Grayson #12: “A Fine Performance”
Written by Tom King and Tim Seeley
Illustrated by Mikel Janín
Inked by Mikel Janín, Hugo Petrus and Juan Castro
Colored by Jeromy Cox
Lettered by Carlos M. Mangual

Every month, it seems that Grayson heads in a new direction. Coming out of Convergence a few months ago, Dick had a new partner and purpose in the newly revamped Spyral.

There was scarcely any time to get settled in to this, however, before Dick became a rogue agent, thanks to an impostor posing as him and “cleaning up” after his previous missions.

Now, disillusioned with the establishment and longing for home, Dick is on the run and heads back to the one place he hopes to find answers and comfort: Gotham City.

With such rapid-fire changes and fast-paced narratives, it would be easy to think that this book was directionless, with wheels spinning without any clear direction or ideas and plots being thrown out just to see what sticks.

But they know what they’re doing.

Even in the space of a single issue, this one in particular, it feels like the story is going to go in a different direction at multiple points.  In lesser hands it would be sloppy writing at best, completely disastrous and unfulfilling at worst.

But rest assured, they know what they’re doing.

If nothing else, the opening pages depict a meeting that has been a long time coming: Dick and Bruce finally see each other face to face.  At least, face to “kind of looks like Dean McDermott.”

I'm still not entirely sure how I know who that is.
I’m still not entirely sure how I know who that is.

For a moment, it seems like this is going to  be an issue exploring loss, heartache, and loneliness; Dick’s struggle with identity as an aimless agent of a Batman who no longer exists, and Bruce’s new life as an amnesiac, a father figure who doesn’t recognize his own surrogate children.  There’s plenty of potential there to mine at least an issue’s worth of plot in itself, and in deft hands it could provide the main narrative thrust for an entire arc.

This is a recurring motif this issue: Dick reconnects with a member of his family, who is surrounded by quotes going all the way back to the beginning of his tenure as Robin.  It’s an effective storytelling device, playing up history in a universe that at times seems to shy away from its own 75 years of stories and ideas of legacy.

Things are quickly cut short, however, as Agent Zero crashes the reunion.  It seems that no matter how much Dick is finished with Spyral, they aren’t finished with him.  He’s given 24 hours to say his hellos and good-byes to his loved ones, which is pretty generous of them, and he takes the opportunity “to perform,” as he tells Alfred.

This next phase of the book is a series of meetings with other members of the Batfamily: Jason and Tim (who isn’t in the future because “story over continuity” I guess is precisely where he belongs, thank you very much), Babs, and Damian.  They each follow the same formula: the splash pages with quotes, a time for everyone to air their grievances, and Dick giving each a parting gift.

Each scene is great on its own, with everyone reacting about how you’d expect: Jason is angry, Tim is relieved, Barbara has some pretty harsh words…

It's nice that, as much as King and Seeley love the character, they allow others to interact with him realistically instead of constant hero worship.
It’s nice that, as much as King and Seeley love the character, they allow others to interact with him realistically instead of constant hero worship.  But still, #DickandBabs4Eva

And Damian… well, it’s one of the sweetest panels you’ll see all year:

Those aren't tears, my eyes are just sweaty.
Those aren’t tears, my eyes are just sweaty.

As satisfying and touching as these moments are, along with the stunningly illustrated and written dialogues that follow, it was a touch disappointing that each meeting followed a simple formula.  Effective, yes, but the issue ran the risk of being filler.  Masterfully written and illustrated filler, but filler nonetheless.

But then it all came together.

Seeley and King, King and Seeley.  Janín.  Cox.  They know what they’re doing.

Without spoilers, there are a few things that reminded me of last year’s Futures End issue: a major plot device is reused, and narrative structure is toyed with as well. Thankfully, neither feels derivative or referential for its own sake, but instead feels earned and necessary for the greater overall plot. If at first I was uncertain of the beats hit along the way, by issue’s end I couldn’t think of a better way for it to have been plotted.

I have two complaints, and they’re fairly minor.  First, there’s a typo:

image
“Now that my back what?”

And then some swapped speech bubbles:

Dick is standing on the left, unless Janín drew Damian with his glove.
Dick is standing on the left, unless Janín drew Damian with his glove.  And jacket.

Neither are catastrophic, but that’s pretty lazy editing in a book that is usually so tight.

You could even pick nits about where he met with Bruce (as Brandon pointed out, that doesn’t look like a penthouse) and the fact that everyone seems to be forgetting Dick appearing in Gotham at the end of “Endgame,” but those don’t really matter.  And really, if you ask me, the latter is probably best forgotten.

You need to read this issue, plain and simple.  The point of the performance, the final reveal, Dick’s final line, everything needs to be experienced fresh.  Whether read as a standalone, the end of the last arc, the beginning of the next, or a bridge between the two, this twelfth issue hits every beat well.  What could have easily been filler or manipulative toying with the readers’ emotions serves as both a satisfying character study and a hint of greater things to come.

No matter what their end game is, they know what they’re doing.

Bonus: In addition to the page with Bruce above, here are the rest of “quote pages.” Help us identify any and all that you recognize, either book, arc, or issue number if you know.

Spoiler

Recommended if:

  • You’ve been waiting for Dick to meet back up with everyone.
  • You love Dick Grayson.
  • Seriously, the last panel made me pretty much jump out of my seat and laugh it got me so pumped.

Overall: A nearly perfect issue, Dick’s first interactions with the family may not have played out as happily as we may have wanted, but they played out the way they needed to.  Being reminiscent of one of the best issues of last year, it’s fitting that this is one of the best issues of this year.  Where Dick’s future with Spyral goes remains to be seen, but it’s good to know he isn’t going it alone anymore.

SCORE: 9.5/10