DC Sketch Cover Madness: Grayson No. 1!

Ah...if only.

Ah…if only.

In an unrelated point…I stared at the 800th Issue for so long, I didn’t notice a typo in the digital lettering! Sigh. all fixed now, with a coloring change that I like. Yay!

So…it takes a while to explain the premise of Grayson, DC’s newest offering. Richard John “Dick” Grayson is a fictional character, a superhero that appears in comic books published by DC Comics. Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger and illustrator Jerry Robinson, he first appeared in Detective Comics #38 in April 1940. The character was first introduced in Detective Comics #38 (1940) by Batman creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Robin’s debut was an effort to make Batman a lighter, more sympathetic character. DC Comics also thought a teenaged superhero would appeal to young readers, being an effective audience surrogate. The name “Robin, The Boy Wonder” and the medieval look of the original costume are inspired by the legendary hero Robin Hood, as well as the red-breasted American Robin, which parallels the “winged” motif of Batman.

Following so far? Good. I’m keeping this as short as possible. Short form of the above…there have been a bunch of Robin’s, he was the first one.

In pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity, the maturing Dick Grayson grows weary of his role as Batman’s young sidekick. He renames himself Nightwing, recalling his adventure in the Kryptonian city of Kandor (the one on Superman’s desk), where he and Batman meet the local hero of the same name.

In the “Prodigal” story arc, Bruce Wayne, still recovering from his broken back, asks a reluctant Dick to substitute for him as Batman for a time. You know, like he should have during Knightfall, instead of asking a nutcase altar boy that he met like ten minutes beforehand. Since he had been grooming Dick to be a superhero since he was an adolescent…

In 1996, following the success of the miniseries, DC Comics launched a monthly solo series featuring Nightwing (written by Chuck Dixon, with art by Scott McDaniel), in which he patrols Gotham City’s neighboring municipality of Blüdhaven. So…New Jersey. He patrols New Jersey.

Following the events of Batman’s apparent death during the Final Crisis, Nightwing has closed down shop in New York so as to return to Gotham, where after the events of “Battle for the Cowl”, he assumes the identity of Batman, with Damian, Bruce Wayne’s biological son, as the new Robin.

The new team of Batman and Robin is the focus of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s Batman and Robin series. Their dynamic reverses the classic dynamic of Bruce and Dick, by having a lighter and friendlier Batman paired with a more intense and dark Robin. Over time, Dick’s experience as the Dark Knight would harden his personality as his mentor.

During this period, Dick Grayson as Batman also features as a member of the Justice League in a short-lived run by writer James Robinson.

So…Dick Grayson is Nightwing, pictured above, and when he isn’t doing that, the stand in Batman. The only sidekick to really consistently hang around the A-list, with the exception of pre-New 52 Wally West (Kid Flash).

His New 52 Storyline is later abruptly ended by Nightwing’s role in a larger company-wide crossover event. After the Crime Syndicate invade Earth Prime at the conclusion of the “Trinity War” Justice League storyline, and defeat the Justice League, the DC crossover story Forever Evil depicts Nightwing’s capture by the Crime Syndicate, who expose his secret identity to the world. Following their escape from the Syndicate, Batman and Catwoman decide to rescue him. He then is invited by Owlman to help take down the Crime Syndicate, which he accepts. Nightwing is severely beaten by Ultraman and is attached to a device from a parallel world known as the Murder Machine, which is controlled by his heart rate and is reportedly impossible to escape from alive. When Batman and Lex Luthor arrive to free him, Lex stops his heart in order to fool the system so he can disarm it. The Nightwing title concludes in April at issue No. 30, and has been replaced with a new title, Grayson, which depicts Dick having given up his life as Nightwing and going undercover as an agent of the Spyral organisation where the former Batwoman Kathy Kane works.

Wow. That was a lot. Despite keeping it short and sketchy.

So…Grayson No. 1 reinvents Nightwing, the former Robin, as a superspy. Was it any good? It was okay…I read it thinking that it was trying really hard to be the Winter Soldier, or cleverly James Bondish in a superhero setting. Hannibal Tabu of the Buy Pile had this to say:

“Grayson” #1 was a rock solid take on the intelligence community in a superhuman world. Dick Grayson plays part Sydney Bristow (complete with wig) and part, well, Nightwing using some complex acrobatics and the Bat’s training to square off with a Wildstorm all-star (inexplicably winning) with some eye catching artwork and setting-appropriate technology. A cute start that has the potential for more.

Well…that’s a pretty solid review, and generally across the web the book has been pretty solidly received. The art, I think, reflects the problem that I had with the book. It wasn’t a failure of plot, or execution, it was a failure in my own expectations.

I think of Nightwing as a Teen Titans character, as a Batman family character. The book removes him from his ensemble casts, and furthermore, removes him from the generally positive world view that he embodies. His entire first role was to “lighten up” Batman. Teen Titans had very 1980’s superteen related problems. although there were conflicts, the basic tone was really upbeat. Starfire was Dick’s Girlfriend, he used to flirt with Wonder Girl and Batgirl, he had a fling with the Huntress. Sort of “What If…Bruce Wayne had all that money, all those looks, and a personality?” What if he were actually FUN?

Although the Grayson book has a whole lot going on in it, it is anything but lighthearted, anything but fun. It’s Dick Grayson not being able to trust anyone, and by the end of it, we see that his bosses know who Batman is. So…they clearly know who he is, and that he is infiltrating their organization. A cool concept, but not quite what I was expecting from a book I thought was going to be Nightwing without the mask.

And again, very much the root of my variant sketch cover. There, the conflict is simple. Who knows what the Nightwing kissing booth is raising money for, but the fact of the matter is, it’s all in good fun. The only conflict being K’ory’s jealousy, for which she has that giant sack of money. Simple problem, simple solution.

Comics used to be like that.

Next Issue: Magic..the Scattering!

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