By: Tom King & Tim Seely (story), Stephen Mooney (art), Jeromy Cox (colors)

The Story: Dick tries his hand at political assassination and finds it doesn’t suit him.

The Review: As my first serving of the Futures End crossover, Action Comics left a bad taste in my mouth and a deep dread of what the rest of the month would bring. With its poor use of the five-year jump, its distant connection to the Event itself, its tenuous handling of the Superman mythos, the issue checked off every trademark of a forced tie-in. You could just as easily throw it away and it would make no difference to any storyline anywhere.

Thank goodness I read Grayson second. It’s not a cleverly finessed tie-in the way Daredevil‘s tie-in with Original Scene is, but at least it does everything Action Comics does not. And it starts with King-Seely’s decision to tell its story backward, a risky move that pays off by tying Dick’s (potential) future with his famous past. Tying it all together is the motif of a rope; it’s the visual that starts off the issue and upon which the issue ends, the beginning of Dick’s life as we know it as well as its conclusion. It’s a fitting symbol for a hero who’s always placed himself on the line.

The latter half of the issue reveals that his willingness to take such risks comes not only from his Flying Graysons background, but from Bruce as well. When Dick first puts on his Robin costume, he questions its flamboyant brightness, reasonably pointing out they make him rather visible. Counterintuitively, Bruce refuses to let his new sidekick wear darker colors because “it becomes your crutch. Someone takes it from you, and you fall. Wear your outfit so they will see you. Then beat them when they see you.” This sounds like terrible logic, but the point is Dick’s never been encouraged to play it safe.

Which leads him to the central dilemma of the issue when Spyral agrees to aid KGBeast, now president of Russia, in repelling the second Apokoliptian attack from Earth-2, which he then uses as an opportunity to violently oppress vulnerable nations.* It’s not surprising Dick’s association with Spyral comes to this point; what’s surprising is how he deals with it.

In yet another conflict of parallels, Dick is torn between his past and current mentors’ definitions of responsibility. While Bruce, of course, sees killing as a way to avoid responsibility, Helena has the complete opposite viewpoint: “You save a man, and he’s always out there. You don’t kill him and you give up your responsibility for him. You wash your hands of it.” So when Dick takes her words to heart and consequently forces her hand against him, she only has herself to blame.

No matter how well-crafted the issue, there is still a problem of how much any of this really matters. [Spoiler alert!] Somehow, you have a hard time believing that Dick’s fate is to publicly assassinate a political leader and then be hanged for it in just five years. The only things we can seriously take away from the story is that Helena will never allow her feelings, deep and sincere as they are, to get in the way of her work.** We’ll have to keep that in mind as her and Dick’s relationship progresses when Grayson returns to its normal timeline next month.

Mooney’s art is fine, having enough realism to be taken seriously, although he slightly struggles with keeping his visuals consistent from page to page. Mooney’s also constrained by the limits of King-Seely’s script; since every scene must be completed within a page, he has no room to let the action freely expand, as you can see during Dick’s actual assassination. His sudden attack and later neck-twisting are trapped in small, narrow panels, minimizing their drama, forcing Helena’s horrified reactions off-panel. It’s unfortunate; larger panels like Babs and Dick doing a nighttime rooftop run show that Mooney is capable of impressing if he has the space for it.

Conclusion: The issue gives you hope that not all the Futures End tie-ins will be a wash, although its impact is still limited.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Starting with Kiev (of Ukraine), in an overt shout-out to current tensions in the Baltic.

** I suppose we should also consider Babs’ remark that she and Dick will never work out together, but I, for one, refuse to give any credence to that idea.

– You may be wondering what it is about Helena’s statements as she and Dick hang over a shark tank make him laugh out loud. Well, according to Cluemaster’s code, the first letters to her sentences spell out “FART.” Classic Dick!



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