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 Comicsâ Grayson Annual #2, the original Robin and former Nightwing now turned undercoverÂ super spyÂ teams up with Superman in the two heroesâ 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 âsuper-juicingâ psycho-killers competing to win points by committing murder, the Caped Crusaderâs 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 Cityâs Hudson County Highway to face Blockbuster. Aided by the Dark Knightâs hypothalamus inhibitor device and the visiting Man of Steelâs 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 âis an unknown quantityâ and âis most certainly not âjust a guy.ââ
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 âthe Amway of murderâ -Â Die Faust Der Kain. A motorcycle ride up the Hudson Highway leads the Fist of Cain away from Gothamâs population center, but it also carries the heroes directly into the arms of Blockbuster.
Clark and Dick seek temporary refuge in one of Batmanâs safehouses. As the band of killers closes in on their hideout, Grayson confesses that he cannot replicate his former mentorâs hypothalamus inhibitor because he is âjust a guy.â Left with no other choice, Superman calls Lex Luthor for assistance in rebuilding the inhibitor machine. With Lexâs help, the pair defeats the Fist of Cain and part ways with the realization that, as Superman puts it, âWeâre all just guys.â
Itâs no secret that Iâm a Superman guy, not a Batman guy, so it should come as no surprise that I have not been following Grayson closely. Fortunately, Seeleyâs 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 Robinâs initial encounter with the Man of Tomorrow. This sets the stage in a five-page teaser that establishes the adventureâs themes, introduces the storyâs internal and external conflicts, and foreshadows the issueâs 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 Robinâs reckless daring and Supermanâs 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 annualâs place in the comicâs 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, Seeleyâs 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, itâs nice to see Superman relating warmly to a superhero colleague. Graysonâs 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, Iâm willing to sacrifice a little continuity and consistency for the sake of the sheer enjoyment Seeley delivers.
Martinezâs pencils sometimes suffer from a lack of distinctiveness between the lead charactersâ facial features and an occasional cartoonish quality that is at times ill-suited to the story. Even so, Raul Fernandezâs inks and Jeromy Coxâs colors augment the artwork by adding gravitas and tone, especially to the climactic scene as it shifts between Luthorâs Metropolis office and the Gotham City scrapyard.
Were you pleased with the detour from Graysonâs regular storyline in the standalone annual?
Was Seeleyâs and Kingâs 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.