Tom King, former CIA counter-terrorism officer turned novelist, takes over scripting duties from plotting partner Tim Seeley for Grayson #3.
The issues have been building upon several plot points, and Grayson #3 is a dense issue that’s one of the best I’ve read all year.
Dick Grayson’s newest target in Spyral’s ongoing mission to secure technological organs is one Christopher Tanner — a victim of gun violence whose life was changed when a gunman opened fire in his children’s school. Tanner was shot in the face before his boys were killed, and he now lives as an assassin whose ocular nerves are connected to two revolvers that serve as his eyes. His hope of returning to normalcy lies in the eyes he stole from Spyral.
Because hypnos won’t work on someone who doesn’t have real eyes, Grayson won’t be going alone, and he’ll have two other Spyral agents watching his back in case Old Gun gets the drop on him. Dick will also have to brush up on his gun skills, though reluctantly — it’s just not something he ever plans to use. After getting in some training with Agent 8 — who knows more about Grayson and his alter-ego than anyone should — the relationship turns physical.
And so goes the mission. Grayson’s reckless manner puts himself and his team in danger of failure when he relies too much on his acrobatics, forcing Agent 8 to act with a non-lethal sniper shot because Tanner doesn’t have the eyes in his possession. Matron’s helicopter goes down, Agent 8 is wounded, and Grayson’s caught in a compromised position — one in which he decides to put down his gun.
Back at Spyral headquarters, Agent 8 challenges Dick’s ideals and questions his commitment to his new role as a spy. Her rant reveals what she knows about Batman which in turn tells Dick that the planted information has been taken in. A secret call to Bruce to relay that information also nets a discovery — that Tanner has another son.
Grayson pursues a peaceful solution with Tanner who gives up the eyes because they won’t work on him. Tanner then decides to go visit his son.
If the issue had ended there, I wouldn’t have been disappointed. The rule book doesn’t say every issue should end with some sort of gratuitous violence, and it would have been a moral victory for Dick to complete his mission through a more civil approach.
And were it not for King’s direction as the rest of the issue plays out, I might have been turned off by the predictable exchange of gun fire that ensues.
Instead, I’m left stunned and reeling.
It’s the way the entire issue’s constructed that makes the ending work so well. With King taking the reins, you would of course expect a more technical spy story. During the first mission against Old Gun, King keeps time with radio chatter that pushes the tempo. The bubbles act like beats building tension in tandem with Mikel Janin’s incredible panels that convey a sense of motion and speed perfectly suited for a thriller.
The pulse of the issue ebbs and flows until the final scene when Agent 8 makes a surprise appearance and shoots Old Gun down. Mutual assured destruction completes the circle, and the silence as gravity takes over brings everything to a stark conclusion as Dick surveys the damage and legacy of the day’s actions. Things come to a standstill when Dick responds to Agent 1 calling out for Agent 37.
“That’s not my name,” he declares.
The manner in which the storytelling jettisons the landing gears as it stops the engines puts the issue into a free flight that ends with a dead stop. I didn’t get the impression I was being preached to, though I do have a very clear understanding of what Grayson feels about guns and why he never uses them. King’s scripts take a very factual approach that doesn’t just talk about gun violence — it finds a way to let Janin’s artwork do all the show after the telling.
With Jeromy Cox’s persuasive colors — the palette flips from brighter and more action-cinematic to a more subtle set when Grayson and Tanner meet at the school — the artwork fills in the blanks with a stark sort of shock. There’s no hint of glory or hubris as the two characters lay lifeless on earthen-tone backdrops. It is what it is, the artwork shows, and the facts are plain as day.
Throughout the issue, Dick tries his best to solve problems through communication and logic only to get run over by his associates who have a shoot-first mentality. As Nightwing, he worked alone — and I’m wondering how long before the former freelancer bucks his employer. It’s great to see the moral dilemmas played up as Grayson plays double-agent, and it’s evident that King and Seeley are playing up not only the lines Grayson has to walk, but the black and whites on either side of him.