Tom King, the author of Grayson #15, certainly fits his writing style to the subject matter of the comic he writes. Actually, I doubt his habit of using repeating and echoing dialogue to develop and emphasize philosophical themes really springs from a desire to literally construct a house of mirrors from his characters’ speech patterns. Still does he likely intend the returning verbal tropes to suggest a spiral. Nevertheless, both mirror and spiral seem built into many of King’s scripts, completely apropos considering that he deals extensively with the dark mirror world of intrigue and espionage, a world dominated by Spyral, an organization that King’s partner in creativity, Tim Seeley, informed us last issue is structured like the Ouroboros, the serpent that eternally devours its own tail. In Robin War #1, released last week, King used the declaration “I am Robin,” to drive the book’s message that Robin is an identity that one embraces and lives up to, rather than a costume one is handed. In Grayson #15, a continuation of the Robin War event, he deepens his examination to look at the essence of Robin. Each of Batman’s current and former assistants tells of a time when the Dark Knight informed him that Robin’s ultimate being was summed up in a single word.
The word, however, differs from Robin to Robin, and, as such memories tend to do, tells us more about the particular Boy Wonder than about Batman. For Tim Drake, whose detective skills have been sorely missed in the current continuity, the essence of Robin is investigation. Jason Todd characteristically proclaims that confidence is the chief attribute of Robin. Damian Wayne chooses suffering as the essence of his mantle. Given the history of the latter two Robins, their advice might truthfully be taken with a certain reticence. Not so the opinion last, or rather the first, Robin. For Dick Grayson, the word that summarizes Robin is “family.”
But family has many connotations. It can encompass the training regimen by which the four “originals,” as King calls them, take the young members of Gotham’s Robin movement in hand and begin to impart the skills necessary for the role they have chosen, although in the grand tradition of comic book fantasy the young heroes already exhibit abilities and determination well beyond those of ordinary, or dare I say it, real teenagers. But family also means protection and, most of all, responsibility. And a sense of responsibility, at least in the view of Tom King, is the great Shakespearean flaw in the character of Dick Grayson, the Gray Son of Gotham.
The problem with responsibility is that it can cause people to do extreme things. That’s certainly where Grayson’s overdeveloped sense desire to protect his family leads, as he manipulates his comrades into police custody for their own protection to give himself the latitude to deal with the developing crisis. In this, King brings together long-standing aspects of Dick’s character and themes from his recent involvement with Spyral, the masters of espionage and manipulation. The idea of a kindly manipulator, like a benevolent despot, does not work well in the real world, but fits perfectly in a universe of alien technology, criminal geniuses, and costumed vigilantes.
The Robin War begins with a surprise maneuver from the Gray Son of Gotham, but that very title reveals the danger in Grayson's maneuvers. The Court of Owls is also no amateur club when it comes to manipulation. Is responsibility is a great strength or a serious flaw? As with so many qualities, it appears to be both. And as the War grows more complex, the ramifications of this event grow larger. Grayson wants to protect his family. But one must remember that one of his ancestors is the Court's most deadly assassin. And what of his new family in Spyral? Quite a burden, even for someone whose shoulders are as broad as his.