“Grayson” returns to the stands this week and, with all of the retooling going on in the publisher’s other books, DC has thankfully allowed the creative team on this book to continue on the same path they were on prior to “Convergence.” If anything, writers Tim Seeley and Tom King lean even harder into the tone they’ve established, kicking up the weird spy elements and mysteries and making the titular hero and his world even more playful and sexy. It’s the best elements of the spy genre with a modern twist aided by the incredible illustration and design work of artist Mikel JanÃn, who continues to deliver on every level.
This comic book has always been self aware, but not in a way that speaks down to its genre or its readers. King, writing from a plot developed Seeley and himself, skillfully paces the issue, giving readers big action moments surrounded by high-stakes plot development. Throughout, he finds the perfect, tension-breaking dialogue, like characters lamenting that no one is ever around to see the cool stuff when they work alone. Readers who enjoy the turn-and-wink moments of the Sean Connery “Bond” films will find plenty to enjoy here, especially those who believe that Dick Grayson is a sex symbol.
Under these writers, Grayson is the focus of not only action but attraction. Moments like his reveal in full formal wear are played as big moments, making the sex factor just as important as the action. King’s dialogue also has the fun sub-game of speaking to readers who also see Dick as a gay icon, giving lines like “Am I straight?” more meaning than just being about a bowtie. It’s never crass, especially with JanÃn controlling the visuals. His page layouts and shot choices have a master’s eye, particularly during the gorgeous dance sequence at the center of the story. As Dick sweeps in to steal a piece of Kryptonite jewelry, itself an incredibly clever plot device, JanÃn creates motion and flow across a double page spread as Dick sweeps his target — and readers — off their feet. The artist guides the reader’s eye through the movements of their dance, as smaller boxes focus on the theft that happens right under the Duchess’ nose. His work really is fully realized, as the characters also all remain unique and expressive. Moods like sly satisfaction are hard to pull off, but JanÃn pulls it off as easily as Dick pulls off his heist. The art updates and pays homage to the work of luminaries like Jim Steranko without making it slavish to the source material. He makes comics look easy.
There are darker elements at play in the issue, as the writers establish a threat to Dick from within the group. Someone has been killing people at the sights of his previous missions and no one knows whodunnit. The issue also opens with acknowledgement of the changes in the Bat books in a rather heartbreaking scene, where Dick tries to reach out to Bruce to ask if he can come back in from his mission, only to have no one answer on the other line. Grayson, for better or worse, is out in the cold now, in cover so deep no one knows he’s there. These elements are destined to collide but play in the background of the issue.
With the new focus given to the entire publishing line, the creative team was wise to simply keep with the elements of this book that work well — a fun sampling of how good this book can be — and it is very good, indeed. Like a skilled acrobat, “Grayson” #9 continues to make the difficult work of creating layered, nuanced storytelling with breathtaking visuals look effortless and sexy. It’s a great jumping on point for new readers and a great welcome back to everyone that’s already on board for the ride.