Tag Archives: Grayson (Series)

A We Are Robin #7 Review – Middle Child Syndrome

We Are Robin #7 coverTITLE: We Are Robin #7
AUTHOR: Lee Bermejo
PENCILLER: Carmine Di Giandomencio. Cover by Jorge Corona.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: December 16, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I really wish they’d stop lumping Jason Todd and Tim Drake together. It’s happening in Batman & Robin Eternal, and now it’s happening in Robin War.

I think I get the how and the why of it. Dick Grayson is the original Robin, and Damian Wayne is the current Robin. So Jason and Tim are left in an awkward “middle child” position. There’s not necessarily enough time to focus on them individually while still keeping the plot going, so writers put them together. To an extent that makes sense. They have such conflicting personalities that they work as a bickering duo. But they both have such rich histories that it’s a shame to see them lumped together merely by default. Hell, in this issue they’re lumped together to try and kill each other!

Yes, in part four of Robin War, Red Hood and Red Robin are pitted against each other by the Court of Owls in a fight to the death, in an attempt to decide who the new “Gray Son” is. But Jason and Tim have a few tricks up their sleeves. Meanwhile, Dick Grayson and Batman (Jim Gordon) search for the truth about Councilwoman Noctua, creator of the “Robin Laws.”

We Are Robin #7, Red Robin, Red HoodThe fight between Tim and Jason isn’t anything special, and it more or less goes the way you think it will. You’d think the Court would have had the foresight that two young, athletic guys who aren’t restrained in any way would end up doing what they did. Also, Carmine Di Giandomencio does what I talked about in the Grayson #15 review, and puts facial features on Red Hood’s helmet. That never ceases to be obnoxious.

Sadly, while some of Di Giandomencio’s layouts are interesting, his art doesn’t do it for me here. It’s not that he’s bad at what he does. It’ s more that what he does looks awkward compared to the art we’ve seen in previous installments, particularly Mikel Janin’s work in Grayson. Characters’ faces look awkward at times, as does their body language. This is particularly true when we get to the scene in the prison. There are a few panels where Damian looks more twisted and insane than observant and determined.

The scene with Grayson and Gordon is okay. But there were a couple of things that struck me. On page 3, there are a pair of panels that show Gordon catching a dangling Grayson after he slips climbing up a building. Firstly, I find it odd that Dick would make such a rookie mistake. Secondly, is Gordon strong enough to hold Dick’s entire body weight? My guess would be no.

We Are Robin #7, Dick Grayson, Jim GordonOddly enough, the idea of Gordon, and the entire world knowing Dick Grayson was Robin/Nightwing is taking some getting used to. Until recently, Dick was pretty isolated in the pages of Grayson. But now that he’s moving beyond Spyral, we’re starting to see more ramifications from what happened in Forever Evil. I still don’t quite understand how the world knowing about Dick’s superheroing doesn’t lead back to Bruce Wayne being Batman. If you remember Batman #1, there’s a big portrait of Bruce, Dick, Tim, Damian, and Alfred in Wayne Manor. If you see that painting knowing Dick’s identity, it’s not that hard to put the pieces together, isn’t it? Especially when the general public knows that Bruce has funded Batman’s activities.

In any event, this issue gives us a brief conversation between Dick and Jim about the ethical nature of letting a youngster work with Batman, and how Gordon justified letting it happen. He even has a couple of lines about child soldiers overseas, and boys organizing to fight the Nazis in Poland. My guess is Lee Bermejo put this stuff in to suggest a kind of real-life basis for the Robin concept. It’s an interesting idea, but it doesn’t cast either Dick or Gordon in a different light, or offer any sort of insight. It’s just sort of there in the middle of the issue.

