How many Batman books is too many Batman books? Depending on who you ask there ain’t no such thing! We try to stay up on what’s going on at DC, but we can’t always dig deep into every issue. The solution? Our weekly round-up of titles coming out of DC Comics. Today, we’re discussing Grayson Annual 2 and Green Lantern Annual 4.
Grayson Annual 2
Spencer: While Dick Grayson and the rest of the Batman family are rather fortunate that they got to retain the broad strokes of their characterization and histories in the transition to the New 52, the reboot still cost Dick an important facet of his identity — his connections to the DC Universe outside of the Bat-Family. Tim Seeley, Tom King, and Alvaro Martinez devote Grayson Annual 2 to reestablishing perhaps the most important of those connections: the relationship between Dick and Superman. In typical Grayson fashion, it makes for a smart, charming story.
Existing almost as a deleted scene from Grayson 12, this Annual hones in on not only what makes Dick and Clark so different from Bruce, but what makes their relationship so different from their relationships with Bruce as well. Both characters are much less tactical and prepared than Batman — as a trapeze artist, Dick’s plans are more improvisational, and Clark’s invulnerability always allowed him to more mellow, perhaps even careless — and they both appreciate those more laid-back, “regular joe” qualities in each other. The fact that both these heroes are “just a guy” deep down helps them to find strength in each other, which they need to deal with their drastically altered new status quos.
This is a clever bit of writing from Seeley and King — they give their readers the gist of why these characters are suddenly so different, but also poke fun at the complexity of the situation. Super-spy Grayson and Powerless Superman also give the creative team a chance to make a bit of commentary about the DC Universe as a whole.
Compared to the “real” heroes and problems of Marvel, DC has always been known as the universe full of iconic, larger-than-life heroes. One of the stated goals of the New 52 was to transform DC’s greatest heroes into younger, less experienced, more “human” versions of themselves, but that idea achieved mixed results; Bat-Bot, Powerless Superman, and Super-spy Grayson may just be DC’s latest attempts to achieve their goal of more regular joe, relatable heroes. With Grayson Annual 2, Seeley, King, and Martinez achieve that goal, but also show that it was never necessary to so drastically change the status quo to do so in the first place. Characters like Clark Kent and Dick Grayson always had compelling, relatable, human cores deep within them; respect that, and you’ll tell a great story no matter what the code names or power sets are.
Drew, what are your thoughts on this one?
Drew: It’s interesting — for all of the changes this issue addresses, I was more impressed at how they haven’t changed. Dick may now be a mole in a super-spy organization, but that’s not going to stop him from flipping around construction sites and quipping about being carried off like a damsel in distress. Similarly, Clark may not be able to fly or even wear a cape, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to run from a fight.
In that way, it’s a stroke of genius to give this reunion to Seeley and King, who have spent the last year staying true to the human core that is Dick Grayson. Much of that series has been about how ill-suited Dick is to spying (dashing good looks and unmatched physical prowess aside), but it’s never felt like we were reading about some other character. Not all writers can navigate that kind of transition with so much fidelity, and comics history is full of character makeovers that feel more like new characters than reintroductions of familiar ones. We knew King and Seeley had a great pulse on Dick, and it’s heartening to see that extend to his relationship with Clark — this felt like two old friends catching up even though their lives have changed a lot over the years.
For me, that attention to who these characters have always been actually helps cement the changes in my mind — this isn’t just a comicbook-y costume change that will be forgotten in a few months, but a real chapter in the lives of these characters. They’ll keep being themselves (even if Dick has to still kind of pretend to be cool with the whole Spyral thing) no matter what life throws at them. That’s a different kind of inspiring than we generally get from DC, but I absolutely love it.
Green Lantern Annual 4
Michael: Ah, the comics “Annual.” Is it a celebration of another year for a beloved superhero? Or an oversized issue that tends to feature a different creative team from the monthly title that is merely a ploy to milk a couple extra dollars out of comics readers? After reading Green Lantern Annual 4 I’m more inclined to say that it’s the latter option unfortunately. As most annuals do, the issue serves as a bridge/interlude from the last Green Lantern arc to the next – meaning that it is in no way essential reading material. Besides a few throwaway scenes with the “Gray Brigade” and their mustachioed leader, the bulk of this issue focuses its attention on Hal Jordan telling his new companions a story from a few months prior. I don’t know if it’s because it seems like a more antiquated storytelling choice, but I’ve never been a fan of the “hero recounts a story” narrative device.
The story in questions pertains to Hal’s first encounter with the Green Lantern Corps after he abandoned his post. He regales Trapper and Virgo with a tale that has him fighting his former allies and threatening to kill them the next time he sees them. Even when this recap is revealed to be a tall tale it is incredibly laughable – I don’t understand how any character in this book can buy such a supposed huge shift in character. And like most monthlies, this one has someone different handling the art duties. Pascal Alixe’s characters are inconsistent and ill-defined and he makes Hal Jordan look like an androgynous 12-year old.
Mark: Roger Ebert used to say that a good movie can never be too long, and a bad movie can never be too short. The same is true for comic book Annuals, and if I didn’t have to write about it, I would have given up on Green Lantern Annual 4 about five pages in. Robert Venditti’s run on Green Lantern has been a bit of a wash, so the narrative was about what I expected, but Alixe’s art this issue is such a turn off for me that there’s basically no incentive for readers to pay attention.
Michael, you mentioned Alixe’s androgynous Hal (taken out of the specific context of reading a book called Green Lantern, would anyone be able to pinpoint this as Hal Jordan?), but the inconsistency in Hal’s face is what really got me. He even looks older in the panels that are supposed to be taking place before he shares his story on the ship.
I know we don’t really get into consumer recommendations here, but honestly at $5 this is one to avoid.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?