Grayson is a man of many identities; from Robin, to Nightwing, and now Birdwatcher as well as Agent 37. As he jumps off a moving plane to save a little boy’s life we are offered a new answer to who Dick Grayson really is, not Batman.
Grayson has quickly become one of the most interesting titles to come out of DC’s New 52. Writers Tim Seeley and Tom King set up witty commentary over artist Mikel Janin and Jeromy Cox’s incredibly consistent artwork so well you can’t help but want to start following this series. And while the light humor perfectly placed into tense action packed sequences is certain to keep you wildly entertained, the overarching mystery of this tale is much deeper than the ‘Dick’ jokes would lead you on to believe.
Grayson Vol. 3: Nemesis is a classic spy thriller in the fashion of a great Bond film. For those of you who aren’t fully caught up, Grayson,working undercover as Birdwatcher for Batman (who is now using the alias Mr. Malone) has become an agent of Spyral to find out why it is they keep hunting down metahumans. As Agent 37 of Spyral, Dick has gained the trust of his former partner, and now Director, Helena Bertinelli. But while Grayson is off on his current mission, Helena is presented with hard evidence that she wishes weren’t true. As the facts continue to pile up it becomes harder and harder to refute that Grayson is the agent behind a series of murders taking place on Spyral missions.
The “Nemesis” storyline builds largely on the fact that Dick Grayson is losing his sense of self. He’s tricked so many people into believing he is someone else that he’s beginning to forget just who ever really was in the first place. He is so unsure of himself that after hearing about that killings he can’t even rule himself out as a suspect. We see a glimpse of Dick’s old self when he goes against orders to try and save his partner and make up for a bad joke. It is here that his internal struggle manifests itself in the form of, well, himself. As Dick dukes it out with his duplicate, piercing moments of his past slice through him harder than the punches; all the mistakes, all the regrets, it’s too much for him to take. He is left broken, but perhaps better for it, for when he heads back to Spyral, he tells them he’s done; fed up with misdirection, Grayson is finally heading home.
One of the most interesting things about this book are the Hypnos implants, top notch Spy-fi, altering the way you are perceived by others, while also making you vulnerable to the post hypnotic power of suggestion. They help Dick trick the Duchess and her guards into forgetting his face (but not those glutes) yet they also blind both him and Tiger from seeing the true identity of the murderer behind this mystery. The little implants allow for a lot of plot twists; in one of the gnarliest scenes we see Tiger ripping the Hypnos out of his own eyes just to see who this killer is once and for all, but somehow he is still unable to report their true identity to the director.
Janin and Cox really handle these panels perfectly, bouncing back and forth between a variety of different layouts, altering our mindsets as the Hypnos begin to make even the reader feel disoriented, and intensifying one of the best fight scenes in the book between Grayson and…Grayson with claustrophobic, jarring closeups. Throughout the book, Janin’s frames set the rhythm of this mystery, sometimes working counterpoint to the humorous dialog, and at others echoing a serious tone of an inner monologue. Cox’s colors are never too bold, but set just the right mood for each scene. They seem to heat up and cool down in step with this twisted plot. Together, these two have crafted something truly fluid here that always enhances the atmosphere without ever distracting the reader from what is going on; it’s just not the same when these two both aren’t on the team.
As for the second half of this book, the art work still holds up and and it is still very well written, but it doesn’t feel like a Grayson story from the cannon we have seen since Seeley and King breathed new life into the series. There are many tie ins to the DC universe that seem a bit forced into this plot line. First, with Robin, then with Batgirl, and finally Batman and Superman, who has recently become just ‘a’ man (though Batman is quick to point out he has always been an alien). With the addition of these capes, we lose the spy element that has made this book so much fun to read. And though it was nice to see Grayson back in Gotham with his buddies for a little, I for one was eager to see him finally put back in those creepy mind altering ocular implants and become Agent 37 once again.
Overall Grayson Vol. 3: Nemesis is incredibly well paced, and has the perfect blend of wit, espionage, romance, and action; and though its plot can be complex, it is never too confusing. Information is fed at just the right beat to remind readers what they may have otherwise forgotten while focusing on more than one layer of the story at a time. The twists and turns are always snuck so well into the story you’ll want to go back and see how you missed them. Its espionage like no other media can do, just grade A comic storytelling. At this point I’m not sure who should be more insulted about Dick’s snarky comment that he’s not Batman; him, or the Bat?
- Well paced espionage mystery with plenty of humor, just the right amount of sex appeal, and interesting science fiction elements
- A visual narrative that helps enhance each scene like a musical score
- Backstory is needed for some of the characters if this is the first volume of the series you are reading
- The second half of this book feels more like a superhero team up than it does a spy thriller