We Are Robin #7, image 3Also, late in the book somebody in the Robin street crew calls Red Robin “the one with the goofy wings.” It’s always cool when the characters say what you’re thinking as a reader. For that matter, something you’ve been thinking since the damn New 52 started…

Sadly, We Are Robin #7 is largely a step down from its predecessors. The various Robins escaping from their cages felt somewhat anticlimactic, though the cliffhanger does succeed in wetting your appetite for the next installment. I can’t say I’ve been overly thrilled with the body of Robin War thus far. There’s been too much emphasis on this “Gray Son” stuff, which I’ve always felt was rather stupid. Gazing at the solicitations for upcoming issues, my hopes aren’t that high. I’m trying to be optimistic that something cool will happen near the finale, as Tom King is writing Robin War #2, and he’s a pretty damn good writer.

Image 1 from gamespot.com. Images 2 and 3 from adventuresinpoortaste.com.

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A Grayson #15 Revew – “Being a Robin”

Grayson #12TITLE: Grayson #15
AUTHOR: Tom King, Tim Seeley
PENCILLER: Mikel Janin
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: December 9, 2015

***Need to catch up? Check out our look at Robin War #1.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

What does an event crossover like Robin War need to get right in order to be successful? What’s a central idea that they have to really nail? What’s the entire damn story built around?

The answer is: The concept of Robin. And after Grayson #15, I’m not sure if they got that right or not.

The “Robin Laws” are in effect, and anyone who might be construed as a member of the Robin movement is outlawed in Gotham. Now Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and Damian Wayne have taken all the members of this street crew underground for training. But which of these so-called Robins really have what it takes? And what happens when the GCPD turns up the heat?

Grayson #15, 2015, Mikel Janin, page 2Let’s talk about Robin, and a recurring device Tim Seeley and Tom King use in this issue, and this concept of “being a Robin.”

Early in the issue, we see Dick ultimately take responsibility for the Robin street gang, as he was the first Robin. I like that idea, and I wish they’d expanded on it a bit more. The thing about Robin, is that both in-story and behind the scenes, he wasn’t designed to be a “legacy character.” He wasn’t created with the idea of the mantle being passed from youngster to youngster. Robin is Dick’s creation, and it had become so well known and so identifiable with Batman, it was inherited by Jason, Tim, and Damian.

But when you look at how Robin is talked about in this issue, it doesn’t come off that way. As Dick and the various Robins are training with Duke Thomas and the various Gotham kids, each of them recite a little verbal essay about being Robin. Each of them is to the effect of: “Batman once told me being a Robin is about ______.” What I object to about that is the verbage “being a Robin” as opposed to “being Robin.” That one letter changes a lot. It’s almost as Batman is a knight of some kind, and Dick and the others were all squires, serving as apprentices until they graduated to knighthood. Even DC has said, seemingly in jest, that Robin is an “internship program.”

Point blank, that’s a really stupid idea.

Grayson #15, Mikel Janin, Robin WarTo be fair, Seeley and King didn’t create it. It’s been around since the New 52 began. Even in Red Hood and the Outlaws #0, which shows us Jason Todd’s New 52 origin story, Alfred refers to the Robin identity as “an opening in [Batman’s] operation.” Why they decided to suck all the humanity out of Robin is anybody’s guess…

Mind you, I really enjoy We Are Robin, and appreciate the notion of a group of kids inspired by Robin. But what good is that if you suck so much of the depth out of the root concept?

In any event, despite a certain lack of depth, the scenes between Dick and Duke Thomas are interesting. Their backgrounds are very different, but they’re both natural leaders. It evokes thoughts of Duke one day graduating to become one of Batman’s partners. But I’d hate to see him simply become another one of the pack.

Seeing Mikel Janin draw the We Are Robin cast is a big thrill. The art on that book is really nice, as is Greg Capullo’s rendering of Duke in Batman. But the photo realism of Janin’s style is a welcome break. The layout of page 2 with the multiple face shots (shown above) adds a certain aura of this being about real kids from a real place. I also appreciate the fact that he draws The Red Hood’s mask as an actual helmet, with no vague facial features present. Other artists should take note. He even manages to make that awful Red Robin costume look halfway decent. We even get a nice take off of the classic Batman #9 cover by Dick Sprang. Awesome stuff.

