Don’t mess with Dick Grayson, the original Robin, has been a touchstone character for me ever since reading the Teen Titan series in the 1980s. I’ll generally try any book with Dick Grayson in it, but not many writers know what to do with Batman’s former sidekick, save Grant Morrison’s superlative run on Batman and Robin where Dick became Batman for a while. Agents of Spyral takes Dick away from his role as Nightwing and the superhero scene and puts him undercover with the secretive spy agency known as Spyral. I’m pleasantly surprised with the quality of this book and I hope the creators will have a long run to explore Dick Grayson’s new setting.
There is a convoluted backstory that leads to the world thinking Dick Grayson is dead, allowing him to start a new life as a spy. The book describes it well in the beginning, and then jumps right into the spy story. Here’s what we know: Grayson wears disguises, he’s still an expert acrobat, he has a partner named Helena Bertinelli, and he has a hypnos in his head, which ensures his face cannot be recorded or even remembered. He is an agent for the mysterious group, Spyral, which appears to use brainwashing and mind tricks to save the world from dangerous metahumans. When they are not going on missions, Dick and Helena also live at the St. Hadrian’s Finishing School in England, which appears to be an agent training facility. Yet, Dick is really a double agent; he is in contact with Batman as they try to determine Spyral’s true goals. Dick’s values also conflict with those of Spryral, which threatens his spy status. Much of the drama comes from his refusal to use deadly force and Spyral’s willingness to protect murderers if they will serve them. Seeley and King are plotting a long story arc with this new spy organization and I, for one, am eager to find out what they have in mind.
In addition to an interesting setup, the artwork by Janin is phenomenal. It’s realistic, yet not gritty, which is appropriate for an upbeat character like Dick Grayson. He’s a former circus performer and represents color and lightness, even when surrounded by darkness. The action sequences depict movement well, especially while Dick is scaling walls or doing flips—even the way the panels are drawn convey movement.
Adults who have a history with Dick Grayson will enjoy this title. It will be interesting to see if the writer and artist can find a new audience among teens for this character. Younger readers know the character from watching Young Justice—can they be convinced to try this book? Because of this dynamic, the book could go in a teen or adult graphic novel collection. There is some sexual content, which may make it more appropriate for older teens. This is a sexy spy story with a hint of superheroics, and there aren’t a lot of those in comics. Although DC is taking a risk with this book, it has paid off so far, and I hope there are many more volumes of Grayson to come.
Grayson: Agents of Spyral, vol 1
by Tim Seeley, Tom King
Art by Mikel Janin
DC Comics, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: OT (16+)