By Gavin Rehfeldt. Guns and Grayson make for an interesting combination, being that he is the disciple of the House of Wayne, which strictly forbids gunplay. Grayson #3 presents a direct narrative while also exploring the larger idea of guns, guns and fun, and guns as shortcuts in narrative fiction and life. This issue maintains the already high quality of the previous issues with roaring fun and spy-fi notes reminiscent of Alias, Mission: Impossible, and James Bond but cast through the DC prism. Should Nightwing ever use a gun to solve a problem when he can navigate other means to a solution? The answer is, decidedly, no. Circus boy has other skills: “You should see me with a slingshot,” he says seductively to his Smallville-born firearms instructor. This book elegantly illustrates this point, and is a highly recommended read.
Additionally, there are mature depictions of sex! It is a little shocking to turn the page and see a woman enjoying our hero carnally, but Grayson #3 presents one of the most rare, and truly erotic exchanges for a mainstream comic book that this reader can recall in recent memory. The liaison also serves as an enticing introduction to a new supporting character, Agent 8 (the aforementioned she of Smallville). One of 8’s several scintillating pieces of dialogue includes condoning everyone in the superhero world for being from someplace weird claiming no one in the skies comes from Smallville. (Oh, so little does she know.) Every character in this book is worthy of further exploration, including the new villain, “The Old Gun”. This villain resides comfortably in a grey area, with an agenda that ultimately elicits sympathy. Few in the DCU would go to the extreme lengths he has to avenge wrongdoings and regain his strength: upon losing his eyes during a conflict where his sons were murdered, The Old Gun had his ocular nerves connected to the barrels of two pistols. Janin innovates an interesting means to illustrate his point of view that is a discovery in itself.
Grayson is filled with discoveries, and it pushes towards its master arc, where Dick Grayson is caught between his work with Spyral and his alliance and values founded in Batman. Like previous issues, #3 stands alone as a complete story with a clear resolution (here, a moving and tragic one), but cleverly addresses the larger stresses Dick is experiencing. With a turn of a page the reader is given a complete intriguing idea building towards a resolute ending and message. This is a smart and accessible comic with style and edge like few seen in DC’s New52. New readers trying this month’s installment will be happy with what they have, but also seek to see the larger panorama.
The Old Gun is seeking new eyes, and Spyral has their own interest in a pair he has seized from one of their agents. The question of Spyral’s interest in various body parts of the Paragon looms large, especially in their ongoing mission to unmask the identities of superheroes. From what we’ve seen they already have quite a few names catalogued. Two teams of two agents are sent to seize the unique eyeballs, including Grayson and his recently acquired gun-happy lover. Dick confronts The Old Gun in a men’s bathroom, a seeming advantage being built in by virtue of guns being absent from The Old Gun’s hands as he relieves himself (one assumes). Dick’s aerial experience is put to use, but he leaves himself vulnerable to gunfire as he proclaims his desire for fun in the spy world. It is quickly apparent fun has no place in such a line of work as The Old Gun takes advantage and puts Spyral’s team at a great, and explosive, disadvantage. Grayson’s teammates are solid in their execution of the sting, but the former Boy Wonder brings his own strategies that set him apart, and arguably behind by Spyral’s standards.
After a shaming defeat, and a firm slap across the face, Grayson devises his own strategy to appeal to the former father-cum-killing machine upon discovering his basic humanity. This is where we get our monthly interaction between Dick and Batman (which is a delight). Using Batman’s supercomputer, Dick’s deduction skills are utilized with warmth, and he intends to bring those qualities to The Old Gun in place of the expected force and brutality.
The final confrontation between Dick and The Old Gun is one of the most touching and human interactions two comic book characters can share. Humor, vulnerability, and common ground set the foundation for an ultimately tragic, Shakespearean ending. Family, guns, and shortcuts to solving problems never make for a happy mix and that is an absolute this book underlines with aplomb.
Spyral continues to maintain their mysterious deeds, despite being the central intelligence organization in play (this is something I haven’t seen accomplished since TVs Alias), and this is in part due to their apparent leader, Mister Minos. He is a man (?) presented as a swirling, indistinguishable face with glasses set upon it. He is given great presence and power, while also being granted the charmingly ironic and observant line, “people can be so strange,” upon discussing The Old Gun’s unique physical characteristics. That moment sums up the frankly stunning mission statement of this book: everybody’s “strange” is somebody’s “normal.” In spy-fi it is inevitable that weirdness is going to fly out in every direction; that is the great reveal and payoff to Grayson, but in the DCU keeping that weirdness comfortably concealed is significantly more challenging. Everyone at Spyral wants to contain the DCU in neat little boxes where information can be controlled and weaponized, but there is no end to the surrealism that can be utilized to change how you see the world. Bringing guns to combat these gravid discoveries will only make one’s situation uglier and sadder.
Grayson #3 accomplished a lot with very little, and credit must go to credited scribe Tom King for turning in a convincing and human script. Co-plotting credits go to Tim Seeley, who brings his usual polish and professionalism. Both are clearly incredibly inspired by the book’s mixture of genres, relating them to the human condition, and the potential for telling tragedies in man’s armed conflicts. Mikel Janin’s pencils are sexy, muscular, and warm with beautiful active layouts set beside more intimate illustrations. His Steranko-inspired cover is pleasing on the eyes and gives a perfect sense of what’s inside. (The Monster variant cover by Jan Duuresema? Not so much. Its muddied composition and coloring needs to stay far away from this sleek book. But, hey, it is nearly Halloween, so pick it up if you’re in the spirit!)
The point is, pick up this book! It is concise in its goals while also being witty and fun. It is classy comics for readers who like moral complexity, espionage, and action. Grayson looks to be a watershed for DC’s recently welcomed indie-famous creators who are playing in the New52 sandbox. The final page, a coda, presents deepened complications with Dick’s new employers and I, for one, cannot wait!
Written by Tom King.
Story by Tom King and Tim Seeley.
Art by Mikel Janin.
Colored by Jeromy Cox.
9 out of 10