Grayson #15, Mikel janinYou’d think an event comic based around the legacy of Robin would want to grant the character a little more depth. There’s still some potential in Robin War, but the more they dwell on this “Gray Son” stuff with the Court of Owls, the less hope I have. I was trying to forget all that stuff ever happened…

Images 1 and 2 from adventuresinpoortaste.com. Image 3 from blacknerdproblems.com.

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A Batgirl #45 Review – Dick Grayson: Wedding Crasher

Batgirl #45TITLE: Batgirl #45
AUTHORS: Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart
PENCILLER: Babs Tarr
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: October 28, 2015

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead for Batgirl #45.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m a big fan of Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson as a couple. I was as stoked as anybody when DC let Gail Simone work with them again during Convergence. That being said, the Batgirl team does real justice to Barbara by not putting her back with Dick in this issue.

There’s no supervillain in Batgirl #45, and no real crisis for Babs to overcome. Instead, we find ourselves at the wedding of her friend Alysia. Our herioine is entrusted with keeping the ring safe for the bride. But when Dick shows up before the festivities and playfully swipes the ring, things get complicated.

***For the events leading up to this issue, check out Grayson #1, Batgirl Annual #3 and Grayson #12.***

Batgirl #45, Dick Grayson, Babs TarrIt would have been very easy to put Barbara with Dick. That option is always going to be there, and it’s always going to work. But that’s not what happens here. In this issue, Dick is actually positioned as the antagonist. It’s one of the few times in this era of “Dick Grayson, sexy super-spy” that we’re put in a position to not like him. He’s not malicious or cruel at all, but he’s clearly in the wrong. It’s surreal, but it’s done in the interest of playing up Barbara’s confidence and independence. As readers, we already knew she had those qualities. But this issue accents them wonderfully.

Simply put, Barbara stands up for herself when Dick tries to insert himself into her life romantically. She takes him to task for interrupting this special day, and that he must face the consequences of faking his own death, and what that did to the people he cares about. What makes this such a strong moment is that she’s right, and we admire her for being brave enough to put Dick in his place. It’s something he needed to hear, from the character perhaps best qualified to tell him.

Barbara’s behavior in the early part of this issue is also very true to her character. She essentially becomes the Miss Fix-It of the wedding party, and literally pulls out a “Wedding Day Survival Kit.” Not only does this work with Barbara’s personality, but having been to a whopping three weddings this month, I can tell you firsthand that every bride wants a character like that around.

Batgirl #45, Babs Tarr, wedding survival kitFrom an artistic standpoint, Tarr gets to be more flowery and formal in this issue than any she’s done so far. Her work, paired with colorist Serge LaPointe’s lavenders and pinks definitely give this issue a visual uniqueness. Tarr’s rendering of Dick Grayson is also impossibly hunky, and a great representation of the temptation Barbara feels to cave in and be with Dick.

The issue ends with a mysterious teaser, likely about the next villain Batgirl will take on. Solicitations indicate Babs’ mind may be failing her, and The Spoiler will be involved. If how they interacted in Batgirl Annual #3 is any indication, things will continue to be fun going forward. And considering how fun this series has been since Fletcher, Stewart, and Tarr took over, what more can we ask?

Image 1 from newsarama.com. Image 2 from popoptiq.com.

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A Grayson #12 Review – A Hero’s Homecoming

Grayson #12 (2015)TITLE: Grayson #12
AUTHORS: Tim Seeley, Tom King
PENCILLER: Mikel Janin
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: September 23, 2015

***Unfamiliar with Grayson? Check out our review of the very first issue!***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Full disclosure: I’ve been absent for the past few issues of Grayson. That’s not to say the series has necessarily taken a downturn. But lately, the arrival of certain other books (Secret Wars, We Are Robin, Black Canary), pushed it down the priority list.

