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Review: Grayson Vol. 4: A Ghost in the Tomb trade paperback (DC Comics)

As I've mentioned, I'm pleased with DC Comics's decision to include Robin War #1 and #2 in Grayson Vol. 4: A Ghost in the Tomb. Their inclusion means one can read the entirety of Robin War across all the affected series' individual collections if one is so inclined. This is a far better case than Superman: Doomed, for instance, for which certain issues could only be found in the Doomed collection itself, meaning those reading the individual series had to double-dip to read all the parts.

The flip side of that, however, is that whereas Grayson Vol. 4 is technically a six-issue trade, the Robin War material is largely separate from the main Grayson proceedings and is even collected out of order in this collection because of it (Robin War #1, Grayson #15, and Robin War #2 preceding Grayson #13, 14, and 16). In terms of moving the main Grayson story along, then, Ghost in the Tomb is another enticingly, frustratingly short Grayson collection, really collecting just three issues proper. I still think DC made the right collecting decision (except perhaps they could have stuck the Robin War issues in the second We Are Robin collection, though the end of the story affects Grayson most of all), but this is another trade with more or less scant few issues of Grayson, regardless of what interesting things Tim Seeley and Tom King accomplish here.

[Review contains spoilers]

Another argument for including both Robin War issues here is that King writes both of them, making this fully a King/Seeley book even if the issues aren't all Grayson. And King does a fine job; as I mentioned in my review of Robin War, I enjoyed the crossover quite a bit. Though King stretches the metaphor of racial profiling a bit when Duke Thomas is arrested under "Robin laws" simply for wearing red shoes, his setup convincingly shows things in Gotham going from bad to worse, and his conclusion is smart and emotional particularly in regards to Duke and Damian Wayne. In between the Robin War issues, the Grayson tie-in is among the best of the crossover, contrasting what each of the Robins learned from Batman, plus a surprising betrayal by Dick Grayson and great Mikel Janin art. All in all, pretty good as partial collections of crossover tie-ins go.

That said, Detective Comics Vol. 8: Blood of Heroes, which included just its individual Robin War tie-in, also offered an explanatory Robin War text page. Grayson does not, which is a shame; even despite that Robin War #2 has something of an in-story recap, it's far from clear, and the jump from the Grayson issue to the Robin War issue is a jump from part 2 to part 6; the characters are in no way in the same place from one issue to the next.

Additionally, it's disconcerting at first reading Grayson #15 before issue #13; indeed the order that the issues are collected here works, but I wish we had a greater indication that Robin War's final cliffhanger -- Dick Grayson joining the Parliament of Owls -- will actually be followed up upon in Grayson (or there's always Seeley's Rebirth Nightwing series). That this book turns on the question of Dick becoming Nightwing again seems to indicate where the creative team's heads are, at least, though I for one have found Dick much more interesting as super-spy than superhero.

The three-part "Ghost in the Tomb" itself is boilerplate Grayson (meant complimentary), a weirdly-structured, twisty and turny jam-packed tale. As little space as the writers have here, they spend five pages with Dick fighting Scott Snyder's Tiger Shark (the two first met in Black Mirror) and another five pages with Dick chatting up Red Robin Tim Drake; that's half that issue down already. The second issues is told in part from the perspective of Leviathan's Otto Netz some time in the past; the third issue riffs in part on James Bond-ian action sequences, in part on James Bond-ian opening credits. And through all of that King and Seeley are able to show Dick losing faith with his former partner Helena Bertinelli, discovering the secret origin of Spyral, and taking down most of the organization with new partner Tiger. The writers even find room for references as eclectic and nostalgic as Tim Drake's former undercover name Alvin Draper and Wildstorm figure Ladytron.

I'm eager as always to see what happens next. Though I'd like for Dick's new role with the Parliament of Owls not to just be swept under the rug, I think it will seem a cop-out for Dick to take down Spyral using the organization he conveniently joined just a few issues ago. More likely Maxwell Lord and Checkmate will play a role, as the end of this volume suggests, though Max's inclusion brings with it no lack of mystery. Dick suggests he and Max have met before, though if so, the audience hasn't seen it; additionally the last time we saw Max (in Dan DiDio's OMAC series, another in a series of New 52 deep dives by Seeley and King), he was running Cadmus and unwittingly working for Apokolips, so obviously there's some explaining to do here.

Plenty of creative teams would have bowed under the weight of the interruptions and exterior factors affecting this title, but the fact that Grayson Vol. 4: The Ghost in the Tomb maintains this title's high quality level is a testament to Tom King, Tim Seeley, Mikel Janin, and the rest. I'm a bit bummed that the next volume is Grayson's last; honestly I think we all knew DC Comics couldn't keep Dick Grayson out of the tights forever, but I would have been curious to see what Grayson issue #50 or #100 would have looked like.

[Includes original and variant covers]

This post first appeared on Collected Editions | Blog, Collected Comics Review, please read the originial post: here

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Review: Grayson Vol. 4: A Ghost in the Tomb trade paperback (DC Comics)


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