Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Grayson 8, originally released March 4th, 2015.
Drew: I like to read into titles. We tend to boil down the difference between Superman and Action Comics to the creative teams involved, but I think the focus of every story is informed by its title. Luke Skywalker may feature prominently in Star Wars, but not in quite the same way he would if the movies were titled Luke Skywalker. In that same vein, when a story’s title is the protagonist’s name, we understand that story to necessarily be about that character. Oliver Twist may deal with poverty and exploitation, but the story is ultimately about a single orphan. In the month-to-month grind of comics, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Spider-Man is actually about Spider-Man (and not the criminal-of-the-month), but the best writers manage to keep the focus on the heroes, even as they’re put up against an endless lineup of threats. Tom King and Tim Seeley have never lost sight of Dick as the center of Grayson, but issue 8 reasserts that focus so strongly, we never feel lost — even as they yank the rug out from under us.
Mr. Minos has gone rogue, and is plotting to expose the secret identities of the world’s superheroes. A series of clever feints keep Minos from killing Helena and Agent 1, but Minos is a step ahead, using all of the meta-human organs he harvested to build a kind of super Frankenstein. Fortunately, Dick knows his Justice Leaguers (and their power-sets) inside and out.
It’s a bravura sequence from artist Mikel Janín, who never fails to impart all of the momentum and grace needed for a Dick Grayson story. Not to be outdone, King and Seeley pack this issue with reminders of who Dick is besides his physical presence (or, at least, in addition to his physical presence). That means plenty of butt jokes, to be sure, but it also means he’s fearless, selfless, optimistic, quippy, and immaculately well-prepared. He’s being the Dick Grayson-est Dick Grayson he can possibly be.
For another creative team, that might be a bittersweet achievement — they’ve nailed the character, sure, but how could they ever hope to surprise us? Fortunately, Seeley and King have a twist we never saw coming — the big bad of Mr Minos was actually an unwitting puppet for the bigger bad at the center of Spyral. They don’t quite say her name, but I think it’s reasonably safe to assume it’s Kathy Kane, last seen killing Talia Al Ghul and outclassing the shit out of Batman Incorporated. For now, though, her identity doesn’t matter — the point is, she has a MUCH bigger game, for which Dick and even Minos were just pawns.
Exactly what that means for Dick moving forward isn’t totally clear, so while I want to avoid conjecture, I do think it’s worth noting that it’s both better and worse. That all of Minos’s evil machinations were “bait” rather than an indication of Spyral’s goals might be a good sign, though I suppose the fact that they’re own machinations allow for evil machinations isn’t ideal. Similarly, Kathy Kane clearly has a soft spot for Batman (and, I suspect, the original boy wonder), which could be good, but could also be very bad. It seemed like Minos hadn’t quite figured out that Dick was staying in contact with Bruce, but it’s now easy to imagine that those communiques are both known and sanctioned by Kathy Kane. Whether the web is ultimately good or bad remains to be seen, but the fact that it’s so much bigger than we had been lead to believe is a deliciously juicy reveal.
Janín cleverly keeps all of the shots super tight — mostly insert shots and extreme close-ups. This is obviously working to keep the woman’s face hidden, but its effect is much more elementally mysterious — we need to use context clues to figure out what we’re even looking at in a given shot. Janín emphasizes this further by making every one of those panels exceptionally wide-screen, giving us lots of space, but no more information, forcing us to spend time on each image. The effect works even better at the start of the issue, where this scene alternates panels with Minos’s attempted murder of Helena — not only do we need to figure out what’s going on in each panel, we need to figure out how these string together into a coherent scene.
Patrick! For all of my talk about this series being about Dick Grayson first and foremost, that twist — and especially the way this creative team handled it — seems to reassert Dick’s thesis about how lying is “what spies do.” Would you say this issue is more about spying than Dick, or are those two inseparable in this series?
Patrick: Speaking more generally about this series, I’d agree that Grayson is more about Dick Grayson than it is about spying (and the spying spies that spy on them), but this particular issue was so much more focused on intrigue, I might have to point us to a separate piece of marketing to find our focus: the cover.
Janín’s covers for this series are always incredible, but this is the only one that doesn’t prominently feature Dick. Mr. Minos take up most of the real estate in this image, foreshadowing a slight shift in the issue’s priorities. Of course, the cover also broadcasts how strong and important Dick’s actions are, with that disrupting fist messing up Minos’ swirly face. Previous issues have focused on Dick’s softer skill sets — like his unflapping goodness fighting the evil brain, or his boundless determination surviving the desert — but his success here hinges entirely on what he’s capable of physically doing. That’s part of the reason there’s so much butt-talk here: the Spyral girls know that we’re celebrating Dick’s physical form.
Then again, maybe I’m missing the point, and it’s not about how flippy Dick Grayson can be. After all, for all his gymnastic heroics, the real Minos met a fate totally separate from the meat of this story. Maybe all the spying and the subterfuge is representative of the lengths creators go through to tell Dick Grayson stories. Spyral’s plan was to use “kind of a clichéd bat villain” in order to get access to Dick. That’s not just true of the spy organization, but it’s true of the creative team as well — it’s easier to sell a Dick Grayson spy story if there’s an undercurrent of Batman-ness. But it’s worth it in order to work with the character. Or, let’s look at our quartet of Butt Lovers, who are spurred into action not because they want to protect Spyral assets and superhero identities, but because they love Dick’s butt cheeks.
In this way, the issue is almost less about Dick Grayson and more about how much we like Dick Grayson.
Man, those close-up sequences that open and close the issue sure are amazing, huh? Janín’s gifts are on full display throughout this issue, but I find myself noticing just how realistically he draws fabrics and materials. There are a lot of different costumes and uniforms in play in this issue, and every single article of clothing behaves differently on the the human body. Minos’ sweater bunches around his shoulder, Helena’s shirt crinkles around her waist, and of course Dick’s clothes cling enthusiastically to his form. I was struck by one very specific and totally meaningless visual detail toward the end of the issue — check out the mask on this Spyral Girl.
It’s actually kind of tough to see what I’m talking about — the panel is mostly ruled by Dick’s pecks and Mino’s monologue, but I just love the separation between her face and the mask. We can see her real chin sneaking out under the mask. I don’t have a greater point to this observation, but Janín’s commitment to the physicality of this world is really amazing, and maybe we just don’t praise him enough.
I’m also really excited by the amorphous status quo moving forward. Drew managed to pose all these questions about whether the web is made up of good guys or bad guys, and whether luring Dick into their orbit was righteous or deviant, and I can’t wait for Dick to be engaged in those same questions in the issues to come. This is a perfect place to hit pause on this series for two months (y’know, since we have to).
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?