Spoilers, images, and faintly disjointed squeeing for the issue abound. Read at your own risk if you’re not up to date!
For the first time since he faked his own death, Dick Grayson returns home to Gotham City. But will Spyral ever really let him go for good?
Writer: Tom King & Tim Seeley (with Tom King on this month’s script)
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Originally published: September 2015
Rating: 5/5 would recommend to anyone that was reading my James Bond reviews and craves a book that subverts the spy genre
Grayson #12 is the book that fandom has been waiting for.
A huge issue that many fans and haters alike have commented on has been the distance between Dick and the other members of the Batfamily. Off in Europe for much of the series’ run, Dick has been distanced from his family even as he made new connections with Helena, Tiger, and other members of SPYRAL. When he is in contact with his family members, it’s brief and unsatisfying on all levels.
In Grayson #12 the team finally brings Dick home. At the end of the previous issue Dick, fed up with all the shady subterfuge coming from SPYRAL, sends Bruce one last message telling him that he’s coming home.
I don’t know anyone that hasn’t been waiting for this moment since we first saw the cover for this issue. Even those of us that are entirely happy with Dick on his own with new allies wanted this book to happen and we wanted it to be great. This is Dick’s homecoming after all, a real one where he’s going to come face to face with everyone that he’s left behind due to the mission and his “death”. It has to be good.
By now I’m not as behind with Endgame and its aftermath. I know the important stuff about Bruce’s memory loss and Julia and Alfred’s weird plan to make everything better and I knew the ‘why’ behind it before I started reading. The important thing is that I’ve got the basics and so when Grayson #12 opened with Alfred getting Dick dressed up and disguised for a meeting with Bruce, I was mostly prepared.
I mean… I made obnoxious snorting noises at Dick’s disguise first (because I am a child), but I quickly got into the swing of things. I don’t like Alfred outside of the 90s animated series and the Earth-One trades and I definitely didn’t get why Alfred would let Bruce go on like he’s been going on. The panels in this book help. I mean, I still don’t think his reasons are the best, but it’s interesting to get this sight into Alfred’s mind and how it meshes with Dick and Bruce’s motives for keeping up the charade of Dick’s death.
But think about it: Dick and Alfred are playing the long con. They’re both lying to the people that they cared about the most and they have to come to terms with that. This particular issue deals with Dick giving up on that and explaining his reasoning and yet not only is Alfred still lying (I mean “performing”), he’s convinced himself that it’s for the greater good.
Alfred is so sure of his decisions so we get this – this monologue where Alfred explains how he isn’t a liar and why he’s continuing to keep Bruce in the dark about his identity. I’m not going to go into all of the speech because if you’re reading this review, you should already have read the comic I’m talking about, but okay a choice bit of dialogue at the start has to be explored.
“We are not liars, Master Richard. Liars bend the world to ease their efforts in walking astride it. They pace pack and forth, smiling, ignorant of the lives warped beneath them.”
Aside from the fact that practically everything Tom King writes leaves me swooning because he’s a master wordsmith, this bit of dialogue is neat because it reads as if Alfred is explaining his motives. Notice, he’s talking about how liars don’t notice the lives they’re changing with their lies as if he’s not a freaking lying liar that lies. No matter how he tries to frame it (and believe me, he’s doing one hell of an attempt), he’s still that guy who decided that he knows best about what Bruce needs.
I like that Dick is silent through Alfred’s monologue, only speaking at the end and then not really addressing what Alfred is really saying. Here, Alfred comes across a bit like he’s out of touch with the world. He’s made this big decision for Bruce and for the rest of the Batfamily and even though I don’t pick up the main Batman title, I might just to see the fallout. There’s something reminiscent of lowkey supervillainry in the way that Alfred is behaving. I’m just going to tell myself that Dick was sitting there the whole time judging Alfred INTENSELY before he goes in for that unbelievably awkward sitdown with Bruce.
First off, Mikel Janin draws the best lumberjack Bruce Wayne in the world. Can we just take a minute to sigh over that beard and that face? Geez. This is coming from someone that isn’t even that big a Bruce Wayne fan so you know I’m overwhelmed here. Bruce’s characterization is kind of blah in this and that was a brief low point. He reads like what you’d expect a superhero dealing with amnesia or whatever to be like and it looks like he’s going to be cool with living this new life.
The set up is too comfortable, too cozy, of course so that’s when Agent Zero bursts through a window, shoots Bruce with a tranquilizer dart, and proceeds to comment on Dick being fully clothed.
I’m going to admit it, I cracked up at that.
I love these tongue-in-cheek references to Dick’s body and his attractiveness. Dick isn’t shirtless all the time in Grayson and honestly, he’s still wearing more clothes than many female comic leads so the fact that other characters bring up his looks – especially how he looks when shirtless – is always something guaranteed to get a giggle out of me. Look at Dick Grayson, so good looking that even bad guys notice and comment on it.
Seriously, it’s such a nice change.
So Agent Zero shows up to press Dick back into service with SPYRAL, using the threat of exposing Bruce as Batman in order to do it. I think that a lot of characters (and some comic readers) misunderstand the hell out of Dick in general and in this role he’s undertaken. Agent Zero is one of those characters. Like Agent 8/Alia in issue #3, she assumes that she knows Dick because she’s got access to a dossier and some data.
