Wednesday's New Things: Grayson

This is some kind of post-New 52 record-- two interesting DC comics in a three week span? Unlike John Romita Jr.'s stint on Superman, though, it's not the talent that's got my interest-- it's the character. I've liked Dick Grayson more or less since he became Batman, but I was never really interested in Nightwing. I'm too young to know Grayson as Robin, but Grayson as Batman had some juice; surely some fans of the character will take umbrage to this, but, separated from Bruce Wayne, he feels repetitious, perhaps even superfluous. This new Grayson series, though, takes Dick out of the spandex and into suit and jumpsuit world of espionage, which catches DC up with a move that Marvel made a decade ago. I would even go so far to say that the espionage comic is the great Marvel genre for that span, starting when Ed Brubaker took over Captain America in 2005, stretching through his entire run on the Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes iterations of that character, his associated work on Winter Soldier and Secret Avengers, the rest of the first volume of that latter books and then the two volumes that have been published since, Matt Fraction's run on Iron Man, Jonathan Hickman's S.H.I.E.L.D and Secret Warriors, the Civil War crossover and its aftermath, and the year-long Dark Reign crossover. That's not even to mention the current, and excellent, Black Widow series, or the inflections of the genre in other Marvel books, like the ongoing Original Sin crossover, Hickman's New Avengers, Al Ewing's Loki: Agent of Asgard and the overt references to James Bond in Fraction's absolutely label-defying Hawkeye. I don't read DC comics with enough regularity to know whether or not they've tried anything similar in the last ten years, but I can say that it certainly doesn't feel like they have, or that the attempts have been nearly so well received. 

Even if they have, though, looking at the preview and reading about the book, it seems like a lot of the elements here have been cribbed from some of the above series. Spanish artist Mikal Jenin's thin line and unusual panel sizes and combinations bear a passing resemblance to Phil Noto's Black Widow work, as do Jeremy Cox's colors, although the work is in both cases more standard issues than Noto's. Furthermore, the book's premise, with a recently caped hero partnering with a more established spy, reads a little like Winter Solider, although the comparison isn't one to one. None of this is to accuse any of the people involved, either Jenin, Cox, or writers Tim Seeley and Tom King with some kind of unoriginality, a suggestion that should always cause some eye rolling when we're talking about superhero comics. Good artists find things they like and then they take them. If Grayson is worthwhile, and it looks like it might be, it'll be because it has its own take on those ideas.

There's another interesting thing going on here, which is the story about the series in the Daily Beast. In some ways its your standard comics journalism written for a not-comics publication, but there's some unusual stuff here too. These pieces are often written about A-list characters, but Dick Grayson doesn't exactly fit that description except as Robin, which suggests something about the relationship that civilians have to legacy characters who have deep in-comics histories that aren't reflected on television or in the movies. The article also has this weirdo quote from King,
Comics work on a metaphorical level...People don’t go around punching each other in the face. We do that to sort of talk about how people fight with each other, and how they deal with each other.
which is a sort of goofy way of making a really astute point about superhero comics and maybe comics in general; work about the thing itself is rare, and maybe it would be worthwhile to think about why that is. Finally, I think its fascinating that more than a century into the history of the medium, people still need to be told what comics is, a fact that is sort of disheartening, but also heartening in that it means that we're not even close to the limit of what comics can do.

Quickly, two more books of note:

First, on the top of the this should be cool pile, from Joshua Hail Fialkov and Gabo, The Life After.

Second, from the annals of who is this book for?

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