Review: Grayson Vol. 2: We All Die at Dawn trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, August 15, 2016

It's an indication of Grayson's prowess that it reminds me of the good DC Comics series of the 1990s and 2000s, interrupted occasionally by profile or "Times Past" issues and it didn't matter because writing, art, and characters were just so entertaining. Grayson Vol. 2: We All Die at Dawn has a lot of that, a beginning issue and an annual that seem like interstitial stories (though everything, of course, ties back in the end). Also this is another deliciously short volume of Grayson, just four issues and an annual; ordinarily that would bother me but it gives the Grayson trades a boutique effect not unlike the short trades coming out of Image.

It's too bad Grayson is no longer ongoing but I certainly can't find fault with writers Tom King and Tim Seeley proceeding to hopefully bring the same level of greatness to Batman and Nightwing respectively.

[Review contains spoilers]

Seeley and King ostensibly spotlight Dick Grayson's conflict with Midnighter in this volume, or at least Midnighter appears in more issues than not. I'm not clear on the ins and outs of the "God Garden" from which Midnighter operates (whether this is something established late in Stormwatch or brand new), but I appreciated what little additional detail we get here. Surely Midnighter rebelling against the "Gardner" foreshadows Grayson's fight with Spyral's Mr. Minos just an issue later, these characters being intentionally set as foils for one another. Equally I'm not sure -- setting these two character's "power stats" side-by-side -- it's realistic to think Grayson could outlast Midnighter in a trek through the desert by sheer force of will, but obviously the writers have to root for their title character and the book nicely fetishizes Grayson in that way (later discussion of "Jim" and "Juan" aside).

That "desert issue" at the top is surely this volume's masterpiece (as the Futures End issue was last time). Again, the writers' love for Dick Grayson comes through here, maybe even to a fault, but for Dick Grayson fans it's heartening to see him persevere. As noble as Dick Grayson is usually portrayed, I think I even like this quiet, perpetually-child-saving Grayson better than exuberant superhero Nightwing. Artist Mikel Janin, one of my favorites of the New 52, also shines, beautifully depicting the passage of time often panel by panel across a seemingly static background. Surely a master class can be taught on this issue in the way the story doles out its information page by page and how the forward page-by-page momentum of the comics medium lends itself to the story.

That issue is seemingly just filler except for how good it is, and that it's swiftly and unexpectedly referenced in this book's climactic fight. Similarly the annual is an Irish mob story that almost doesn't involve Grayson or Matron Helena Bertinelli (except where they sneak in between the panels), and that's also almost a "just because" story except for a brief mention in the end. It's a testament to King and Seeley's world-building that they can tell good stories about tertiary characters in the Grayson universe and have them be as enjoyable and make as much sense as stories about Dick Grayson himself. These are stories that use the unending then-monthly comics cycle well, and remind of course in their connected disconnectedness of books like Gotham Central, Starman, and JSA.

Though Spyral's Mr. Minos's sudden villainous turn is not surprising, it did come about rather suddenly, such that I didn't feel there was quite sufficient build-up to make it natural. As well, I realize Minos's identity is an intentional mystery, but the character has been a cypher from the start and I didn't have much more feeling about his sudden exit than his sudden arrival. Batman, Inc hardly fit seamlessly into the New 52, but it's been established in this continuity that Kathy Kane ran Spyral, something that hasn't been referenced since; I can only hope the mysterious woman who kills Minos here was Kane, such that maybe all the pieces of this ongoing story will fit in place by the end.

I want to praise especially that Tim Seeley and Tom King's Grayson Vol. 2: We All Die at Dawn makes mention of Mike Costa's (and/or Tony Bedard's) New 52 Blackhawks series; when everyone else has forgotten, I'm impressed these authors remembered. Indeed military/espionage series never quite took off in the New 52, but Grayson's got a little bit of everything and pays homage to what came before. This second volume is as good as the first.

[Includes original and variant covers, cover sketches]
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3 comments:

  1. I don't remember The God Garden being mentioned in Stormwatch books, although it's been a long time since I read them. This reminds me that I really need to get myself a copy of the first Midnighter TPB.

    I just deleted a big part of my text where I talked about the Grayson series because I don't want to spoil it. Let's just say that I liked it (I bought the last issues because I couldn't wait for the last TPB).

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  2. Updated review index please?

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    1. Y'know, I wasn't even sure anybody used that. Thanks for asking; now updated.

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