I know it’s been a while since I posted something, so here’s some of my thoughts on DC’s fantastic series Grayson. Note that this was originally posted as part of Comics Bulletin’s Sunday Slugfest. Be sure to check out the whole piece there.
Ray, the answer is Juan. Now, before I go any further I need to get something off my chest: I had zero interest in Grayson when it was announced. Dick Grayson has long been one of my favorite characters. From the Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans all the way through his time under the cowl in Grant Morrison’s Batman & Robin and Scott Snyder’sDetective Comics run, he was a character that I could identify with. I was really enjoying the work Kyle Higgins was doing on the New 52 series – especially once he relocated Dick to Chicago in Nightwing #19. So when I heard that Higgins’ run would be abruptly ended byForever Evil, I was not thrilled. To make matters worse, I thought Nightwing #30 by Tim Seeley, Tom King, and Mikel Janin was awful. I was not in the least bit optimistic for Grayson. Then I read Grayson #1, and realized the tire-fire that was Nightwing #30 was nothing more than a necessary evil to transition the character to his new status quo.
Over the course of the series, it’s evident that the writing team has adhered to two critical principles. The first is “write what you know.” The source of this quote is up to debate, but that does not undermine its significance to Grayson. Despite incorporating several outlandish elements throughout the course of the series (the spider-orca from issue #6 remains a series highlight for me), the writing has been anchored by Tom King’s knowledge of the spy world from his time as a CIA counter-terrorism officer. No matter how outlandish the scenario becomes, there is an underlying sense of authenticity brought to each issue.
The second principle (I know I’m using that term loosely, but bear with me) relates to King and Seeley’s approach to developing their characters: the Greg Rucka approach. Rucka has famously written a slew of strong, empowered women over the course of his career. Given the industry’s penchant for falling short in this area, many wondered “what’s his secret?” The answer is actually fairly simple. In Rucka’s own words from a 2011 interview with Comic Vine:
One does not write a “female” character any more than one writes a “male” character. One writes character, and character is derived from many, many different components, gender being just one of them. Education, background, childhood, religion, sexual orientation and experience, unique history – all of these things influence character, and the writer’s job is to present the whole package in the form of an individual.
Whether intentional or not, it is this frame of mind that has permeated Grayson’s scripts from the start. It has elevated the title to one of DC’s top titles – if not its best. So with the stage set, let’s get to my thoughts on Grayson #8.
As I mentioned above, I’m for Team Juan. There’s no other choice. For the serious discussions that can be had about Grayson #8 and the implications of this issue going forward, the “Jim and Juan” element is just as important. As I mentioned above, I’ve always been a fan of Dick (pun totally intended). It’s hard not to be. He may be a Spyral agent, but he’s still a fun, quippy acrobat at heart. Humor is and will always be a core part of who this character is, so to have a running gag about his bodacious booty throughout the issue is not only pitch-perfect, but it says a lot about the writer’s understanding of the character.
I mentioned before about the creators’ being able to write strong female character because they’re following the Rucka RuleTM of writing fully fleshed out characters. There is no better example of this than Helena Bertinelli. It wouldn’t matter if she was a man, woman, child, alien, parasite or whatever else: she is a character that readers can fall in love with because of her toughness, tenacity, and personality. We have not seen much of her past, but it’s evident that she has one, and those events have shaped her into the character we see on the page. Unlike hundreds of female comic characters, this Helena does not fit into any one category. She is a unique individual, one that will continue to have layers added on as the series progresses.
One last thing I want to talk about: Mikel Janin’s art. The dude can flat out draw. He’s the reason Justice League Dark was worth checking out from issue #1 through Forever Evil: Blight. Yes, that’s right, I read Forever Evil: Blight because Janin was killing it then just like he’s killing it now on Grayson.