Launching a new property is a difficult thing to do. Especially when that property is tied to a pre-existing character and mythos like Dick Grayson is. What I’m saying is it’s not a job I’d ever want to do without heavy consideration.
I can see it being easy when you go from one BATMAN series to another, because readers know what to expect, and so does the creative team. You might be coming up with a different direction for the character to take for a while, but in most cases the trappings of what came before are still set in stone.
GRAYSON #1 (Tim Seeley, Tom King & Mikel Janing) could be a how-to guide for launching a new series. Many NIGHTWING fans, myself included, were pretty hesitant to admit that there might be anything good about GRAYSON when it was first announced several months ago: chief among them the fact that GRAYSON seemed like the sort of thing Marvel might pull, or even Image. But NIGHTWING takes a superhero property and write it in a fundamentally non-superhero way, while still managing to keep it tethered to the genre. You use the blueprint to build the house, but the foundation its built upon- the architecture itself- is different.
The architecture behind GRAYSON is to make you think it’s actually an espionage story. That Dick Grayson is going to be the DC Universe’s answer to James Bond. Never mind that Rick Flagg is already that guy, but there’s a reason that Dick Grayson was being billed as a Super Spy when this story was announced. At its core, this series is still about superheroes: DC is finally delivering on what seemed to be the theme of the New 52 from its inception. GRAYSON is going to be a book that tries a lot of new things, but I can already tell it’s going to wrap them up in familiar presentation.
GRAYSON #1 starts off with what you need to know: Who Dick Grayson was and what he was about. It does this in a single page and then doesn’t spend the rest of the book telling you “He used to be a superhero!” every time it feels like you need to be reminded. The first issue of this series tells us who Dick Grayson is going to be, for now, and that we’ll need to accept that to keep moving through this story.
The character Midnighter appears in this issue, and I can’t honestly think of a better way to use him. If you’re not familiar with THE AUTHORITY, Midnighter is a black-clad superhero created by Warren Ellis meant to be “The Shadow by way of John Woo” that many fans have taken as a kind of counterpart to some elements of Batman’s character. There are notable differences between Midnighter and Batman, but GRAYSON utilizing him to face off against our protagonist this issue is a classic example of smart character utilization. In his first issue, Dick gets to face off against a character many people saw as an alternate-universe Batman and be thoroughly complimented by him on his skill and tactics. It reminds me of the final issue in NIGHTWING where the same thing happened between Bruce and Dick, only there Bruce was thoroughly talking down to him.
I want people to read GRAYSON without a thorough idea of what happens, but there’s some really good writing going on here. The subtle way our ‘actual’ version of Helena Bertenelli shows Dick Grayson that she might know a little bit more than he thinks she does about him – at the same time proving that she may be an incredibly deep character beyond what a bit appearance in a first issue usually can convey is one of my favorite moments. Other favorite moments include the way Tom King has Dick bounce around the page like an acrobat, from the way he moves around the train this issue is mainly set on to how he realizes the actual acrobatics as a series of distilled, smooth afterimages.
There’s a twist in this issue that’s actually precedent, meaning it’s not executed in the standard “look what villain is ACTUALLY behind things, stay tuned next month!” kind of way DC’s writers have been doing their end of issue hooks for the last few years; it doesn’t come out of nowhere and it’s clearly meant to involve and make you reconsider the events that happen before it in a new light. I like that. I wish more DC authors pulled it off because there’s legitimate talent working for DC and I know they’re capable of it.
Most of GRAYSON #1’s issues are minor problems that have things to do with plot and inconsistent details. It prompted me to ask questions, but in sake of keeping the twist at the end of the issue a semi secret, pay close attention to who’s missing on the wall of superheroes at the end of this issue, and ask yourself a question about why Spyral isn’t seemingly interested in the most powerful man on the planet who’s got a giant S on his chest. I guess tonally it could make sense, but for me it doesn’t. Some of those characters might have more sway in the affairs of their world in their civilian persona than others, but there are a ton of people that are a lot more important than some of the characters featured.
GRAYSON #1 is all of the best parts of spy fiction distilled into twenty-so pages of excellent color choices and intrigue. GRAYSON #1 tells this story in a better way than the issue that was meant as Dick Grayson’s send off from the pages of NIGHTWING did. I’ve been waiting for a solid #1 issue for a new series from DC for a while now, and GRAYSON manages to deliver it on every count. I’m more interested to see where Helena Bertinelli’s character goes – we’re already well acquainted with Dick Grayson, and I sincerely hopes she becomes a centerpiece of this series.