Grayson #18 review

Grayson 18

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Creative teams change all the time.  You can read a book for years and go through dozens of names on the credits page, especially in the constantly shifting world of superhero comics.  Extended runs from a single team are not at all unheard of, as evidenced by the relatively uninterrupted stint (minus an issue or two here and there) that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have had over on almost fifty issues of Batman.  That book is an easy sell, though; Grayson was not.  People like Dick Grayson, of course, but turning him into a spy?  That’s risky.  Such a change for a character is a pretty big gamble.

Since you’re reading this review, it obviously paid off.  Tom King, Tim Seeley, Mikel Janín, and occasionally Stephen Mooney took that concept and turned it into one of the most frequently entertaining and innovative books to come out of DC Comics in years.  Over two years and twenty-some-odd issues, that creative team took one of the oldest and most influential characters in comic book history, gave him a new role, and used him to tell stories taking place in some of the craziest corners of the DC Universe.

Grayson is King, Grayson is Seeley, Grayson is Janín, and Grayson‘s story is almost over.

Sadly, for this final stretch, the creative team so intrinsically linked to this narrative have stepped down for “something big and cool,” leaving new writers Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly with the unenviable task of finishing the story that such a beloved group started.

I really didn’t want to have to bring up this shift in this review, except maybe in passing, but it’s such a momentous occasion that it just can’t be ignored.  Thankfully, I can tell you right up front that this book still feels like Grayson, and for the most part the new team pulls it off.

From the very first panel, you know exactly what you’re going to be getting here:

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They’re not kidding when they say this is a warzone.  This issue is absolute chaos, non-stop action over its twenty or so pages, and from a storytelling perspective at least it’s about as good as this book has been on an average month.  Lanzing and Kelly’s script is a little scattershot with the pacing, but it’s funny and full of the great wit and chemistry we as readers have come to expect over the past few years, while also tying up different ends of the story by bringing in some of the weirder aspects of DC continuity.

And also answering at least one lingering question about the recent timeline.And also answering at least one lingering question about the recent timeline.

In broad strokes, the story is pretty much one battle after another across the grounds of St. Hadrian’s and the inevitable confrontation between the two Netz sisters.  I wouldn’t accuse this book of spinning its wheels much at all, as even filler issues have a point and progress the plot, but with Kat Kane back in the picture and seeing that weird Spyder thing introduced way back in the sixth issue pop back up it indicates that loose threads are finally being brought back into play.  Will we get answers?  Who knows, but at least they remembered that the questions were asked.

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Dick and Tiger, who have been front and center the past few issues, are almost secondary characters here, reacting to the situation without having much influence on the outcome.  With so much going on, there’s a lot of ground to cover, and the assassins who originally targeted Agents 1 and 37 have now set their sights on Matron Bertinelli.  It’s that thread that gets the most attention, much to the book’s benefit: Helena honestly hasn’t had much to do over the past few months, but she’s become such a strong character in her own right that having the conflict come back to her adds more emotional depth and heft.  I’ve gone on record as stating I’ve never really liked Helena or the Huntress until this book, and credit where it’s due, I genuinely love this take on the character.  She’s strong yet conflicted, and the irony of having the team she originally dispatched to take down the boys turn around and come after her is an incredibly interesting development.

Plus, you know, Grifter, King Faraday, and that weird pink rubber ninja?  I’d read write that book.

From a writing standpoint, this isn’t a perfect installment, but it’s strong.  It’s the artwork that’s a mixed bag, and as a result the whole thing suffers.  Generally, it isn’t really bad as much as it is inconsistent.  Roge Antonio and Geraldo Borges trade off on pencils and the look is almost schizophrenic.  Sticking with one or the other may have made this issue work much better than it actually does, but their styles are so similar in some ways and so different in others that it becomes a confusing mess at certain points.

imageAnd Dick has a chin for daaaaaaaaays.

I’m not familiar enough with either artist to be sure, but I believe the cartoonier style like the panel above is Antonio while the more detailed figures are from Borges.  Frankly, I kind of like both styles on their own, but on some pages it looks like the artists swapped panels and it just doesn’t work.  Jeromy Cox’s colors are a bit sloppy too, which is a rare occurrence indeed, and there’s one panel in particular that was so off it took me out of the issue completely.

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Out of context, that panel looks a little rough but not too bad.  You know what the problem is?  I’m pretty sure that’s supposed to be Agent 8, but it looks nothing like she’s been depicted before or even in the issue at hand.  It’s sloppy coloring or penciling or something, and it’s little things like this throughout the issue that bring it down a touch.  I’m not going to complain that it’s not the work of Janín, because it’s not and that’s fine, but it needs to have consistency and be pleasing to look at.  It’s a shame, too, because there are some genuinely good visuals and techniques going on throughout the issue, like a montage of fights laid out like frames of film.

imageOh by the way, Midnighter shows up.

It’s that visual inventiveness that evokes the spirit of Grayson without being derivative, and I wish the issue was a little tighter so we could have experienced that just a bit more.

That doesn’t make it bad, though.  Things are going absolutely bananas, and the final page is truly insane in the best possible way.  There are only two issues to go before the end, and with Dick returning to his role as Nightwing (at least, we assume he will…), all we can hope for is his final days as a spy will be worth reading about.

After all, in the end, he’s still Dick Grayson.

Recommended if:

  • You love this book.
  • You’re in it until the end, and want to see how that’s set up.
  • You can look past uneven artwork to enjoy the story being told.
  • The quipping between Dick and Tiger is solid as ever and worth the price tag alone, so no need to worry there.

Overall: This isn’t the best installment of Grayson, but it’s still a solid entry in the overall narrative.  Even with the long-standing founding creative team out, Lanzing and Kelly “take the wheel” as they say and travel the road already laid out before them.  Hopefully the final two issues will have more consistent artwork, but with everything coming together and the zaniness being ramped up to 11, I’m confident that this book will have something too few stories receive: a satisfying conclusion.

SCORE: 6.5/10

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