T. Kyle King’s published work ranges from newspaper columns to film reviews and from short stories to law review articles. Most notably, he served as a site manager and staff writer at DawgSports.com, a daily weblog devoted to University of Georgia athletics, from 2006 to 2013, and he is the author of a book about the history of the college football rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers published by Clemson University Digital Press in 2013. Kyle is a lifelong comic book fan whose thoughts on comic books previously have appeared at ComicsVerse, Progressive Boink, and the Superman Homepage. Kyle is a Superman guy.
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In DC Comics’ Grayson Annual #2, the original Robin and former Nightwing now turned undercover super spy teams up with Superman in the two heroes’ first meeting since the events of Truth. In an effort to cover all comics pertaining to the Man of Steel, our T. Kyle King takes a trip to Gotham City to look in on Agent 37.
Tim Seeley and Alvaro Martinez bring Spyral infiltrator Dick Grayson together with Clark Kent for a running battle against the Fist of Cain featuring snappy banter amid the action. In the course of mixing it up with a crew of “super-juicing” psycho-killers competing to win points by committing murder, the Caped Crusader’s two erstwhile teammates are reminded how much has stayed the same even in a time of change.
A focused Batman and a fun-loving Robin ride up Gotham City’s Hudson County Highway to face Blockbuster. Aided by the Dark Knight’s hypothalamus inhibitor device and the visiting Man of Steel’s super-strength, the Dynamic Duo take down the villain. Superman and Robin, meeting for the first time, hit it off, but Batman warns his young ward that the caped Kryptonian “is an unknown quantity” and “is most certainly not ‘just a guy.’”
Years later, Dick Grayson is back in Gotham as a deep-cover secret agent inside Spyral when he crosses paths with Superman. The two barely have time to catch up on the major changes in both of their lives since their last encounter before they are attacked by “the Amway of murder” – Die Faust Der Kain. A motorcycle ride up the Hudson Highway leads the Fist of Cain away from Gotham’s population center, but it also carries the heroes directly into the arms of Blockbuster.
Clark and Dick seek temporary refuge in one of Batman’s safehouses. As the band of killers closes in on their hideout, Grayson confesses that he cannot replicate his former mentor’s hypothalamus inhibitor because he is “just a guy.” Left with no other choice, Superman calls Lex Luthor for assistance in rebuilding the inhibitor machine. With Lex’s help, the pair defeats the Fist of Cain and part ways with the realization that, as Superman puts it, “We’re all just guys.”
It’s no secret that I’m a Superman guy, not a Batman guy, so it should come as no surprise that I have not been following Grayson closely. Fortunately, Seeley’s script for Just a Guy, co-plotted with Tom King, eases the reader into potentially unfamiliar territory by opening with a flashback to the modern Robin’s initial encounter with the Man of Tomorrow. This sets the stage in a five-page teaser that establishes the adventure’s themes, introduces the story’s internal and external conflicts, and foreshadows the issue’s ultimate resolution.
With the extra space afforded by the length of an annual, Seeley succeeds in exploring the inner workings of these well-known characters, both before and after their transitions to their current versions. The dialogue between Dick Grayson and Clark Kent, while wordy, offers a clever running commentary on their respective changed circumstances, the ways in which Robin’s reckless daring and Superman’s carefree invincibility aggravated Batman, and the reality that the central core of each character remains fundamentally unaltered even now. While Grayson devotees understandably may be troubled that this annual’s place in the comic’s larger arc is more than slightly murky, newcomers to the series have the luxury of hopping aboard and enjoying the ride on a supercycle named Lana.
Ultimately, Seeley’s story may not hold up to serious scrutiny. The casual camaraderie between Clark and Dick may be contrived, and the decision to turn to Luthor in search of a solution certainly raises some eyebrows. However, after Truth has served fans heaping helpings of a grumpy old Man of Steel, it’s nice to see Superman relating warmly to a superhero colleague. Grayson’s explanation for his choice of a name drawn from a Kryptonian legend is touching, while their concluding exchange in the final two pages is both amusing and inspiring. In an era in which superhero comics often fail to be as heartening and as fun as they once were, I’m willing to sacrifice a little continuity and consistency for the sake of the sheer enjoyment Seeley delivers.
Martinez’s pencils sometimes suffer from a lack of distinctiveness between the lead characters’ facial features and an occasional cartoonish quality that is at times ill-suited to the story. Even so, Raul Fernandez’s inks and Jeromy Cox’s colors augment the artwork by adding gravitas and tone, especially to the climactic scene as it shifts between Luthor’s Metropolis office and the Gotham City scrapyard.
Were you pleased with the detour from Grayson’s regular storyline in the standalone annual?
Was Seeley’s and King’s portrayal of the Man of Steel superior to the version of Superman appearing in Truth?
Share your thoughts and ComiConverse with us in the comments!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Tim Seeley’s script may lack depth, but Grayson’s adventure with Superman features fun and fundamentals.