This issue is tonally very different from the last two, which were both very dark and intense. I feared we might have Dick angsting over the death of Agent #8 from last month’s issue, but fortunately, Seeley and King do not take that route.
On the contrary: within the first few pages of #4, we get two very hilarious scenes: Dick obnoxiously sucking on a lollipop, only to glare at Helena after she knocks it out of his mouth in annoyance, and then a group of schoolgirls gossiping and ogling over Mr. Grayson’s musculature.
I’ve heard some snarky comments about “male objectification” with respect to this issue: perhaps because the aforementioned schoolgirls from St. Hadrian’s Academy, where Spyral apparently maintains its headquarters, secretly stalk Dick and express their admiration for his physique. And, um, mount a “manty raid” as it were. The raid takes up most of the issue, with Dick gamely playing along and leading the students on a chase around the school grounds.
Unfortunately, Matron Bertinelli puts a stop to the fun, and Mr. Minos metes out his punishment for Agent 37’s indiscretions: teaching acrobatics at the school in the guise of… a gay French gymnast. This invokes an in-comic comment about “writing sexy stories” (a reference to fanfiction?) which made me laugh in delight. I’m looking forward to seeing this play out in the next issue(s), but I hope that gay (even “undercover” gay) does not end up translating into overdone stereotypes.
As a 20-something woman who appreciates a good-looking fella, I found it refreshing to read a comic in which young women were allowed to express sexual curiosity. No apologies whatsoever. Their stalking had creepy undertones, yes, but that was the point–after all, this is a school for would-be spies and assassins. Seeley takes pains to point this out, too: one of the students even talks about taking her dad’s place in the Mossad (Israel’s intelligence service), and another student is rewarded for ingeniously cobbling together surveillance equipment despite limited resources. The fact that she uses said equipment to spy on teaching staff is, apparently, unimportant to the powers that be at Spyral.
It isn’t all just boarding school shenanigans in Grayson #4, in any case: Stormatch’s Midnighter pops up again in this issue, along with his erstwhile lover Apollo, picking up a thread that was so intriguingly introduced in the first Grayson issue. It’s too early to say where that sub-plot is going, but here’s hoping we get another Dick Grayson/Midnighter encounter, and soon.
This was also a good issue for Helena & Helena fans. While we (and Dick) have been uncertain of her and her motivations, she shares a lovely moment with Dick at the end, encouraging him to nurture the thrill of flying wanderlust that being Nightwing gave him. This after seemingly protecting his indiscretions in maintaining private communication with Batman. It shows a human side of Helena that was we’ve only seen so far in the possibly-alternate-universe Grayson: Future’s End, and I look forward to seeing what Seeley and King do with her in the upcoming Grayson annual.
And of course, tying everything together is Mikel Janin’s art. Fortunately for all of us, Janin continues to bring his architect’s eye and precision to the visuals of this book. From Dick’s sulky pout at having his air mata kucing sucker knocked out of his mouth, to an intricate map sequence detailing the paths of Dick and the St. Hadrian’s girls across the school grounds, each panel is thoughtfully designed and detailed. Jeromy Cox’s colours alternate between straightforward and adventurous, highlighting important moments and contrasting others in a way that I’ve come to associate as being very distinct and unique to the overall look and feel of Grayson.
Overall, Grayson #4 is an enjoyable break from the darker, more intense previous installments (which have been great), but one which also furthers the reader’s understanding of the Spyral world which Dick Grayson has infiltrated. Readers who appreciate character-driven, world-building stories–and who want to see Mr. Grayson have more fun than he’s had in the New 52 so far, let’s be honest–will want to pick this one up. Meanwhile, I hope DC keeps this creative team together for the forseeable future, f they keep knocking it out of the park on Grayson, as they’ve done so far, Dick’s 75th anniversary next year will be a good one where this title is concerned.