Grayson #10: “Nemesis”
Written by Tim Seeley and Tom King
Illustrated by Mikel Janín
Colors by Jeromy Cox
Letters by Carlos M. Mangual

First things first, go read Josh’s interview with King and Seeley. Yes, even if you’ve already read it. Read it again. Those guys are a delight.

………

Alright, welcome back. Now we can get started.

Picking up immediately where the previous issue left off, we see Agent 37 on the run from the Spanish duchess whom he stole a necklace from. I’ve always loved how this team can begin an issue right in the thick of things, making sure the excitement is there from the beginning, and while this isn’t actually an “in media res” moment, things are clear and explained well enough that it could have been.

Too bad there weren’t any four-legged Zombie orcas, but life is full of disappointments I suppose…

We do get one of the funniest uses of Hypnos yet, though, so it’s not a total wash.

FullSizeRender

Much has been written, here and otherwise, about how tight Seeley and King write this book, keeping the tone consistent, being true to the characters, and above all making things exciting.  That still holds true in this issue, which is remarkable because there’s an awful lot of stuff going on, and very little of it is resolution.

First, you have Dick escaping his predicament, and his joyful, buoyant attitude provides a nice contrast and juxtaposition to Helena’s insecurity and Tiger’s anger.  The title page is a shot of Dick taking out some guards with an acrobatic jump kick, all the while quipping away with a smile on his face.  I want him to suit up as Nightwing again as much as anyone else, but like King keeps saying, he is Nightwing.  He’s still the same guy, just in a tux instead of a costume.  Moments like this drive that point home as well as anything, proving that it’s the guy in the suit, and not the suit itself, that makes Dick Grayson.

Agent 1, alias Tiger, also gets quite a bit of time this issue, more than just about any before.  And boy, is he angry.

FullSizeRender_1

Very angry.

FullSizeRender_2

He’s denied his request, however, and is instead sent to Italy to search the catacombs below the city for a suspected cache of explosives a small enclave of the Fist of Cain are stockpiling.  This follows a conversation that Helena has with Spyder, that triune form that controls Spyral in some form or another.  It’s obvious she’s being manipulated, but I’m glad for this scene because I’ve been wondering when they (…it?) would show up again.  This Spyder concept is just so bizarre I can’t help but be intrigued.

Anyway, Agent 1 calls out Matron on her handling the situation with Dick “personally,” and it’s a very well-written exchange of barbed words that further highlights his rage and her uncertainty.  He almost has to choke down the contempt he’s feeling to maintain a level of dignity and adherence to duty, while she says everything just shy of “do it because I told you to.”  It’s a great scene, and amazingly enough it isn’t even the best dialogue in the issue.

Better still is a scene where, after giving Tiger his orders and attempting to maintain her composure and authority, there’s a half-page panel that speaks volumes about Helena’s mental state and conflict.

FullSizeRender_3

Whether intentional or not, the spare color palette and the fact that she almost blends in with the surroundings evokes the idea that she’s sinking deeper into this organization than she intended.  Having Matron try to maintain her humanity while still heading this possibly corrupt organization will provide for some fascinating storytelling in the coming months.

The storyline about murdered agents gets a bit of focus too, with Agent 1 being quickly dismissed as a suspect.  The cover for an upcoming issue kind of gives away where this plot is going, and I’m sure there will be some sort of crazy explanation* for it, but it’s actually provided some nice moments.  There’s a bit at the end of the issue where, even though he knows Tiger will probably try to kill him, he decides to stay loyal to his partner.  In addition to that, Helena sending Tiger to the catacombs could be seen as her trying to get him out of the way of any assailants.  Everybody seems to be playing their own game, but it never feels like the writers don’t know exactly where they’re going.

Getting back to Dick’s story, we find him waiting to make a drop in Corsica.  He flirts with the waitress, enjoys the scenery, does everything you’d expect Dick to do, when in walks…

Uhh, spoilers for something that was in the solicit and on the cover, I guess?
Uhh, spoilers for something that was in the solicit and on the cover, I guess?

This is actually the best dialogue in the script, and possibly of the year.  Luthor is his typical smug self, while Dick tries so hard to outsmart him.  Lex goes from almost flippant to borderline contemptuous, demanding that Dick hand over the necklace.  He’s acting as liaison for both ARGUS and the Justice League, which he tries to use in his favor, but when he reveals that the green crystal is Kryptonite, Dick refuses to hand it over.

One of the most interesting things about this scene is the revelation that the Hypnos technology is based on LexCorp tech, if not outright stolen.  It adds a nice layer to the organization, hinting that they may be piecing together everything by preying on more vulnerable targets, which the Spyder scene from earlier alludes to.

The interplay between the two is great, especially given the events in Forever Evil, and the fact that Luthor is one of the few people who knows Dick is still alive.  About the only thing I found weird was Luthor telling Dick that Bruce had gone missing, and Dick doesn’t seem to respond to this in any way.  That could be given that, since he’s tried and failed to contact home, he may have already had an idea, but it would have been nice to see some sort of reaction.

All is forgiven, though, when Dick escapes from Luthor and we’re presented with this image:

Absolutely stunning...
Absolutely stunning…

No joke, I stared at this image for a bit when I got to this page.  The composition is so beautiful, those colors so lush, that it should be framed.  I’d scarcely call the team of Janín and Cox underrated, but they deserve to be mentioned right along with King and Seeley when discussing how great this book is.  Seriously, one of the best art teams around today.

If I have complaints, they’re minor.  I get that Dick is a very attractive guy, and the running “fantastic butt” joke is pretty funny, but it’s used twice this issue, so maybe it needs a bit of a break.  Also, as fast paced and well balanced as the issue is, it’s still obviously less of a stand-alone story and more set-up for a huge endgame.

Regardless, this is still a well-crafted, incredibly solid issue.  The level of intrigue is high, and the road to Dick becoming a rogue agent is incredibly fascinating.  Without knowing who he can trust and whether he should even be involved with this organization, some tough times are no doubt ahead for Agent 37.  This arc absolutely deserves the description of “second season”: it builds on the earlier issues, goes even bigger than before, and takes things in new, unexpected directions.  Luckily, unlike some “second seasons,” this looks like it will be even better than the first.

*I will keep making that joke until somebody laughs.

BONUS:

As with most of DC’s other books, this month there’s a variant cover.  The theme is Teen Titans Go!, and some of these are a delight, not the least of which being this one.  Cover is in the tags.

Spoiler
IMG_2687

Recommended if:

  • You just love great comics.
  • You love Dick Grayson/Nightwing.
  • You’ve wanted to see Dick and Luthor face off.
  • Seriously, just look at that art.

Overall: All the makings of a great comic: fantastic writing, phenomenal art, and characters and events that you actually care about.  The road ahead of Grayson will not doubt be difficult, but with a supporting cast that is getting increasingly more three-dimensional and an ongoing mystery that is actually compelling, this book is well worth diving into.  Whether you’re a long-time reader or still debating on getting into it, this is a great comic for any type of fan.

SCORE: 9/10