Dylan here. So listen, while we’re still celebrating the Veek of Blood here on SFB, we promised to keep some normal sci-fi pieces running. So yeah, don’t be alarmed by this review. Count Spatula is still at large and you can still submit your artwork to us.
It’s terrible of me, but I admit I went into this issue wanting to dislike it. When I first heard of DC’s “Death of Nightwing” concept and the idea of restarting Dick Grayson’s solo series as a secret agent book, I was rather skeptical. One: I figured it was a publicity stunt and it probably wouldn’t last. Two: It was obviously DC’s reaction to Marvel’s Loki: Agent of Asgard. Three: It doesn’t make sense that, if Dick’s superhero identity as Nightwing was blown, he’d be safe as a secret agent. All of these things are probably still true, but the fact of the matter is, this first issue is a lot better than I expected it to be.
Grayson begins with a page giving you the rundown on who Dick was–acrobat, son, sidekick, hero–and how he is dead to those in Gotham. Then, in an opening sequence reminiscent of one of the countless Bond films, a few Hitchcock thrillers, and perhaps Mission Impossible, it takes us into one of Dick’s first missions for Spyral. He’s riding on top of a train and has to grab some Russian guy that Spyral wants kept out of the hands of other bad guys. He’s in disguise at first, a handsome blond tourist, and then he dumps the wig and switches to his new mission-oriented look. His outfit is close to civilian wear, mostly black with a belt for any necessary gear, and his hair is shorter than before. The other agent aiding him is none other than Helena Bertinelli, who’s been with Spyral for a bit longer in the New 52. Dick also encounters a mysteriously antagonistic Midnighter while trying to extract the Russian.
Along the way to mostly fulfilling his mission, Dick runs into various obstacles that he either charms his way around or flying-kicks aside. He’s still quite the acrobat and he’s certainly had the stealth and combat training to allow him to face any number of assailants. There are aspects that he’s unfamiliar with as well, like using the new Spyral implant called Hypnos that apparently aids one in convincing others to do what you want, and he’s still treading dangerous waters as a sort of double agent for Batman. Spyral may not be totally enemy territory, but there are definitely elements inside the organization that want access to superheroes’ identities and that never goes well. It also seems that Dick and Helena’s relationship (despite any ret-con of their previous dalliances) is probably going to heat up as well.
Grayson #1 really does deliver on superspy action and gives us a familiar character in a new, interesting situation. (And unlike in the latter issues of Nightwing, Dick actually seems like himself!) Mikel Janin’s art is dynamic and attractive, and the dialogue and pacing are both refreshingly quick. While we don’t learn much about what Dick is supposed to be doing on the whole for Spyral, or what precisely he’s doing for Batman, we get enough of an idea to be satisfied for the moment. The nature of a secret agent series also means that each issue can stand alone while bits and pieces in each one will eventually create an overarching storyline.
I’m still on the fence about where the series could go though. Compare Dick to the stars of Marvel’s saucy and complicated Loki: Agent of Asgard series and the more serious and action-based Winter Soldier and one finds he falls somewhere in between them. Dick is much more reliable and well-trained than Loki for the sort of work he needs to do. He’s also more sure of himself and—as far as I can tell—his mission than Bucky Barnes. Yet Dick’s personality is such that he might not be able to soldier his way through layers of gray morality like Bucky Barnes can, nor is he only looking out for number one like Loki is. Dick has the skills and the charm to play any role his new agency may ask of him, but the way he’s wired means that certain levels of duplicity might try his endurance. If the writer of the series, Tom Seeley, can play with this contrast to its fullest potential and not break Dick in the process, then this may in fact be a series worth following. Dick’s always been a performer, and this world of intrigue may be the international stage he’s been waiting for.
Grayson is written by Tom Seeley, with art by Mikel Janin.
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