After the Crime Syndicate exposed his identity in Forever Evil, Dick Grayson is now a top secret super spy for the Spyral organization. This organization first appeared in Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc and exists to hunt down errant metahumans. Writer Tim Seeley and co-plotter Tom King revive this concept to give Dick Grayson something to do in a universe that unfortunately knows his secret identity. Seeley and King give Dick an intriguing first mission that seems simple on the outside, but ends up having multiple layers of intrigue along with some plot twists and cameos from high profile DC Universe characters. Seeley also writes sharp, witty dialogue for Dick, his spymaster (mistress) The Matron, and fellow agents as well as making sure that Dick’s heart and sense of humor remain somewhat intact despite the darker, morally ambiguous tone of Grayson #1. Mikel Janin’s art is a treat in Grayson #1, and he does an excellent job capturing the acrobatic nature of Dick’s fighting style as well as putting little details in the background, like a robin nesting in one of the first pages. Janin and colorist Jeromy Cox show particular skill during the various hypnosis scenes the characters go through as Cox uses bright, Day-Glo colors to contrast with Janin’s brutal action scenes and strong linework. Grayson #1 does an effective job showing how Dick Grayson would work in an espionage and giving readers a taste of him in action while also setting up an ongoing conspiracy storyline for him and Spyral.
Taking characters and putting them in completely unfamiliar settings (see Space Punisher) can sometimes be awkward, or just good for a few fish out of water laughs, but Tim Seeley doesn’t do this with Dick Grayson. He uses misdirection and eases readers into Dick’s new status quo with a fairly standard opening of a James Bond film scene before showing what Dick and Spyral are really up to, and then switches the story around again. Even if you’re completely against Dick Grayson as a character, Grayson #1 is a suspense-filled spy thriller with bits of clever humor and brutal hand to hand combat courtesy of Janin and Cox. Seeley and co-plotter King use a lot of spy genre tropes in this issue (femme fatale, jumping onto a train, the usual gadgets), but they put a new spin on them by applying them to a character who is new to this kind of story. Grayson #1 is as much about Dick Grayson adjusting to life as Agent 37 as it is about readers adjusting to the his new way of life. He isn’t completely corrupted in the first issue, but Dick makes some decisions and uses his abilities in a way that begins to damage his status as the heart and soul of the DC Universe. These moral dilemmas, and Dick’s reaction to them, along with the acrobatic action sequences and witty banter, will continue to make Grayson a series worth reading.
Artist Mikel Janin and colorist Jeromy Cox give Grayson #1 the wide screen, modern spy film treatment it needs while also staying true to Dick Grayson’s roots in the superhero genre. Its faithfulness to this roots can be found in Janin’s depiction of Dick’s fighting style described by one of his opponents as “disciplined, but not averse to improvisation.” This kind of improvisation isn’t just found in the fight scenes, but in Dick’s interactions with other characters. Janin portrays his body language fluctuating from scene to scene and even gives readers a hint of the high flying, smiling Nightwing as he manipulates his mark into trusting him. On a storytelling level, Janin’s art is quick and kinetic spending one panel showing Dick jumping onto a train instead of spending multiple ones to show him in slow motion. This allows for more plot to happen while leaving room for Dick to reflect on his mission and interact with his partner, Helena Bertinelli. Jeromy Cox’s colors are cleaner and drabber than a usual comic starring Dick Grayson, with the exception of the aforementioned hypnosis scenes, and another scene involving an angry metahuman.
Grayson #1 isn’t your usual cape and tights Batman family book put out by DC Comics. It embraces the tropes of the spy genre and applies to them to the next chapter of Dick Grayson’s life as a hero. The comic is entertaining from start to finish and has its fair share of fight scenes and humorous dialogue. Artist Mikel Janin has a good handle on Dick Grayson’s look and fighting techniques and uses a lot of panels to show Dick’s moves in important action scenes. There are also lots of plot twists, some of your usual “double agent” spy variety and a few that are more subtle and steeped in DC Comics’ lore. Grayson #1 is a great read for both long time and neophyte fans of Dick Grayson.