Grayson Annual #2
Written by: Tom King and Tim Seeley
Art by: Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, and Jeromy Cox
I know what you’re going to say. “But Patrick, you said comic book annuals are as entertaining as trying to cut through a piece of wood with a slightly harder piece of wood? Why on Earth would you review ‘Grayson Annual #2’?” Let me drop a bombshell on you right now, annuals can be good. What? I know, shocked the Hell out of me as well. But as I skimmed this week’s (slim) selection of books, my eyes were inexorably drawn to Grayson because last week Dick Grayson came back to Gotham and I forgot to review it. And as I perused the pages I found myself enthralled—and not simply by Dick’s devilish smirk and messy hair, the story was actually compelling and the action was immense. Which begs the question, what did “Grayson Annual #2” do right that everyone else gets so wrong?
To answer this we have to look at what is usually done for an annual. Usually a creative team is assigned which is completely different from the creative team on the main series. They are then told they aren’t allowed to touch ANYTHING! So what we get is a book that’s schizophrenic in tone from the main series that completely ignores the ongoing turmoil and the story always ties itself up in a neat bow without any residuals or consequences. This is boring. So what did this annual do different?
Well for one, the entire creative team from the main series is on this book with Tom King and Tim Seeley co-writing the book and Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, and Jeromy Cox creating some beautiful panels for the book. So there’s no tone shift or jarring and unfamiliar art; the story fits in with continuity seamlessly. And that’s another thing, because King and Seeley wrote this and the main book they know how to fit it into the continuity without breaking the flow of events in the DC universe. In the main book Nightwing is coming back from the “Dead” after a year away and in this annual he is getting ready to go back under once more. So really this is more of an expansion on a story we’re already familiar with.
The story of this book actually starts years ago, back when Dick was still a Robin and working under Batman. It’s a typical night in Gotham, and by that I mean everything is exploding and the police are about to be brutally massacred by a criminally insane monster, in this case Blockbuster. Now Blockbuster is way too much for the Dark Knight and his ward to handle, even if they had all the Bat-a-rangs in the Batcave. Instead, the two set up a trap sprung by none other than the Man of Steel himself, Superman. And while Dick congratulates Supes on a good capture, Batman is quick to be the Gloomy Gus and cast suspicion on the alien hero. Fast forward a few years and Dick is saying goodbye to the city once more as he has to go back undercover in Spyral.
There’s a humorous mix-up as Superman saves Dick from “Suicide” because we all know we get a good chuckle from a suicide joke, and Superman realizes who he just saved. There’s a touching moment when Superman realizes that Dick Grayson isn’t dead and the joy washes over him. The love that he shows Nightwing is a bright spot in the comic—or it would have been if this wasn’t based on the New 52 universe. Remember, when DC rebooted continuity these two hardly interacted with each other. It felt creepy, like if Michael Jackson came back to life and camped out in my room playing Yahtzee for a week straight.
So maybe the book has a blemish or two, but on the whole the book is fantastic. Action in this book is incredible as Dick and Clark fight off a gang of Uber assassins, explosions and bike chases abound. Though at the center of this book is an emotional core that feels faked. There’s an issue of “Invincible” where Mark Grayson finds his father with a whole new life on an alien planet. This is the man that tried to overthrow Earth, who almost beat Mark to death, and here he was with a new wife and son. Mark felt so betrayed and yet there was a glimmer of happiness. This was the man that raised him and his father felt genuine regret for his transgressions. It was a reunion under duress—emotionally and physically because other Viltrumites quickly invaded and made a mess of things. But the core was that these two individuals needed to be together again, if only to rip them apart once more to break my poor fanboy heart.