Friday, September 5, 2014

'Grayson' series review

Dick Grayson has always been one of my favorite comic book characters.

Unlike so many countless Batman fans, I've never been one who only appreciates solo Batman stories or detests/looks down my nose on those adventures which include Robin.

I've always thought Grayson's Robin adds a nice bit of complexity to the Caped Crusader. Batman and Robin wouldn't be better known as the Dynamic Duo without Grayson. Let's face it: Bruce Wayne's ward put the dynamic in the Dynamic Duo.

Grayson's 74 years of appearances in comics are no less dynamic.

Artist George Perez shows Dick Grayson's character development --
through the first Nightwing costume with the infamous "disco collar."
As Robin, he developed from a pun-happy sidekick nicknamed the Boy Wonder to the Teen Wonder, a young man who struggled to maintain a solo career while leading the Teen Titans yet still finding a way to work with Batman.

Grayson next became Nightwing, a unique alter-ego that paid homage to his Dark Knight mentor -- one to which he returned after being Wayne's successor as Batman -- not once, but twice. Grayson, who once had a tumultuous relationship with Wayne/Batman, eventually found peace with Wayne, one full of mutual respect and love. Just as important, Grayson found out how to be his own man as Nightwing and forge his own identity outside of the Batcave. Grayson's Nightwing was a role model for four decidedly different Robins (you likely forget about Stephanie Brown, didn't you?), each of whom felt overshadowed by the legacy he created as the first Boy/Teen Wonder. Yet Grayson, being the gracious person he is, remains loyal and supportive.

Not surprisingly, Grayson continues to develop. In GRAYSON, he is now in his fifth incarnation -- undercover agent.

In his latest New 52 personification, Grayson resembles more James Bond than a founding member of the Batman family. In fact, aside from appearances by Helena Bertinelli (aka Huntress, who even in the New 52 continuity remains super-flirty with Grayson) in the first two issues and a Batman cameo in No. 2, it's hard to tell there's any connection to the Batman universe.

But there is indeed a big connection to Grayson's former partner and mentor. Known as "Birdwatcher" (not the coolest of code names for a badass-undercover agent, but appropriate given his first secret identity) to the Dark Knight, Grayson seems to have been assigned to infiltrate the underground organization Spyral, which seemingly is dedicated to tackling methahuman (DC Comics' way of referring to mutants) issues.

Like all the great Bond adventures, there's more to it. Grayson's Spyral boss is relatively sleazy dude who appears to have an agenda -- and that no doubt put him on Batman's radar. So obviously, writers Tim Seeley and Tom King are leading up to Grayson taking down his boss and possibly Spyral itself from within.

What the boss' agenda is remains a mystery; Seeley and King hint at it more than anything else. The writers also are keeping the end game of Spyral's boss unclear (unlike in the Bond novels and films), but there's no doubt he seems devious. Batman certainly doesn't trust him; that's why Grayson is spying for him.

Batman and Grayson apparently have staged Nightwing's "death" -- or at least made the rest of the DC Universe believe he's dead since the conclusion of the recent "Forever Evil" crossover storyline. (This undoubtedly is part of the Dynamic Duo's plan.)

And that includes "The Butler," what Grayson calls Alfred Pennyworth when he checks in with Batman. This bothers Grayson -- more so than pretending he's dead -- and I'd love for the writers to explore this more as the series continues.

Given all this, GRAYSON comfortably feels like it could be part of the pre-New 52 Batman Incorporated concept in which Batman has all types of international operatives. Here it's obviously is Grayson-as-Bond. So who better to make Batman's ultimate spy than his ultimate partner?

There's no doubt there's a bigger (spy)game and subsequent reveal afoot, but the writers are keeping their cards close to their chest. While this creates a sense of intrigue, eventually Seeley and King will need to reveal a bit more as the monthly series progresses; otherwise, they'll simply leave their readers in the dark and fans won't stay with GRAYSON.

How complex the overall storyline is, what depth the GRAYSON editorial and writing teams can give its main character and more importantly how Grayson himself develops will be the deciding factors in how long this series will last. Seeley and King have created an intriguing concept. The trick is how intriguing they can make it and what they can do with it and Grayson. Grade: B-

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