I was 100% in the bag for Grayson #6 as soon as the phrase “zombie Orca with legs” popped up and that was only page two. This truly absurd bit of dialogue (and the accompanying image of a zombie Orca with legs) is an example of how Grayson continues to defy expectations and remains one of the best comics in the New 52. It’s a high octane spy thriller with all of the mad gadgets of Pierce Brosnan’s Bond, the quirky, larger than life villains of Sean Connery’s, the cool, calculated plotting of Daniel Craig’s, and a hero with a heart of gold (unlike any Bond film).
Writers Tim Seeley and Tom King and artist Mike Janin have always approached Grayson without placing any limitations upon themselves. It is a series that goes in whatever direction seems most interesting at the moment, pulling from classic Batman tales like Batman Inc. and “Robin Dies at Dawn” while inventing its own spiraling mythos. Grayson #6 pulls in two very different directions, Dick Grayson is set against Midnighter in a no holds barred brawl while his partner Helena Bertinelli is engaged in a mind-melding thrill ride into the head of a mercenary. Janin applies very different tactics to these two distinct stories and captures them both very well.
Janin manages to make violence feel truly fast in this static medium. Most of the fight between Dick and Midnighter is laid out in a pair of two-page spreads. The shift from vertical to horizontal page compositions creates a sense of being pulled from left to right instead of top to bottom, and encourages readers to push forward into the story. In the second spread, Janin does not even separate the panels with gutters in the top or bottom rows. He instead applies visual breaks like a door frame to separate distinct moments of the fight as the two men move across the page.
Seeley’s dialogue enhances the action on the page, bringing attention to the intricacies of the fight through some rather smart exposition. Dick and Midnighter discuss fighting styles using comparisons to dance. Dick’s style as Nightwing is described as jazz, while his style as Robin is punk rock. This not only draws attention to shifts within Janin’s depiction of the fight, but helps to explain Midnighter’s more obscure abilities. It’s a rare example of dialogue naturally fitting into a fight sequence.
The best panel of the issue falls within Helena’s story as she navigates another man’s mind searching for some very specific knowledge. The top half of the page reveals a terrible memory within this man’s head and the bottom gutter is represented as torn paper shearing down the middle of the page and dividing Helena’s face below. It is a beautiful representation of both what she is seeing and its effect on her.
Janin makes the mind-altering and warped aspects of Spyral appear to be actually mind-altering, but Jeromy Cox brings this artwork to life with his colors. The recurring motif of spirals and appearances of ethereal taskmasters are all cast in shadowy, monochromatic schemes. Cox brings a 60’s psychedelic appeal to the oddities within Grayson questioning whether they might be reality, illusion, or something else altogether.
Grayson #6 is another excellent installment in a series that continues to exceed expectations. Seeley, King, Janin, and Cox place no limitations upon themselves, and have discovered a wide swath of stories worth telling as a result. It’s impossible to know where Dick Grayson is going next or what the experience may be like, but it’s bound to be good comics.