Never on an empty stomach.
The insane dialogue really makes this book unique in ways that Bat Inc used to. You see, you can read it once and it will go over your head and then at a second glance, the beautiful canvas will reveal itself.
Seeley knows how to get inside everyone’s heads in a twisted fashion that can cause dilemmas in how to proceed when trying to review something like this.
Even when it fails, this book still charts new territory and for that only it needs to exist. Whether it is the maddening dialogue, the exotic characters and locales or just all around weirdness, Grayson is fast distinguishing itself from the rest of the pack in the stands.
And the artwork is so good that Janin deserves to be on more A-list books (not that I’m complaining because he’s doing work on two of the Bat books, one infrequently, and doing it well).
We first see a typical day at St. Hadrian’s Finishing School, where good posture is a must even when you’re target practicing with Deathstroke wood figures.
Matron Helena Bertinelli’s archery class is in session when a few appendages short Hood arrives and collapses in front of the figures (and Bertinelli narrowly manages to deflect an arrow aimed straight at the agent’s head).
Meanwhile, in his room, Dick resumes his interrupted conversation with Batman (who’s busy with a bunch of B-grade criminals) before leaving to recover a second ‘object’ in their ‘scavenger hunt’.
Midnighter on the other hand is growing impatient. His attempts to access Dick’s face fails and to add insult to injury, instead an embedded message recorded whenever someone attempts to decode a Spyral facial mask taunts him – leaving a broken screen.
We now see an extension of ‘who’ Midnighter is working with (while on absence from Stormwatch). The Gardener and her God Garden (love these fancy code names!) are introduced to us as she calms him down.
Midnighter’s abilities are given a run-down here as he mentions him every-possible-attack ability which enables him to simulate every possible scenario during a fight. Now that he’s had time to dwell on his fight with Dick (and the assorted nightmares that come with such an ability that he can’t switch on and off), he knows that Agent 37 will get a very deadly rematch.
Speaking of Agent 37, he meets Mr Minos (who has the only facial mask that is inaccessible even o the rest of Spyral) alongside Helena as they are tasked with Hood’s target as he was chasing down a meta bio-weapon called the ‘stomach’.
And the introduction of the Spyral-mobile! Don’t worry, it doesn’t look as ridiculous as it sounds – through I think the entire purpose to the creation of Spyral is to mock the capes and costumes in a way.
Grayson encounters a strange woman who is able to reach enhanced speeds but is blinded when Dick distracts her with his escrima sticks and then shoots a flare in front on her.
She escapes but Helena (who was investigating the disappearance of sheep nearby) joins up with him as they locate a bomb shelter where they locate human bones and colourfully costumed mannequins, concluding that their target, Dr Poppy Ashemoore, ate them using the ‘stomach’ implanted inside her.
Ashemoore attacks them and manages to bite a chunk out of Grayson before Helena offers her a job at Spyral. Dick isn’t having any of that and Bertinelli knocks him out, promising to let this one go and not report it to Minos.
Back at the school, Dick looks from afar as Helena recites the ‘virtues’ of a Hadrian’s woman – only the mission counts, not the morals.
Dr Netz extracts the ‘stomach’ and we learn that it’s origins may reside in the powers of one of the ‘gods’ that reside on Earth, even as the screen reveals that Spyral has managed to obtain the secret identity of the Flash.
This leads to a good emotional moments as Bruce and Dick reminisce over an excursion long ago, involving them and Barbara and Alfred (oh my god, that hideous toupee!). It’s a good memory of innocent days gone by.
The premise of this book (Dick Grayson as a spy) and the divided reception to Batman Incorporated may put many off this series. But if you’re one of those complaining about heroes never changing and comics staying the same, this is for you.
It’s cerebral, taunts your love of everything ‘super’ and still manages to be a love poem to the comic book history.
So, I give it 9.0 out of 10.
+Some intriguing characters
+Janin’s artwork is excellent
+Great final scene
+Innovative use of transitioning between panels
-Dialogue may get confusing sometimes