This book really stands out among the other superhero comics alongside it, and I mean that in the best way possible.
But very often, it gets really infuriating when it takes certain liberties with both the flow of storytelling and the situations it places the characters in. It’s a thin line it treads and more often than not, it succeeds.
Tom King and Tim Seeley handle this deftly, but sometimes their exuberance get the better of them - no more prominent than the disorienting opening which puts us in a frantic scenario without any scene or subtly of build-up.
Desert would be a big motif here as per one of the few on-the-mark covers I’ve seen, and Mike Janin manages to make it a character by itself as it tests the resolves of the players, twisting and turning them until only a shadow remains.
When I first opened the book, the first thought that struck me was – what the hell did I miss?
Apparently, Dick and Helena were transporting one of the many ‘organ meta-humans’ to SPYRAL when her pregnancy proved late stage – compounded by Midnighter crashing into their helicopter over an enormous desert.
But that is all taken as obvious and is not reader-friendly at all. You have to backtrack by yourself and plot the course that led the characters here. While that does make you involved in the story beyond just as a reader, it may seriously annoy many who want a linear plot.
Anyway, the fact that both are heroes now playing a dangerous spy game is prominent here as we see that saving the baby and the woman is above everything else. Problem is the helicopter crashes, and as we learn from Grayson’s agonized voice – the mother is dead but the baby is alive.
Helena, Dick and Midnighter are stranded in a desert that would take more days to cover than they could ever fathom. It’s interesting to see three very human participants in such a situation in the DC universe, making me thing King had more involvement in this issue than most I’ve read – given Superman or Wonder Woman would have treated this as a minor sprint.
This uneasy alliance is tested when Midnighter starts to persuade Dick, who has lost his Hyphnos mask through Midnighter’s actions, to give the baby over to him –saying that as he can now see his face, his ability gives him the upper hand if they have to fight.
Helena is able to stop him but, with a deep wound sustained earlier, is left behind when she cannot continue anymore and refuses the water being kept for the baby. Dick leaves her behind with his shirt as a shade against the harsh sun.
The paneling really emphasizes the stress and agony the two heroes are suffering, as we’re treated to an unending background with no sign of end. Finally, Midnighter collapses on the seventh day – unable to comprehend how Dick is still able to carry on despite the probability being next to nil according to him.
Dick, who now sports a beard and ragged look, tries to keep himself going by telling the baby of a day long lost to the sands of time when he was Robin and trying to survive a flora attack alongside Batman (most likely Poison Ivy).
Apparently, he goaded one of Ivy’s plant monsters to come towards them so it could fall into a ditch – the plan succeeded but one of the rocks it threw left him unconscious.
This is a revelation giving us a look into what Dick is going through now. All through life, he’s striven to be ‘free’ – as an acrobat, as Robin and as Nightwing.
But now, it’s all double-lives, dead people and a helplessness that he can’t overcome – and a carefree life he wants to return to but can’t.
Ultimately, he does faints and a local couple takes the baby in – the succeeding images relating to the baby strongly parallel Superman’s own upbringing.
We see a week later than Helena and Dick are back at SPYRAL base, apparently having told Minos that the baby died in the helicopter crash.
Despite an ambitious but flawed opening, Grayson continues to be a special kind of eccentric as it juggles interesting scenarios and character interactions – alongwith Janin providing some masterful visuals.
Seeley and King are doing something special and I hope this book retains its uniqueness.
So, I give it 8.5 out of 10.
+Some great character interactions
+Plays on the past and present theme very well
+Provides some great insight into Dick’s current scenario
+Forces the reader to be an active participant in the story
-Sudden opening is a little too ambitious