Grayson #13: “A Ghost From the Tomb”
Written by Tim Seeley and Tom King
Illustrated by Mikel Janín
Inked by Hugo Petrus
Colored by Jeromy Cox
Lettered by Carlos M. Mangual

Put this smooth jam on to set the mood.  It will make sense later, I promise.

For the past month or so, I’ve been reading through a good chunk of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman comics. I’d read snippets and a few arcs before, but never saw the whole picture, so I went and started at the beginning. Overall, it’s a genuinely great run with some phenomenal storytelling: The Black Glove and R.I.P. might be in my top ten favorite stories, Final Crisis was just so bizarre I couldn’t help but love it, and both Batman, Inc. and Batman and Robin were almost (almost) flawless runs. Even the missteps were at least noble attempts, like The Return of Bruce Wayne, which was a great idea whose ambitions were a bit too lofty, but the recognition that from the beginning Batman has never been alone is a theme that is too often forgotten and therefore can’t be said enough. That extends to the other members of the Batfamily as well, as Dick has finally reconnected with and regained the trust of his closest allies.

Even more than that, though, reading Batman, Inc. reacquainted me with the earlier incarnation of Spyral, the mystery of Kathy Kane and her connection to the Netz family, and the ubiquitous Ourobourous symbol, along with another appearance of the God Garden and the Gardener to boot.  So, now I know more about things I still don’t know an awful lot about, and it’s marvelous.

All of those elements are coming back into play, with “Kathy Kane” becoming a much more prominent figure and piece of the puzzle, and the Netz family as a whole driving the mystery behind Spyral.  That said, given the impact of the previous issue and the anticipation leading up to its events, a filler issue is to be expected, and that’s what we get here.  Well, the equivalent of filler for Dick Gaston Grayson, which is still a ripping yarn that serves to bridge story arcs rather than standing on its own, so it’s still pretty good.

After his excursion back to Gotham City (until it’s outright addressed when Batman & Robin Eternal is supposed to take place, let’s just ignore it lest we go mad), Dick is reinstated on active duty with Spyral.  Following a medical exam to insure he didn’t bring anything back with him, plus an assurance from Helena that he has her utmost trust, Dick and Agent 1 ambush some thieves off the coast of Senegal.

Tim Seeley, it should be noted, wastes no time assuring us that they’re pure evil.

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I’m surprised he doesn’t kick puppies, to be honest.

Mikel Janín, Hugo Petrus, and Jeromy Cox deliver as always, so that’s a given.  What really stood out to me is how funny this issue is.  Lines like the above are just over the top and goofy, which I’m perfectly okay with, but there’s some great strained chemistry between Dick and Tiger as well.

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Seeley admits that between himself and Tom King, he writes the weirder, funnier stuff, and this issue is a pretty good example of that.  There’s some mythology and world-building to up the intrigue, but there are plenty of gags, though none as dumb as this one:

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That line was so bad, and of course I laughed like an idiot.

Here’s another one for good measure.

Perhaps the biggest narrative advantage to Dick’s status being known to the rest of the family is that he can bounce ideas off of people he has a history with.  The strained chemistry he has with Tiger is fun, but seeing him interact with people he loves and who love him introduces new voices and levels of characterization.  It’s a shift that King and Seeley nail, too, as evidenced by Dick and Tim’s conversation regarding the identity of Agent Zero.

Tim discovers Luka Netz is a blank slate: no records whatsoever, but a last name shared with the founder of Spyral is bound to raise suspicions.  This information could have been an exposition dump, but the brotherly manner in which the two speak to each other gives it a lilt and energy that prevents it from becoming too dry.

It's nice to see the Alvin Draper alias being used again.
It’s nice to see the Alvin Draper alias being used again, but I’m not liking this sudden “Tim is cocky” slant writers are taking.

It turns out that, since Batman first arrived on the scene, a mysterious woman with a Hypnos-masked face has been observing in the background of every photo taken of the Dynamic Duo.  It’s a tad on the nose and convenient, but not too much of a stretch for super spies I suppose.

Regarding Spyral’s new leadership, Helena gets a nice scene with Checkmate, which is good as she’s not had much to do the past few months.  She’s pretty (understandably) upset that they planted a mole in her organization, and makes some pretty thinly veiled threats to Totally Not Grifter.

Ok, probably not, but I'm saying it first just in case.
Ok, probably not, but I’m saying it first just in case.

As a side note, I love how Janín renders Helena. She still has beauty about her, but you can see a tense weariness in her eyes. Loyal to the organization, while also aware of its more unsavory dealings, you can tell she is both physically exhausted and emotionally drained after taking the lead. She’s one of the most complex and interesting in comics right now, someone who says more in a single look than she does in an entire speech.

Like I said earlier, this is more of a transitional issue.  It introduces some elements fairly late in the game, like a meta human that Dick and Midnighter (oh yeah, Midnighter shows up) face off with before the issue just… ends.  It’s kind of anticlimactic, especially considering that Luka only appears in a handful of panels towards the end as well.

No matter what, this was still a strong read, adding new layers to the narrative and evolving with them instead of getting bogged down in mystique.

Recommended if: 

  • You love this book.
  • You’ve been waiting for more of Spyral’s history to come to light.
  • You like light, funny dialogue that still serves a purpose.
  • Mikel Janín.  Jeromy Cox.  All day, every day.

Overall: More a bridge than anything else, there’s still plenty to like here: what action there is is well-staged, the dialogue is fun, the interactions between the characters are great, and just enough is being revealed to sate your hunger without forcing everything out all at once.  It’s a long game they’re playing, and I can’t think of a better protagonist to accompany on the journey than Dick Gaston Grayson.

SCORE: 7.5/10