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Review: Grayson Vol. 5: Spiral's End trade paperback (DC Comics)

It's unfortunate that Tom King and Tim Seeley couldn't write the final issues of Grayson collected in Grayson Vol. 5: Spiral's End. At the same time, I'm skeptical that either writer was really that far away, even if perhaps busy with Rebirth considerations. Without benefit of Seeley and King's actual finale, it's impossible to say that Hacktivist and Joyride's Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly's closing issues really would have been that much different. If Grayson's end came too swiftly, that's more a fault of Rebirth proper than anything two backup writers in an unenviable position did.

For me, the final Grayson volume hit most of the important points I wanted it to. I thought it adroitly positioned Dick Grayson and his supporting cast for their Rebirth roles in such a way as to acknowledge rather than forget this preceding series, preserving Grayson as part of the once-and-future Nightwing's continuum.

[Review contains spoilers]

There's no small amount that four issues of Grayson have to deal with to close this series out, not in the least Spyral Matron Helena Bertinelli's employment of the Syndicate to capture Dick Grayson, Dick's teaming with Max Lord and Checkmate on the contrary, the pressures within and without Spyral -- by design of Otto Netz -- threatening to destroy it, plus the revelation that Agent 8 is still alive. Some of this must get short shrift, of course, probably most specifically a fuller exploration of the Syndicate. The fact that Seeley and King get to top off their affectionate use of Wildstorm properties with Dick versus Grifter (plus Frankenstein), however, again goes to the point that this book does at least hit the high notes.

Spiral's End also satisfactorily culminates Grayson's theme of dual identities. The end of the book sees Dick embracing his "true" identity as superhero; it's a toss up really who Dick could have discovered himself to be, but even despite Rebirth I don't think any of us saw Grayson ending another way than Dick Grayson returning to the Nightwing mantle. Rebirth probably also factored in Helena rediscovering herself as a Bertinelli (or as the scourge of, as the case may be), but I thought Lanzing and Kelly tied the change believably into her possession by Otto Netz. We learn Max Lord was behind Spyral's Mr. Minos -- talk about spirals within spirals -- something I hope is referenced when Max shows up again in Rebirth. And in books like these, often the resolution of the arcs of the supporting characters who won't reappear are more interesting than those of the main characters; I thought it especially poignant that "Tiger" Agent 1 can't kill his former partner in the end even as he's preached violence to Dick the entire time.

The only mis-fit for me was the revelation that Tiger had been working for Max Lord's Checkmate all along. In Grayson Vol. 3: Nemesis, Tiger claimed the person framing Dick for killing Syndicate agents was Max Lord, but this was a suggestion planted by his partner, Agent 8, working on behalf of Elisabeth Netz. We can be confident that indeed Max wasn't really behind those murders (when Dick brings it up, Max laughs it off without confirming it) and even potentially that Tiger knew Agent 8 wasn't dead (he doesn't seem terribly surprised), so does that mean Tiger knew he wasn't telling the truth when he blamed Max? I wasn't sure if Tiger's motivations in that moment are meant to be seen in line with Max's (sewing discord in order to take over Spyral), if there's another explanation, or if I'm simply mis-reading it.

Again, I don't think any of us really thought Dick Grayson wouldn't end up as Nightwing again at the end of this, nor that there wouldn't be some resolution to the fact that the world knows Dick Grayson was once Nightwing, too. To that end, while I can see how some might consider the planetary mind-wiping Somus satellite a deus ex machina (which it is), it seems to me as good a solution as any (and as over-the-top as Grayson has always been). This is mitigated for me more than a little by Somnus having already been mentioned over in Batman and Robin Eternal, which I'd consider must-reading before Grayson Vol. 5; in this way Somnus does not come out of nowhere, which I understand it might if you're just reading Grayson on its own. Frankly the discussion of Somnus (and Helena's plans for it) in Batman and Robin Eternal Vol. 2 is the kind of romantic scene between Dick and Helena that Grayson to some extent lacked, though I thought it was a nice trick by Lanzing and Kelly at the end of Grayson to suggest there was more to Dick and Helena's night-time excursion in Grayson Vol. 1: Agent of Spyral than we'd previously been shown.

All's well that ends well, of course, in that Tim Seeley will return as ongoing Nightwing writer and pens the Rebirth special that closes out this book. Though I'm not sure any of the Rebirth specials have necessarily accomplished the fresh-approach-through-continuity-reworking of their Green Lantern and Flash: Rebirth namesakes, the Nightwing: Rebirth special is a nice bridge between the Grayson and Nightwing series. We get cameos by the Syndicate, Tiger, Midnighter, and Helena, a nice send-off to Grayson's supporting cast, plus an indication that Robin War's Parliament of Owls plot threads will continue here. Seeley writes Damian Wayne maybe a bit too "teenager-y" here, more than I think is true of the League of Assassins-raised character, but that was the case in his previous Grayson depictions, too (and if that's the characterization du jour then maybe I have to adjust my expectations).

I can't of course argue with the third Grayson annual collected here, which teams Dick Grayson with such disparate figures as John Constantine, Harley Quinn, Simon Baz, and most notably, Batman and Robin Eternal's Azrael Jean Paul Valley. I found the short stories a bit straightforward, lacking much nuance besides reinforcing the greatness of Dick Grayson (their goal, of course), but seeing Jean Paul in action between Eternal and the Rebirth Detective Comics is plenty thrill enough. Perhaps the same charge could be leveled at Grayson Vol. 5: Spiral's End overall, that it meets its goals but is not quite as powerful as Grayson volumes previous, but again, we can't know what might have been that wasn't. Hats off to Tom King, Tim Seeley, and Grayson for getting an omnibus edition coming soon; this is surely a title that deserves it.

[Includes original and variant covers, Rebirth special]

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Review: Grayson Vol. 5: Spiral's End trade paperback (DC Comics)


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