This issue, however, merited a look. After deceiving the world into thinking Dick Grayson/Nightwing died during the events of Forever Evil, Dick returns to Gotham City to come clean to his surrogate family. This includes the amnesiac Bruce Wayne, who as Batman, was the one who sent Dick to infiltrate Spyral in the first place. And speaking of Spyral, they’re not going to let Agent 37 leave without a fight.

Grayson #12, Mikel Janin, Bruce WayneSeeley, King, and Janin use a unique device in this issue. Each time Dick reunites with someone, we get a splash page with a black background and various pieces of actual dialogue from the 75-year history of Batman’s world. Naturally, they correspond with Dick’s relation to that character. This not only gives the reader a very real sense of what the dynamic was between Dick and the character in question, but it’s a fitting substitute for the repeated and redundant “You’re alive!” moments we might have seen under a different creative team. It’s also extremely cool that actual dialogue is used. These quotes can actually be traced back to specific issues. You certainly can’t say effort wasn’t made in terms of research.

The device works best with Bruce, who due to events in Batman, has no memories of his time in the costume. The original Dynamic Duo look like a distant memory here, which is fairly sad. But the Grayson team makes good use of its time in the Snyder/Capullo sandbox, particularly when Dick has to protect his former partner, using the very skills Bruce taught him years ago!

The reunion between Dick and Damian is the only one that bucks the “You’re alive!” moment pattern. Apparently, Dick had no idea Damian had been resurrected. From an in-story perspective, that’s really weird. Dick knew Bruce was trying to bring Damian back. He even made a brief appearance in the Robin Rises story. How could he not have known? Is Dick feigning surprise for some reason?

Birds of Prey #8, 1999, Greg Land, Nightwing, OracleWith the splash page/quotes device, this issue harkens back to the pre-New 52 continuity in a way that still maintains a certain fluidity. But surprisingly, Seeley and King harken back to something very specific in the reunion between Dick and Barbara: The trapeze scene from 1999’s Birds of Prey #8. Written by the great Chuck Dixon and drawn by Greg Land, the issue saw Dick take Barbara on a date of sorts to Haly’s Circus. In an empty tent, Dick and the partially paralyzed Barbara go swinging on a trapeze, in a sequence that culminates with a kiss. To my knowledge, this is the first time this event has been mentioned in the New 52 continuity, and it’s really cool to see them show this moment such reverence.

On the flip side of the memories coin, this issue has plenty of flashback images featuring “Red Nightwing,” a.k.a. Nightwing in the red and black suit. If we’re using quotes and plot points from the pre-New 52 continuity, can we at least acknowledge that Nightwing wore a black and blue suit at one point? Yes, I understand it’s probably an editorial mandate. But still, you’re killin’ me…

The conclusion to this issue does the Dick Grayson character a lot of justice. While Bruce Wayne is a natural loner, Dick is a people person, and is more than comfortable as part of a team. In Grayson #12 we see that is a strength, not a weakness. Not only did Seeley and King nail the character, they showed us that with Bruce on the sidelines, Dick Grayson may in fact be the glue that holds the Bat-Family together.

Image 1 from craveonline.com. Image 2 from comicbookresources.com.

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A Batgirl Annual #3 Review – Ladies Night

Batgirl Annual #3TITLE: Batgirl Annual #3
AUTHORS: Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher
PENCILLERS: Bengal, David Lafuente, Ming Doyle, Mingjue Helen Chen
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: July 29, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

In my experience annuals are, by and large, nothing to get too excited about. More often they’re not, an annual is simply a bonus standalone issue of a series that’s a little longer, and a little more expensive. No more, no less.

Batgirl Annual #3 is a rare exception to that rule.

Penned by series writers Cameron Stewart & Brenden Fletcher, the issue pairs Babs with a several different heroes as she works to uncover the secret of a superweapon with a power to destroy the world. The mystery willl reunite our hero with Dick Grayson (sort of) and Batwoman, as well as introduce her to The Spoiler, and later Olive and Maps of Gotham Academy.