On the surface, threatening Bruce’s safety works, but the reality is that Dick isn’t easily cowed or manipulated. When pushed into a corner or threatened, he reacts with a plan.
Many people really only see Dick as the perpetual sidekick. Despite Dick being a solo-agent for most of the past twenty years of comics, that’s what they go to. They see him as Bruce’s kid, not as someone that can and has held his own amongst some of the strongest and scariest villains that the DCU has to offer.
Seriously, I love that this book shows Agent Zero not only underestimating Dick and trying to lead him around by his devotion to Bruce and Bruce’s mission, but underestimating his leadership qualities and the relationship that he has with his family.
From the second that Agent Zero threatened Bruce, you knew that Dick was set to work some serious subterfuge of his own in order to strike back. I could talk about this forever (and I’m tempted, trust me) but I think I’m going to save this for another post. What’s important is that we’re shown that Dick is multifaceted all the time in this series but we’re also seeing parts of the character that we haven’t seen in a really long time and it’s fantastic!
Now let’s talk about my favorite scenes in the issue: the reunions!
After Alfred/Bruce, we get Dick meeting up with Jason and Tim. And getting punched! This was definitely something that everyone was expecting. Someone had to hit Dick over this but the fact that it’s Jason doing the punching?
That just makes it sweeter.
You get something different with each reunion. With Bruce and Alfred, it was kind of Dick getting up to speed and making sure that Bruce was alright. With Tim and Jason, it’s about the bonds of brotherhood. It’s these kids reacting to the fact that their big brother who they thought was dead wasn’t at all. It’s about the bonds that Robins share and how Dick has shattered them by lying. He’s supposed to be the one constant, the one actual adult that doesn’t fuck up and lie or keep secrets. No wonder they’re taking it so hard right?
I’m not saying I may have teared up a bit while reading that bit where Tim and Jason call Dick out for his crap but well… I might have. Just a little bit. I literally haven’t picked up a book with Red Robin or Red Hood in it in years but I’m so serious that the way that Tom King writes them makes me want to try again. (And please don’t get me started on that page with all the flashback-y stuff with all the adorable images of Dick with his fellow Robins because we will literally be here all night.)
How is his characterization so good?
It was realistic. Her anger. His desperation. That’s what worked for me.
I’m not the biggest DickBabs shipper in the universe and so the shippy parts of this were kind of there for me. Like I recognize that the dialogue is just – out of this world and romantic as hell, but when something’s not your thing, it’s not your thing. You feel?
But it is an awfully romantic set of panels, that’s for sure and we do get more clarity about what is or isn’t canon with regard to their relationship. And of course, Janin’s Barbara is super beautiful. I think she’s adorable in her own book but geez, I just love how beautiful the women are in this dude’s style. Like can he just draw all the things?
I think though, that the reunion everyone was waiting for was Dick and Damian’s. I know it’s one of the things I was waiting for. Damian is my baby. He’s the Robin I tend to ID with (we have a TON in common, or at least we would’ve if I was like twelve) and so his death messed me up. I love their initial page together, both of them so surprised to see that the other is alive.
And then it gets better because this is Grayson: the only way to go is up in terms of quality.
The noise I made when I saw this hug scared every small child nearby. It was that intense. This is definitely something that I was hoping would happen in this issue because it was so stressful that Dick and Damian didn’t know what each other was up to. And they hugged – they freaking hugged. Like I’m trying to be super professional here and I know I’m failing but okay this is what I’ve wanted to happen and I just can’t get over that our Grayson guys got it in print.
Also:I thought the quotes in those pages with the grey backgrounds were really neat.
My memory isn’t good enough to connect the quotes with the comics they’re from but I’ve seen tons of people on Tumblr and Twitter dissecting the panel and pairing each quote in the issue with the older comic they’re from. It’s fantastic and I love seeing a reminder that these guys get Dick Grayson. They’re fans just as much as we are and they’re doing their homework and crafting the next step in Dick’s story.
The fact that they went to this much trouble to put all of these quotes together makes me so happy because I knew these guys would do right by Dick and they haven’t let me down yet. They’re going full nerd on this and I’m so freaking happy!
I feel like I’ve been spoiled. So spoiled. How can any other comic I read compare to this book? Last month’s issue #11 was fantastic and mind-bendingly awesome and now this month’s book is essentially a punch to the gut in terms of emotion while also setting the stage for the ultimate spy showdown.
I can’t handle this book.
This is basically the Batfamily book of my dreams. What did I do to deserve this book on my pull-list?
One thing though: I’m still worried about Helena. With the reveal of Agent Zero as Luka Netz and her presence at the center of SPYRAL and at the desk that Helena was sitting at in the last issue, we’re going to see a shakeup in the ranks. I’m looking forward to what future issues are going to bring and what Dick is going to go through though so aaaah?
I’m going to try to be hopeful. I know that Helena/Dick isn’t going to be endgame for this series but I’m hoping that she survives to the very end (and that she maybe ends up with Renee Montoya? Please consider this Grayson guys because it would be AMAZING).
What’s great is that next week Wednesday I get to talk about Grayson some more when the series’ second Annual comes out. So keep an eye out for that and make sure to start reading Grayson if you’re not already!
For those of you that’ve already read Grayson #12, what did you like about it? Have you been hard at work sourcing the quotes? I’d love to hear from you!