Tim Seeley and Tom King (W)
Mikel Janin and Jeremy Cox (A)
TW: sexual harrassment, rape
I don’t mind coming in “in media res.” That’s a grabby way to start a story.
I don’t mind the splash page flashback that takes us quickie-like across Dick Grayson’s life from Boy Wonder Robin, to Nightwing, to dead, with gloomy, brooding, looming Batman standing over his body. I knew Dick had been presumed dead, but that recap is probably necessary for a new title.
I’m a little confused and ambivalent about the apparent new character of color who turned out to be Helena (Huntress) Bertinelli with a racelift — and who now seems to be the new front runner for Dick’s affection, meaning the newly “fun-fashion-flirty” Batgirl is out of the running.
I’m completely relieved that “blond Dick” turned out to have been a temporary disguise. That was a level of wrong rivaled only by “blond Remy with a Perm” in the Marvel Ultimate universe. I have never been so happy to see a wig flying away into the wind.
So, the first issue of Dick’s new title, Grayson, would seem at first blush not so bad, huh?
Sadly, that would be a mistaken first impression.
Dick’s Orient Express type adventure requires him to show off his multilingual skills — so far, so good. We get to see him doing his acrobatic, sexy, Flying Grayson thing. No problem. The acrobatic sexy thing is a Dick Grayson hallmark. We get to see him keep his disdain for guns.
However, once Dick’s aboard the train, he sexually harasses a woman in order to drug her as part of his disguise. NOT Cool. Not cool at all. As if this weren’t bad enough, he adds ethnic stereotypes into his banter.
This is the Dick Grayson who was raped on a rooftop by Tarantula in a previous Nightwing title. This is the Dick Grayson who dated both Barbara (Batgirl, Oracle) Gordon and Starfire. This is also the Dick Grayson who is close friends with Donna Troy. Dick is the man whom Superman himself once called the most trusted person in the superhero community. Is it lazy writing — or perhaps moreso the persistently unsettling vibe of the New 52 — to have Dick Grayson, raised and trained by the greatest detective in the world, leader of multiple teams of Titans, unable to come up with a way of getting the drug into his target without being sleazy and disgusting about it?
I really, really want to say this was done unintentionally. But it’s hard to come up with a rationalization for why a writer would have the hero of the book — even if he’s a grey hat as Dick seems to be while working for Spyral — doing something so nasty. It doesn’t even make sense within the context of his spy-guy persona. If he is trying to get away with something, ideally he should hope to avoid leaving any lasting impressions on his targets. Acting like a slimepuppy is an excellent method to ensure a woman remembers a man she doesn’t want to encounter again!
It flies in the face of DC’s recent and much ballyhooed profession to court female readers with the new, lighter, “less grim” Batgirl. It comes across as “Hey, girls, look over here at this… while we still cater to the boys and propagate oppressive behaviour over there.”
At least we get a little bit of genuine Grayson integrity when Dick refuses, until pushed into a corner, to use the Spyral drug “hypnos” (a mind control agent) on his target. The writer shows us a hint of the Dick Grayson who doesn’t like doing people dirty, and who relies on his natural emotional intelligence and knack for reading body language instead.
We also see Dick going against the Midnighter (wait, the Midnighter?! from the Authority?! In Mainstream DCU?) and getting flirted with while they traded blows. So, he gets away from one Batman to end up fighting with a more vicious Batman-alike? Ooookaaaayyy. As Dick points out, the Midnighter’s not normally one prone to battle prattle; nor is he normally flirtatious. If he speaks at all, the Midnigher’s dialogue is usually arrogant posturing about how the fight was over before it started. I guess this is the writer’s way of letting us know Midnighter is gay? Plus, although Dick eventually did use Hypnos on his target, the Midnighter somehow inexplicably recognizes that Dick has a Hypnos implant to make it so his face cannot be remembered; which might explain why Dick went over the top — the other woman won’t remember anything but the harassment? That’s not much of an improvement.
The mission itself is hazy: apparently the hapless chubby, sweaty Russian dude they sent Dick after was a hot target for a number of the DCU’s spy type agencies. The woman Dick harassed to take out of play was also one such. To add insult to injury, Helena makes a comment about her bosom size as part of a barb. Because strong female characters take cheap appearance-based shots at each other like high school mean girls? I understand Bertinelli is usually an anti-hero type, but kicking an enemy when she’s down?
Despite my many complaints about the writing, I do love the art. The art team depicts the colors with mild muted tones for backgrounds — vivid, sharp colors for action that depict Dick as moving almost superhumanly fast, and retroesque swirly hues for when drugs or Hypnos are invoked. They show us Dick the acrobat, and the art team seems well aware that Dick is a much-appreciated female gaze character. Not only do we get a lovely beefcake shot near the end, we get several closeup of Dick’s earnest and emotive eyes.
Summing up, great art, but the writing and plotting are going to need to do better to make this a book worth picking up regularly. I will give it the usual five-issue trial, and because I have loved Dick Grayson since I was a little girl, I will fervently hope that it steps up in quality of writing in future issues.