this is just why I love it so much. If you don't, then I can respect that.

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    4. Disagreement noted, but double-agent or not, a spy is still a spy, yes? The irony in SPYRAL is that the Batman has probably the same data, and no one is worried about him, eh? It's not like someone hasn't busted into the Batcave before.

      It's not that he isn't the Dick Grayson I grew up with, it's that after so much development of his character, he's been sidelined to something another character could do, but how many can do what Dick is capable of? He was leading a team nearly as powerful as the JLA while still a teenager. Dick was also a member of the World's Finest team, which many forget, which is probably why he's the best merging of the two characters: Batman's training, with Superman's outlook. He inherits the mantle of the Bat, twice, and now, a spy? If he was heading his own organization, fine. If he was filling the void left by Oracle, sound. Dick has too much to offer to be left behind the scenes, simply because Dan Didio doesn't care for him.

      I'll still have a look at issue #12, but characters like Dick, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel have been truly left hamstrung by the N52/DC YOU edicts. The fact that Grayson is enjoyable, really doesn't change that.

      NOTE: I'm not trying to foment a back and forth, so you know, it's more the vociferous part of my mind that needs to give so voice to these thoughts.

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    5. Oh, I'm all for a bit of good-natured back and forth. I truly believe the current Spyral infiltration doesn't harm Dick, as he's just so, well, Dick-Ish. He's super-competent, a bit of a women-magnet, the superhero's superhero... he's only in this position because he was at the centre of the DCU, in that daft Forever Evil crossover. Whether or not the old World's Finest stories remain in canon - that 'your TWO favourite heroes TOGETHER' line always bugged me, wasn't Robin there too? - the current Dick Grayson is immediately recognisable as the kid who took on a name once used by Superman.

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    6. I guess I just don't see all the history or what Dick may deserve or not as relevant to the telling of a great set of stories. Too much continuity kills comics, IMO.

      Also, all the things you speak of are all still under the shadow of the Bat. Robin and Nightwing are always associated with the Batman Family, and if he were a real person, I suspect he might eventually want to go out on his own, which is what he is sort of doing now as he acts in Spyral not necessarily for Batman's agenda, but his own.

      I'll add too that this version of Helena Bertineli is probably my favorite ever. Even when the name was being used by Huntress she wasn't this awesome. (I do love Huntress, but DC has royally F'ed up Power Girl and Huntress in the New 52 since utterly destroying the awesome world Robinson was creating in earth-2)

      Martin, would Dick Grayson have been aware of the Kandor Nightwing?

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    7. Too much continuity, yes, but your statement shows the importance of knowing the history:

      "Also, all the things you speak of are all still under the shadow of the Bat. Robin and Nightwing are always associated with the Batman Family, and if he were a real person, I suspect he might eventually want to go out on his own, which is what he is sort of doing now as he acts in Spyral not necessarily for Batman's agenda, but his own."

      Nightwing is when Dick stepped out on his own. The name has nothing to do with Batman, but is taken from Superman's mythos, as you deftly note with the mention of Kandor. Without that knowledge, it may seem that he was under the Bat-Family, but that would be more the case of the Robin of Earth 2, who remained Robin his entire career.

      If Dick had set his sights on SPYRAL independently, sure, but he was put it by the Batman. The same way he went to Bludhaven on direction of the Batman. How is this different? He's still the Agent of the Bat, one way or another. Dick was well-received as Batman, but N52, frankly, demoted him back to Nightwing, and now he's "espion" simply because he's too much of a functional character.

      It's no wonder that Jason, Tim, and Damian are still in the fold. Barbara as well. Dick? He's been Batman, and short of killing him, they've no idea what to do next with him.

      I'm sure that the story have entertainment value, but long term, is this where you want to see him? Too many times, I believe, comic readers take these sort of things as a non-damaging interlude, comforting themselves that things will return back to what they once were. If that happens, this was wasted time. Time that could have been spent putting Dick to the next level, instead of making him straight man to Midnighter. No pun intended.

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    8. I just don't think that sticking to some perceived idea of what fans expect from a character leads to good stories. Fans tend to be far too conservative, seeking to retain things as they are. As for Nightwing being where he stood apart, I would agree with that except that even after becoming Nightwing he was still very much part of the Batman Family.

      I do see signs that they are reintegrating Dick into that fold, with the upcoming Titans book, etc., and while I do not object to that, I would rather like to see him run head long into this new role he has taken on. As for this straight man to Midnighter, he has had only a couple of run ins with him, so I think you may be imagining a far greater connection than they have had so far, plus, they really do make a great team.

      I guess I really like this "new" Grayson in a way I never much cared for Nightwing, but I suspect that even if Grayson were to take up that mantle again that King and Seeley would do a bang up job of it, because they really are just amazing. And frankly, Mikel Janin can do no wrong in my opinion.

      This discussion is fun, but I don't want to turn Mr Grey's into our personal thread. Thanks for the back and forth. :)

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    9. I don't believe in staying affixed to preconceived notions either, hence my points above. However, I believe it boils down to what you stated: you like Grayson in a manner that you did not with Nightwing. I might be tempted to delve into it, if it wasn't a regression, IMHO. of the character, with a premise that is flimsy at best.

      I'm still going to read #12 though. ;)

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    10. Thank you gentlemen, great discussions! Dick certainly arouses passions.

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  3. I agree. I think this book only adds to Grayson's character. He's got a huge history in the DCU and this book allows him to continue to find a fun place within it. He doesn't have to be the costumed adventurer all the time. It's the same character, but exploring different avenues so that when he eventually returns to the costume they can continue to tell interesting stories.

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    1. Tom King really has done an exemplary job of acknowledging and honouring Dick's long history, I wish he could be cloned and made an editor.

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