GRAYSON #2 (Tim Seeley, Tom King & Mikel Janin) manages to channel Jim Steranko’s NICK FURY comics from the 70’s along with a dozen other stories. Does it do them well? I don’t know. GRAYSON is starting off and already working on weaving as many different plot threads as it possibly can, right at the beginning. With the aptly named Mr. Minos taking up the realms of SPYRAL, a story like this is set to be one of the ones capable of pulling readers in with a labyrinth of events. We don’t know enough about what Tim Seeley and Tom King want to do quite yet to make a concrete claim that GRAYSON is telling one particular type of story well.
Whether or not GRAYSON stands up as one of DC’s best new stories and how important it stays to the character of Dick Grayson will rely entirely on how those plots all come together and work to tell a story. This seems like an obvious thing to say, but think of all of the stories that start out promising and then fail for one reason or another. We see this happen all the time in comics as readers, and it’s not something that’s limited exclusively to the world of superhero comics. Really – every type of storytelling in general can be a victim of a good concept not being able to be delivered on.
Nobody wants another BATMAN: NIGHT CRIES on their hands. In laymans terms (or if you’re not familiar with it) it was a Batman story with a star-studded creative team where the message and bad writing overtook everything else and made it difficult to enjoy. I don’t want that to happen to GRAYSON, but I think we’re in good hands so far and there’s very little chance of that happening.
Grayson looks exactly like it should: Colorful, a little psychedelic, filled with lots of expression and emotion. GRAYSON is almost right up there with Manapul’s run on THE FLASH . GRAYSON looks just different enough to have its own visual identity, and that’s an important thing to have when you’re trying to sell a new group of characters. Helena Bertenelli only lets her steely expressions fade when she exerts control over someone, becoming as expressive as she feels they need to see. Ortego and Janin remain consistent through the issue to such a degree that it’s kind of impossible to tell who’s drawing what.
The organization of SPYRAL is depicted as weird and a little surreal. The head of the organization, the aptly named “Mr. Minos” has a face transfixed in a permenant spiral. He deliberates on what to do next in a large room covered in patterned tiles of arrows, remarking that his own name is “very 60’s fleming.” That’s sort of a meta-message on why I think GRAYSON works so far. It knows what it is, and knows that it’s set firmly in a world where superheroes are the norm. So when characters show up in costume at first, it doesn’t stand out – rather, it makes perfect sense for SPYRAL to basically employ “superheroes” as they are.
I had nervous feelings that GRAYSON was going to be a dark ‘adult’ tinged story with a lot of despair and general nihilism. That’s not at all the case. A clear parallel I could draw is Matt Fraction’s work on CASANOVA. While GRAYSON is admittedly nowhere near as psychedelic as CASANOVA ever was, I can tell that the story is going to touch on a lot of similar themes of identity and history. By taking Dick Grayson out of his key element, he already starts to waver by attempting to navigate his working relationship with Helena Bertenelli like he deals with every woman from Gotham – and it’s not working.
GRAYSON tells us new things about Dick Grayson, which means that on an issue-to issue case so far, it’s pretty much accomplished what it set out to do. Dick Grayson thinks being raised by Batman has given him all of the tools he’s ever going to need to navigate the world. GRAYSON #2 shows that he clearly doesn’t – he was raised to believe there might be some innate goodness and sense of justice in the world. Dick’s journey throughout GRAYSON is going to involve a lot of learning his own set of beliefs.
GRAYSON has a super-fast metahuman who has to eat people to stay young. It’s fully committed to what it’s doing with the tone and style, so I can’t in conscience dwell overtly on the kinds of flaws the book has, all of which are incredibly minor. Really, the biggest thing keeping me from really evaluating GRAYSON at its core is we just don’t know enough about what’s going on or how it plans on setting the style and tone over a long format story.
Just like the way SPRYAL obscures the faces of its agents, we don’t have a clear picture of GRAYSON just yet so it can merely be enjoyed as is.
GRAYSON #2 is like Ian Flemings BATMAN with a touch of Jim Steranko craftiness and looks like a pastiche of old spy comics. With a resolve to potentially go to some dark places in the future, GRAYSON is content to show us a set of characters who think they’re running the whole show before I’m sure it will inevitably set out to prove them wrong. If there’s one story to change the status quo of the DC universe it’s probably going to be GRAYSON, and it should be watched for that reason alone.