Batgirl Annual #3As good comics are prone to doing, Batgirl Annual #3 switches artists to coincide with Batgirl switching partners. Bengal gets the lion’s share of the issue with our inciting incident, and Barbara’s run-in with Dick and the Spyral crew. Bengal’s European/Asian style is a nice fit for this version of Batgirl. It’s light and funny when it needs to be, and has a certain intensity when it’s called for. As for the story itself, Babs and Helena Bertinelli agree to work together in a manner so quick it’s unintentionally funny. It takes less than a page. You’d think someone as smart as Barbara Gordon would be a little more cynical about a new partner in the field. As for Dick and Barbara, their being so close, with the latter completely oblivious, is seemingly played for comedy at times. At one point their fingers are nearly touching, yet Batgirl can’t tell there’s another human being mere inches from her. Purely from a fan perspective, I was feeling Dick Grayson’s agony at deceiving her. So the comedy not only landed with a thud, but was out of place.

Bengal passes the baton to David Lafuente for Babs’ brief meeting with The Spoiler. As a huge fan of the Stephanie Brown Batgirl series, seeing Barbara and Steph at the same age is surreal. Still, I suppose they mesh well. Lafuente is certainly no stranger to drawing teenage superheroes (see Ultimate Comics Spider-Man), so I’ve got no issues with his work. Stewart and Fletcher also do Stephanie justice.

From a writing standpoint, the Batgirl/Batwoman team up is fine. But Ming Doyle’s art is, at times, very awkward. This is particularly true of her work on Barbara’s face, so much so it takes you out of the story. Her figure rendering, particularly during a battle scene, leaves something to be desired as well. Doyle has done some great work, but it won’t be found here.

Batgirl Annual #3, Mingjue ChenWe cap things off with what looks like something out of an old Disney 2D animated film. In this case, that’s a good thing. Minjue Helen Chen very much captures the spirit of Gotham Academy. Olive, Maps, and Batgirl hunt for answers in the school library in a sequence that’s very reminiscent of Harry Potter, Hogwarts, etc. Chen captures some of the manga vibe that Karl Kerschl brings to the monthly book, while adding her own sense of wonder and excitement. She’s tailor made for this “Youth Gotham” line DC is marketing.

 It’s very much fitting that Batgirl Annual #3 is the exception to the annuals rule. For the past year, the series itself has been the exception to what were seemingly a lot of rules about the Bat-books. Gotham City can, and should, be a dark and scary place. But it should also be a fun place to read about, and lose yourself in. That’s the true appeal of Batgirl, and the Young Gotham line in general: DC remembering that comics can be fun.

Image 1 from the outhousers.com. Image 2 from newsarama.com.Image 3 from @mingjuechen.

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A Grayson #1 Review – “Dick” Jokes, Guns, and The Midnighter

Grayson #1 (2014)TITLE: Grayson #1
AUTHOR: Tim Seeley, Tom King
PENCILLER: Mikel Janin. Cover by Andrew Robinson.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: July 9, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Though this issue just hit the stands this week, Grayson has, for my money, had problems for months…

First and foremost, the series tag line: “You think you know Nightwing…You don’t know Dick.” That’s literally the worst promotional line I’ve ever read for anything, ever. His name is Dick. Dick is also a phallic euphemism. So let’s go ahead and use the same stupid, third grade quality pun we heard in that timeless cinematic classic, Batman and Robin. That’ll hook the fans! To me, that line borders on disrespecting the Dick Grayson character, who by the way, is one of the founding heroes of the DC Universe. Having made his debut in 1939, he predates Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and most of the other pillars of the company’s mythos. “You don’t know Dick.” What a joke.

