By: Tim Seely & Tom King (story), Mikel Janín (art), Jeromy Cox (colors)
The Story: Don’t let this gunman get you in his sight(s).
The Review: Hey there, folks! Noah has a busy week this time around, so I’m standing in for this review. Not that I mind; considering all the ways this series could have gone very, very wrong, I’m delighted that it’s done so much right. The debut issue had great energy and more than decent writing, though I admit to be more impressed by the well-crafted Futures End crossover Seely-King delivered last month. Grayson isn’t particularly groundbreaking or exemplary, but it’s good stuff nonetheless.
One of the ways the title doesn’t quite live up to its potential is its repetitious plotting. Every issue, more or less, sets Dick on a new mission tracking a MacGuffin-esque body part in the hands of a twisted individual who tests the balance of his moral compass. It’s not much different from the monster-of-the-week format, which only escapes boredom by varying its tone or making its monsters as compelling as possible within the time allotted. Grayson needs to do the same.
That’s pretty difficult to do in a monthly comic, especially if Seely-King insist on done-in-ones, limiting how much space can be devoted to exploring new characters. They make the best of what they have, and players like Agents 1 and 8 or mission target Christophe Tanner have more substance than you’d expect, but that only makes it an even bigger waste [Spoiler Alert!] when they’re cut down before their time. They’re slightly more specific than your usual spy archetypes, but not fully dimensional.
Agent 8 may be more outgoing than Helena, and more expressive about her attraction to Dick, but essentially serves the same function as love interest and work wife, mocking, disparaging, and betraying his ideals by turns. But in the short amount of time we know her, we do get a fairly rounded sense of who she is: a farm girl from Smallville, of all places, who doesn’t mind taking the lead in her and Dick’s sexual dance. There’s a little male fantasy in the shooting-range scene where she gets behind Dick and physically adjusts his targeting, but it also tells you she waits for no man to give her what she wants.
Which is why it’s so unfortunate that she dies before we have a chance to explore her further.* Unfortunate, but necessary to Seely-King’s purposes. In an issue where Dick takes flack from pretty much everyone at Spyral for his anti-gun stance and love for mediation, Agent 8 is sacrificed to show that Dick has it right. Her uncalled-for shooting of Christophe, just as Dick gets him to stand down, results in both her and her victim’s needless deaths (and the traumatization of Christophe’s son). This is the dark side of Spyral, a reminder of why Dick’s working against them. It’s not just the kettle-pot hypocrisy in demanding the unmasking of the great heroes, though that contradiction strikes you at the end of every issue when the masked Mr. Minos preaches against secrecy.
This is just one more burden Dick has to face in this mission, in addition to the increasing pressure of staying cool in the face of choices he must despise. Add an angry Agent 1 (8’s partner—in more ways than one?) to the mix, and this is a job that gets less fun by the issue, despite Dick’s admittedly imprudent attempts to keep the fun alive. It’s not an unnatural direction for the series to take, but I hope Seely-King play around with spy tropes for a while longer before getting to serious business.
Especially since Janín is having the best time incorporating Bond-type elements into his already stylish work. The title page, featuring a close-up on a (properly censored) naked Agent 8, squeezing her eyes shut and crying out Dick’s name with a satisfied smile, is scintillating, sure, but it’s also a striking image that embodies the title’s specific energy. While Janín’s emotional talents are secondary to his other skills, he pulls out a moving scene once in a while simply by making good storytelling choices. I love the panel of Christophe, whose ocular abilities are linked to his guns, bleeding out on the school grounds, one gun pointed to his distraught son because that’s the only way he can see the kid before he fades out. It’s creepy and tragic, all the more so when you think of that kid remembering for life that his dad died pointing a gun at him.
Conclusion: Borderline excellence, but a bit too straightforward and undercut to hit that level.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * Like any interaction with one Clark Kent?
– Seriously Dick? You’re using Spyral’s systems to contact Bruce? Did the Hypnos implants leave you brain damaged or something?