Today, Spencer and Michael are discussing Grayson 10, originally released July 22nd, 2015.
Spencer: Once, way back when Wally West was the Flash, he ran so fast that he merged with the Speed Force, a fate from which no speedster had ever returned. Wally did return, though, all because of the love of his life, Linda Park. Wally called Linda his “lightning rod” — no matter what weird shenanigans he had to deal with, Linda’s love always kept him grounded in reality. I think most of us have a “lightning rod” of one sort or the other, some person or thing that acts as a constant in our life, that keeps us tethered to our old lives even as everything else around us changes. Dick Grayson has gone through more changes than most ever since his “death” in Forever Evil, but even as an agent of Spyral, he had both his mentor Batman and his faith in his own abilities acting to keep him grounded. With Grayson 10, though, Tim Seeley, Tom King, and Mikel Janin strip those last familiar comforts from Dick, leaving him with nobody he can trust — not even himself.
Dick’s found himself in the middle of a mystery: somebody’s been killing agents, and appears to be framing Dick for their murders. Helena Bertenelli — Dick’s former partner and current leader of Spyral — is using Agent 1 as bait to find the killer, but even Dick’s trust in Helena is eroded when he discovers that his “drop” for the necklace he lifted last month is none other than Lex Luthor. With Batman still MIA after the events of Endgame, Dick has absolutely nobody he can trust — even his trust in himself is compromised by worries about what Hypnos or Minos’ nanotech may be doing to him.
One of Dick’s greatest assets is his self-confidence, so it’s absolutely rattling to see him lose all faith in himself. But this development also rattles the reader’s faith in Grayson. We know Dick isn’t purposely hurting anyone, but what if he’s somehow being used by Spyral or Luthor or some other outside force to commit these murders? We can’t trust Dick any more than he can trust himself right now, and that makes the issue’s closing cliffhanger — Dick seemingly attacking Agent 1 — all the more effective. In the world of superhero comics there’s always some way to explain away twists like this — it’s a shapeshifter, it’s a clone, it’s a hologram, etc. — and while those options are all still on the table, Seeley and King have given us permission to suspect Dick as well, and it dramatically opens the possibilities of this storyline.
Actually, Dick’s loss of his lightning rod isn’t just effecting himself and the reader — other characters are feeling the effects as well. Helena’s become leader of Spyral after Minos’ death, and this case is already putting a strain on her.
I just love this panel so much. Janin just sells Helena’s fatigue, how much she probably hates herself for setting up Agent 1 as bait but how little choice she has. Helena’s never had a lightning rod in the sense that Dick has, but she had a stable role within Spyral’s organization and confidence in what she needed to do to fulfill her duties. Now Helena’s got no idea who to trust and no alternative but to betray people she probably considers her friends on at least some level. It’s no wonder she’s feeling the strain.
Earlier I mentioned that Dick’s self-confidence is one of his greatest assets, and that’s something Janin excels at conveying through the art. The big fight scene at the issue’s opening is one of Dick’s last moments of blissful ignorance before the doubts start rolling in, and Janin makes it quintessentially Dick Grayson in the best way possible.
I can’t heap enough praise on Janin’s choreography here — I can follow every step of Dick’s fight with crystal clarity — or on Jeromy Cox’s colors — which are stunning whether he’s aiming for realism or something more abstract — but what I love the most about this image is the smile on Dick’s face every step of the way. Moments like this are why Janin’s so quickly becoming a quintessential, iconic Dick Grayson artist, but it also helps remind us of how jovial Dick normally is, making the contrast between this and his grim paranoia (and that final shot of Dick in the first image I posted) all the more striking.
Fortunately, Janin’s work is just as good even when he’s not working to emphasize the issue’s overriding themes. It’s hard not to just gawk in awe at his figures, facial expressions, and landscapes. That scene in Corscia between Dick and Lex highlights all three, especially facial expressions; I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more smug, smarmy depiction of Lex Luthor, and it’s absolutely thrilling. Even better is when Dick flees and Lex’s charming façade immediately drops into sheer rage.
That’s some effective acting for sure, but Janin doesn’t just settle for selling Lex. I love that Janin puts so much work into depicting the other customers, from the waitress who is still worried about Dick to the other two men who are rightfully freaked out by Lex Luthor.
Really, Grayson is just one of those books where plot, characterization, and art work together in perfect harmony to create something absolutely stunning and immensely readable. Michael, what are your thoughts about this one? Any idea who is trying to frame Dick? Considering her reappearance this month, do you think the woman Dick stole the necklace from is going to become an important player?
Michael: Here’s a thought I’ve always had since the beginning of Grayson: how long can do-gooder Dick Grayson work for an amoral/pretty-much-evil organization and still hold onto his do-gooder nature? It doesn’t seem like he could have his cake and it too in that regard; without being caught at least. It makes me think of the (much debated) final season of Angel where Angel & co. actually started working for/with Wolfram & Hart – the evil law firm that they had been fighting for the entire series. At one point in that show Angel had fooled his overlords that he was on their side; something I don’t really think that Dick has done with Spyral at this point. So far Dick has disobeyed Spyral and maintained his good guy status while working for the bad guy; no killing involved (that we know of). At some point he’s either going to have to shit or get off the pot.
With that in mind it’s completely possible that Dick has been killing people without his knowledge via Spyral-bots. More on that in a minute! Like Dick, Helena is cast in the “mercenary with the heart of gold” role. It’s clear that she is a human being operating with some form of a conscience that is becoming further and further compromised by the monster that is Spyral. This is why I still debate Helena’s promotion to Spyral head – she’s too much of a bleeding heart to make the cold and calculated decisions involved in secret organization upper management. If I’m a weirdo spyder-person guy hanging in my web, I don’t think I would put all of my trust in Dick Grayson’s most vocal supporter.
Like Spencer said, Grayson 10 presents us with the tantalizing possibility that Dick might actually be committing these Spyral murders himself. That is a very cool idea that will play out to be simply a red herring because of Dick Grayson’s popular status in comic book-dom. I think that any reader would be interested in a story about a spy who might be a subconscious puppet of the shadowy organization he works for. At face value, that’s probably a pretty interesting movie with a modest box office showing (given the right actor/director.) The problem is we are not dealing with just any super sexy spy; we are dealing with Dick Grayson. As heart-wrenching and torturously interesting as a “Dick Grayson killing other people against his will” could be, I don’t believe we’ll see it. Dick Grayson is a student of the Bat – arguably the best Robin. And while other writers and heavy-handed scripts have turned the second Robin into a Punisher-lite, that ain’t Dick Grayson.
This issue also reaffirms my belief that Lex Luthor can work with any character in the DC Universe. There was something so delightful about seeing Luthor interact with Dick in what was easily the book’s best scene. Luthor played the evil pragmatist while Dick played the coy and educated optimist. I love how King, Seeley and Janin take any and every opportunity to give Dick a 007 moment. Dick’s dive off of the gazebo was so perfectly choreographed in over-the-top action and smarmy dialogue that was pure cinematic cool.
So to answer your questions Spencer, I think that our boy Dick is going to be proven innocent through a case of mistaken identity via clone, robot or what have you. I do not think that DC is willing to make Dick Grayson an inadvertent killer; and honestly I don’t think that my inner fanboy wants them to. I definitely do think that the necklace-less woman will be an important player – otherwise they wouldn’t have given her such a dramatic moment in this issue. She is the “this is a woman’s job” character we’ve seen in so many action movies; and more power to her. So while I have my silly issues with the “logic” of the Spyral’s corporate ladder, I will still admit that Grayson continues to be one of the best and most unique Dick Grayson books I have ever read.
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