I can say without any reservations that Grayson has been one of the best books that have come out this year. It might not be the most consistent of the bunch , but that hardly matters when you have characters as great Dick Grayson and Helena Bertinelli involved here. And by throwing them together in a spy meta-story where they both work for SPYRAL and are kind of anti-heroes in a way, things get even better, no matter which angle you look at it from, because Tim Seeley, Tom King and Mikel Janin have done absolute wonders so far on the title.
This week’s Grayson Annual #1 sees the origins of New 52 Helena Bertinelli exposed, and the story definitely has to be one of my favourite all-year. Tom and Tim pull a fast one on the reader with this issue, but it is clear that the setup for all of it is there right from the get go, for those who can pick out the little details and what not. Grayson Annual #1 is a story within a story within a story. Kind of like Christopher Nolan’s Inception in some ways, but thankfully not as complicated (and to be honest, I didn’t find Inception to be as complex as most people have called it out to have been).
As advertised, I was expecting to get Helena’s origins here since we did have a Huntress 6-issue mini-series at the start of the New 52 that presented Helena Bertinelli in the first five pages, but then went to deliver a whammy when it turned out that Helena Bertinelli was actually Helena Wayne from Earth 2 who had been stranded on Earth 1 during a war between Apokolips and Earth 2. It is a long and kind of really convoluted story, but suffice to say that Helena’s inclusion into this title has kept me rather interested to see where the writers are going with this and what their intentions are.
So it is safe to say that I had a lot of expectations from this issue, and I can also admit that the expectations were met, just not in the way I’d imagined them to be. Because you see, nothing is as it seems in this issue. Ostensibly, the story is that Helena somehow manages to fall to some random criminal dude who is basically handing her off to people better placed than he is and get a big fat reward in the process. Which is all the more bizarre given that we’ve seen Helena is a top-agent for SPYRAL and that she even trains its next generation of agents. And that’s where things start to get really fun, and really awesome.
Tom and Tim know pretty well how to beat reader expectations with this issue and how to keep them guessing as to what is really happening here. The narrative itself is pretty fascinating and it ends up being a self-commentary as well by the time you get to the explosive finale which just leaves you wanting more from the writing duo in the same vein. This is a fantastically paced story and to be honest, things really couldn’t have gotten better than they were here. It was all pretty perfect.
Given the way that the writers explain Helena’s origins, I’m starting to think that we might be dealing with two Helenas on Earth 1 after all, which is certainly a pretty interesting twist and could also serve to eventually bring in Helena Wayne into the title in some way, something I will hold out hope of happening one day!
But yeah, in the meantime, this is a big fat Annual of awesome, writing-wise.
The art here is by Stephen Mooney, with colours by Jeromy Cox, letters by Carlos M. Mangual and cover by Mikel Janin. Stephen’s art here seems to want to echo Mikel’s own on the series, and at times it proved to be really good, but there were also moments where it didn’t seem to be anywhere as good, and those scenes had more to do with body language and expressions rather than the story flow or anything like that. It is nice to see that Jeromy is on the issue since it helps bring a certain stability that otherwise was lacking in the artwork, and he turns in some gorgeous visuals with Stephen, that’s for sure.
Loved the issue, want more!