Grayson #19 review

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Look, I know how great Tom King and Tim Seeley are.  They took a high concept idea that probably shouldn’t have worked and turned it into one of the best new comics in years, thanks to both spot-on characterization and a deft hand with some of DC’s weirder ideas.  Grayson, right from the beginning, has been a spy story with heart to spare.  That’s not even mentioning Mikel Janín, who is without question one of the most creative, expressive illustrators working in comics today.

I mentioned all of this last month, along with the “unenviable task” that the new creative team of Lanzing, Kelly, and Antonio have before them: taking over a beloved comic in its final stages from a long established, well-respected team.  That’s a tall order for anyone, and the fact that the book does lack a bit of the heart that made it work is understandable, if disappointing.

On the other hand, this is now a book where Doctor Daedalus transports his brain into Helena Bertinelli’s body, and that’s so dumb I can’t help but kind of love it.

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Sometimes it’s the little things.

It’s those little, goofy things that make this issue enjoyable, which is good because, much as I hate to admit it, the series has lost much of its heart.  The fight for Helena’s life is on and provides most of the emotional weight, but even then it feels pretty low-stakes considering we know she’ll still be around in a few months.  Don’t get me wrong, I want her to survive, but it’s kind of hard to appreciate the proceedings as anything more than an exciting B-movie when we’re dealing with brain transplanted mad scientists who quote W. B. Yeats and have Secret Nazi Railways.

Would I joke about something like that?Would I joke about something like that?

That’s not to say the narrative is bad, it’s just that it mostly feels like things are being phoned in and being wrapped up quickly instead of tidily.  The final page has a “cut-scene before the final boss” feel to it, for instance, and a good portion of the dialogue is monologuing and exposition to explain all of the double-crosses that come to light in these twenty pages.

Expository as it may be, the writing never really feels clunky.  It’s wordy for sure, but nothing is outright bad.  The heart is missing from a lot of the interactions, but Lanzing and Kelly do infuse the dialogue with some genuinely good lines throughout.

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And, of course, the gleefully cheesy lines are great too.

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It’s rather disappointing how petulant Kat Kane comes across here, given how she was reintroduced to the universe with great promise of being a big player in this conflict.  Instead, she’s portrayed as hurt by her father’s decision, which is fine, but she comes off as whiny.  It comes off as cheap brushing aside instead of actively using her, but hopefully that will change.  Besides that, everyone else is fine.  Dick’s obnoxiousness gets ramped up just a little too much at points as well, but it’s not a deal-breaker.  The characters still act like they should, even if the emotional investment isn’t totally there.

Roge Antonio’s artistic style is fine, and actually fits the series pretty well, but coming off the heels of Janín isn’t an enviable position.  He has a pretty loose, cartoony touch that reminds me a bit of Scott McDaniel or Mike Weiringo, if not in the details than in energy and spirit.

It’s serviceable work, which I truly mean in the best possible way, and about the only visual misstep is a callback to The Dark Knight Returns that’s beyond played out by now.

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He more than makes up for it with a truly beautiful splash page late in the issue, using the spiral motif to tell several stories on one page.

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While I’m amongst those who wished this title could have continued for years, exploring the intriguing and weird corners of the DCU, Nightwing’s return was an inevitability.  It would have also been nice to close out this chapter with the original team, but if nothing else it’s still entertaining.

Recommended if: 

  • You like Dick Grayson.
  • You’ve been reading this far.
  • Youre part of the sadly small yet eagerly sought-after overlapping demographic of Yeats and comic book fans.
  • You like corny B-movies.

Overall: If mad scientists, world domination, and dramatic double-crosses are your thing, you could do worse than go down the path Grayson is grossing now.  It may not be as phenomenal as it has been in the past, but it’s still enjoyable, so appreciate the title and its stalwart hero for what it is instead of wallowing in what it was.  Even with its flaws, there’s still plenty to like here.

SCORE: 6/10

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