Grayson has been one of the best examples of using the fresh start the New 52 and DCYOU provided DC Comics to its full potential. Tom King and Tim Seeley have been able to reinvigorate one of DC’s most iconic characters with a new direction. After spending half a year on his own Dick Grayson is ready to rejoin the DC Universe. We saw our first glimpse of what the return will mean with Lex Luthor’s guest appearance in the previous issue. Will Dick Grayson’s return continue to hit rough patches or will it be smooth sailing? Let’s find out with Grayson #11.
Plot: Tim Seeley and Tom King
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Dick Grayson tells a bloodied Tiger to tell Helena Bertinelli who the Spyral traitor is. Tiger says “No.” Dick Grayson decides to finish Tiger off but before he does the real Dick Grayson appears out of nowhere.
Dick jokes that now that he has seen himself from behind that he doesn’t get what the fuss is all about. Dick then wonders if the fake is Clayface. The fake attacks Dick, who is easily able to block all the attacks.
As the fight progresses Dick is able to hurt the fake while joking around who he thinks it is, ranging from Killer Croc to Wonder Woman. The two end up locking up and Dick wonders if that is the moment they should kiss. This catches the fake off-guard which gives Dick the opportunity to deliver a headbutt.
The fake mentions both Barbara and Starfire’s name which shocks Dick. This gives the fake an opening to knock the wind out of Dick. This allows the fake to gain the upper hand in the fight and begins taunting Dick over his constant change in identities over the years.
Dick gets tired of all the taunting and asks the fake who they really are. The fake continues to mock Dick for his lack of detective skills since their identity should be obvious. The fake then calls Dick out for always having a quip, even asking what he joked about when Jason and Damien died, Barbara got shot and at his own funeral. The fake finishes his rant by asking about the death of Agent 8.
Dick charges at the fake but is stopped when the fake turns Dick’s own Hypnos tech against him. The fake forces Dick to attack Tiger and mocks Dick for not knowing all about Hypnos. The fake then says the trigger word that knocks Dick out.
Tiger tells the fake that he is not as weak as Dick. He then proceeds to remove the Hypnos tech from his eyes. Now with bloodied eyes after removing his Hypnos tech, Tiger is able to see that the fake is Alia, otherwise known as Agent 8. Alia tells Tiger that they have a lot to talk about.
Sometime later Tiger reports to Helena that the fake Dick Grayson was Maxwell Lord from Checkmate. This information pisses Helena off because now she believes Checkmate was trying to have Spyral destroy themselves from within. Tiger says that he tried to fight “Lord” but was to injured from Dick’s attack to fight back. Helena tells Tiger that it is time to move on and move into attack mode against Checkmate.
Dick disagrees and tells Helena that he can’t do this anymore. Helena wonders what he is talking about. Dick tells Helena that he is done playing games and quits being a spy for Spyral.
The next morning Dick contacts the Batcave to tell Bruce his mission is over. Even though Bruce does not answer Dick still leaves a message in the Batcave that he is coming home.
Elsewhere, Alia tells Doctor Netz that she is confident that Tiger will blame Lord and Checkmate and that Spyral will never know what she did to drive Dick out of the organization. Netz compliments Alia on her ability to adjust to Dick’s surprise presence and still accomplish her mission. Netz then talks about how she and her sister, Agent Zero, would fight as kids and that it has not changed. End of issue.
The Good: The strength of Grayson #11 is its confidence in what kind of series it wants to be. Even though Dick is not wearing a mask anymore Tom King and Tim Seeley never go away from his heroic personality. Even after “dying” Dick is still maintaining his lighthearted personality while in battle. That sense of identity helps keep the issue moving forward until the very end.
What particularly stands out in Grayson #11 is how King and Seeley use Dick’s own personality against him. Even though he has had his serious moments Dick hasn’t deviated from who he is. Throughout this series we have seen Dick maintain the same type of personality he had as Nightwing. That lighthearted personality has helped Dick separate himself from the other members of the BatFamily, which tends to fall closer to Bruce Wayne’s personality.
While that has been something that has helped Dick stand out it can also prove to be a weakness. King and Seeley showed this chinks in Dick’s armor as Alia, as the fake Dick Grayson, was able to turn his tendencies against him. Because for as much as Dick dominated the fight during the first half of the issue he never went for a finishing strike. Most of the blows that Dick delivered were nothing more than a way for him to continue to mock his opponent.
This in turn allowed Alia time to get into Dick’s head by revealing specific parts of his history to take him of his game. Specifically calling out Dick’s past relationship with Barbara and Starfire was particularly smart. These are two relationships that hit close to home with how they’ve ended. Dick’s reaction was also a good way for Seeley and King to show readers that aren’t familiar with these relationships how much of an impact they have to Dick’s history.
Similarly, I enjoyed how Alia followed this up by calling Dick out for having had several identities over the course of his career. It once again calls out the fact that Dick has never been able to let go off his circus lifestyle. With Dick having such a history of changing his identity and base of operation it puts into question if he should return to Gotham and his Nightwing identity permanently. Because given his history, being a globetrotting super spy may just be the perfect job for someone like Dick Grayson.
At the same time, all of these mental games that Alia played with both Dick and Tiger was a perfect way to build her up as one of the big villains for this series. Because in terms of fighting skills it’s clear that she is not at Dick or Tiger’s level but she doesn’t have to be. The psychology behind her actions showed that she is someone that can defeat you with her words.
It was also a nice touch by Seeley and King to throughout the “Wing-Knight” reference to clue us into the fake Dick Grayson’s identity. Wing-Knight was the name Alia called Dick after he talked about his past as Nightwing with her during her first appearance way back in Grayson #3 where she supposebly died. These types of callbacks help show the reader that Seeley and King have long-term plans for this series and that we should be paying to all of the small details.
Speaking of the small details, I love the fact that the real traitor in Spyral is Frau Netz. Seeley and King did a great job in establishing the sibling rivalry between Kathy Kane, also known as Agent 0, and Frau. The backstory that they gave us at the end builds on a sense of tension as there is now some family drama behind what Dick has to deal with. This also sets the stage for the rarely seen Kathy Kane to become involved in this series moving forward.
Through all of these developments the supporting character I am most interested to see deal with this is Helena Bertinelli. Helena has been put in a tough spot as she is already facing a challenge that can destroy the organization she just started leading. Now with Dick gone and Tiger lying to her about Alia’s involvement you have to wonder what she is will be able to do and who she can trust.
As always, Mikel Janin provides consistently smooth looking artwork. Janin’s style fits perfectly with the world of espionage that Dick Grayson has become involved in. The entire look of this book makes you feel like your reading DC’s version of James Bond. The way Janin shows off the abilities of Hypnos tech added to how dangerous it can be to the person it is used against.
The Bad: The one thing that didn’t click with me too much is Alia and Tiger’s relationship. We haven’t seen too much of the history behind these characters that Tiger’s shock and compliance with Alia’s treachery didn’t have the effect it should’ve. To make Tiger’s lie even more effective we need to some sort of backstory that sheds light on their greater history.
Overall: Grayson #11 accomplished its job of setting the stage for Dick Grayson’s return to the DC Universe proper. This is something that we’ve been waiting to see since Forever Evil and now we are about to get. At the same time, there was plenty done in the process that gives this series many more stories to tell beyond Dick’s return to Gotham City. Hopefully all of this leads to Dick’s life in Gotham and Spyral merging at some point in the future.