Grayson #1, Robin, NIghtwingSecondly, while putting Dick Grayson in this super spy role does indeed have some interesting storytelling potential, exactly how much desire was there from a fan’s perspective to have him removed from the Nightwing role? Nightwing possesses that oh-so-important cool factor that many of DC’s heroes are (arguably) lacking. At the tail end of his career as Robin, he stood up to Batman and opted to become his own man, with his own set of principles. That being said, he still loved Bruce like a father, and would chip in and help when he needed to. Then in the ’90s he got that awesome black costume with the blue “V” stripe, he got his own city to protect, his own series, and he was off to the races. He also had plenty of sex appeal for female readers. Dick was a ripped, athletic superhero with a dark and tragic origin who you could also take home to mom. Mind you, some of his appeal has been watered down since the New 52 reboot. But it was still a fact: Nightwing rules. Yes, this spy stuff has potential. But why fix what isn’t broken?

Thirdly, the cover. Dick Grayson with a gun. No. BIG no. Granted, Tim Seeley has said they’re going to dive into the issue of Dick having to use a gun on the job, which is fine. But still, no. There were plenty of other directions they could have gone in. And even if they had to use the gun, this cover still sucks. I like the use of color, but what does Dick’s face say? Nothing. It’s essentially a blank expression. His body also looks too slim and lanky for my taste. Oddly enough, somewhere along the line his hair got changed. In the original solicitation (shown left), his hair was short, and bit more militaristic looking. Now it’s longer, and more reminiscent of his Nightwing look. I’ll give them this much: That was a positive change.

Grayson #1, rescueAnd so, with all that working against it, we open Grayson #1 and find something that’s really not so bad.

After the events of Forever Evil, Dick Grayson/Nightwing is thought to be dead. In reality, he’s been dispatched by Batman to be a mole in the top secret espionage organization known as Spyral (see Batman Incorporated). Now, guided by the mysterious Mr. Minos, Grayson and his new partner Helena Bertinelli must save the life of a Russian man carrying a bioweapon inside his body. And in this first issue, Dick crosses paths with none other than The Midnighter of The Authority fame.

Our first page is somewhat akin to what we saw when we opened All Star Superman #1. Four panels, each with sentence fragments to fill us in on Dick’s backstory. It’s not nearly as epic as it could have been, because we’re stuck with the crappy New 52 Robin and Nightwing costumes. But Seeley and Janin got most of the exposition out of the way early, so I give them credit for that.

Grayson #1, MidnighterDick starts out the issue in a blonde wig, which is pretty damn surreal. But once he takes it off and the action kicks in, it becomes apparent that this is in fact the Dick Grayson we know and love. As a longtime Nightwing fan, that was a big relief. Seeley and King have changed the character’s M.O., but they’ve kept his personality intact. What’s more, Seeley writes a better Dick Grayson than I’ve seen in awhile. Maybe the best since the New 52 began.

The Midnighter’s appearance in this issue came as a surprise, though not an unwelcome one. It serves as an interesting reminder that there are other black ops heroes out there whose interests could collide with Spyral’s (Checkmate also gets name-dropped in this issue). The motion effects do a lot to accentuate the fight, and add a certain flow to the proceedings. There’s also some pretty good dialouge in there…

Midnighter: “Disciplined, but not averse to improvisation. You fight like jazz.”

Dick: “…you talk an awful lot for the grim and gritty type.

We also get a little more time with the New 52 incarnation of Helena Bertinelli (not to be confused with Huntress, who is from Earth-2). Now an African American agent of Spyral, she’s apparently attracted to her new partner. But Dick isn’t keen to let her get too close, as he’s a mole in the Spyral organization. That’s obviously an interesting dynamic, and of course, plays up Dick’s status as the company’s resident male sex symbol. So the pieces are in place for some interesting storytelling there.

In the end, Grayson #1 is flawed. But it’s not nearly as flawed as it could have been. Tim Seeley, Tom King, Mikel Janin, and everybody involved with this series has turned it into a potential hot commodity. But let’s make sure we underscore potential. It’s only one issue, folks. There are a lot of places we can go from here.

Images 1 and 2 from newsarama.com. Image 3 from dreamwidth.org.

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