By Gavin Rehfeldt. Superheroes meet super-spies in the pages of Grayson, and I’m excited to say that the level of intensity and fun from the excellent #1 is maintained in #2. Reinventing the first Robin, AKA Nightwing, into Dick Grayson: Freshman Spy continues to be invigorating, just in case you were ever in doubt.

The former Boy Wonder is going through yet another change in his long life of crime fighting, as so many costumed do-gooders do. After Dick Grayson’s identity was exposed to the world as being that of Nightwing’s (in DC’s recent cross-over event Forever Evil), Dick had the added misfortune to be horribly tortured until his apparent death. This dramatic shift draws comparisons to the transformation Barbara Gordon underwent when she too was traumatized and physically compromised by The Joker, evolving from Batgirl to the clandestine tech-guru, Oracle. (All pre-New52, of course.)

The comparisons deepen when we acknowledge the common role both Oracle and Dick Grayson share as valuable nerve centers of information for Batman amid the action. In Grayson #2, there are two cleverly executed conversations where Dick reports to Batman – utilizing clever codenames and everything – and the sequences show surprising warmth while allowing the worlds of Gotham City and Spyral-run St. Hadrian’s School to plausibly operate in the same game. I love that Spyral’s headquarters is the same all-girls school that was once in the grip of Leviathan in Batman, Incorporated. The Grant Morrison love is in full flower in this series. Though, one element is glaringly missing: Spyral’s heretofore known headmistress, Kathy Kane.


Bat-family, Spyral, and Grant Morrison naturally brings us to Kathy Kane, the first Batwoman and Bruce’s ex-girlfriend. It’s been confirmed that this cherished pre-New52 character does not exist in the New52 and she won’t be appearing in the title where she obviously belongs: Grayson. Being that Spyral is central to Grayson, one would be comfortable assuming that its pre-New52 headmistress, Ms. Kane, would be grafted on somehow. I imagine a dynamic like that of TV’s Alias where Kathy would be like Sydney Bristow’s mother, Irina Derevko, a character played by Lena Olin – who, let’s face it, should have been Batwoman at some point – played against Dick Grayson’s Sydney Bristow. Kathy and Dick are both “former” Bat-family members! They have their own agendas that can divide them at times! The tension and stories generated would be thrilling. Otherwise, the idea of what it means to be a former Bat-family member is scintillating in its dramatic possibilities, and Seeley is exploring that well. I just hope something at DC Comics changes, and Kathy can be let in on the fun.

We’ve got Bat-family stuff, and then we have spy stuff, and they compliment each other quite well. Right off the bat we return to the St. Hadrian’s Finishing School for Girls with super-spy Helena Bertinelli teaching the young ladies the ways of the bow and arrow. These ways point directly at a shooting range model of Deathstroke, supervillain swordsman, whom I assume is one of Spyral’s targets among many others both big and small. Amid Bertinelli’s monologue, fellow super-spy The Hood shows up in dramatic fashion, disoriented and injured. What happened to The Hood, you ask? Well, that would be telling.

Here is where we get my favorite moment of the book: a hilarious cutaway to an toss-off conflict between Batman and a campy horned villain – who appears to have jumped straight off of a heavy metal album cover – expounding on something called “Cycles of Violence”. All the moments with Batman, including this one, are refreshingly casual and warm. Batman feels suitably like a background player in the moments Grayson contacts him. In one moment The Dark Knight admires the beauty of his city and reminisces about picnics with Dick, his chosen family. It’s a lighter quality that I’ve not seen from the New52 Batman, and it’s especially poignant when we realize that he’s recently lost his natural son, Damian Wayne.

Midnighter’s role remains highly active in #2, thankfully, with him trying to crack an unsettling Spyral file decryption, a process that illustrates quite a bit about how Spryal runs their agency. They have an assortment of advanced tech that can manipulate a human brain. Spyral’s big in the brain manipulation business, with their mysterious mind-altering Hypnos always at the ready. Midnighter does not have the typical mind though, and I can’t wait to see it pushed to the limits in this book. Through his super-enhanced tactical thought processes, Midnighter can foresee Dick Grayson’s moves at every moment, all the way to his personal doom.

Grayson2p2 My favorite character so far is Spyral official Mr. Minos. He contributes significantly towards maintaining Spyral’s mystique, which can be a challenge when going deep inside a secret spy organization. Just the right amount of information is being withheld, and Minos chooses disorient during his debriefings in trippy environments while luxuriating in his arachni-chair. His face is a spiral of a blur of facial lines making his presence continuously unsettling, especially since he wears glasses which seem to rest on no nose. I adore Minos’s slideshow explaining the mission, including a sheep and a cheese wheel, the local specialty of the area of England where Grayson and Bertinelli are headed. The off-kilter panels are a nice touch, and are always comfortable and welcome in a Bat-family book. In this vein, the comic has a sophisticated and worldly 1960s mod spy-fi style, with nods to The (British) Avengers and James Bond. There’s some of The Prisoner in there as well.

The MacGuffin giving this yarn agency is a specially enhanced stomach. (Yep. A specially enhanced stomach.) Dick and Helena have a team-up to recover the super-gut, but quickly separate when their differing priorities create a rift. Dick’s “East Midlands English” accent, useful in integrating with the locals, is delightful. He’s such a showboat, which comes through in his personality and his combat strategy. Batman is always prepared, but Grayson has always contrasted by being a bit more improvisational and resourceful. Seeley has a really strong handle on all of his characters, but he really understands and has great affection for Dick Grayson and his humorous qualities.1-GRAY-02-4-fd5af

Mikel Janin’s art is beautiful and professional, with great “acting” throughout. There are some truly bizarre moments in the climax of this story, and the believability of the villain is highly dependent on the quality of the art. The villain is a disturbing one, and I won’t spoil it here, but it will definitely have fans of the book talking. Janin crafts spectacular environments as well, including Minos’ tripped-out meeting room. The coloring is also worth noting, especially when mind manipulation can be subtly communicated through a change in palette.

Grayson will be a landmark book for the New52 if it can maintain this level of quality, and I feel confident it can. Seeley is doing something extremely smart in having each issue individually introduce and solve a mystery (which more books should do but don’t). At the same time these two issues have pushed a master-arc forward: Grayson is embedded in Spyral so he can report back to Batman on the organization’s covert mission to uncover the identities of the World’s Greatest Superheroes. (They already know so many!) What is Spyral’s agenda? It’s the question that plagues many a devoted Bat-fan already, but this book only begins to scratch the surface. I’m hoping this book gains the readership it deserves so we can find out.

 DC Comics/$2.99

Story by Tim Seeley and Tom King. Written by Tim Seeley. 

Art by Mike Janin, Guillermo Ortego and Juan Castro.

Colored by Jeromy Cox.

9 out of 10