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Tim Seeley's never caught one spy, I'm told. Tom King's never even caught a cold. Mikel Janín got his degree from Disneyland. But it's January, 2016 and DC Comics is … err … my man. I didn't plan this out very well. Ba bow bow.

TO QUOTE Ian Fleming: “He was a secret agent, and still alive thanks to his exact attention to the detail of his profession”.

Now this latest issue of Grayson may or may not actually take place after the prior issue.  There is no mention of the events of Robin War, particularly its closing reveal, so if you haven't read it yet, not to worry. There shall be no spoilers in this issue or this review. Although it does appear that the solicits are worded in such a way that one might interpret said event to occur between issues 17 and 18.  Or alternatively, they could just be referring to that which is set up in this issue.  And to me, that would mean that the aforementioned thing-that-shall-not-be-spoiled may already have happened, casting a very interesting shadow over the events in the forefront of this issue!

Anyway, enough with the tip-toeing of ambiguity, let's move on to Dick.  If you haven't been following this series for its opening 15 issues, tut-tut-tut, you've been missing out.  You're really a horrible person.  What's up with that?  Go read them now.  I'll wait.

[Four days later]

So as you've just learned, the short version is that after having his secret identity as Nightwing exposed in Forever Evil, Batman literally bullies Dick into going undercover with the international spy organization Spyral (from Grant Morrisson's Batman, Incorporated) by faking his death (off-panel) to investigate their efforts to identify the secret identities of masked heroes.  One thing leads to another, some people get shot in the head, Dick gains some unexpected allies thanks to his easily identifiable ass, and we get to the point where we are at now: Dick knows that Spyral needs to be destroyed (If you cheated and didn't read the first fifteen issues as instructed, you still need to go back and read issues 13 & 14 for the long version of why Spyral needs to be destroyed.  I'm not going to do everything for you here).

OK. So what happens when a vigilante-sidekick come vigilante come secret-agent turns the tables on the spy agency he's working for?  Well, we get a comic book that dives head first in to a pool of spy film tropes.  Dick (Agent 37) has convinced Tiger (Agent 1) to join him (mostly off-panel) in a globe-trotting mission to take out all the other Spyral agents.  It's a full-on buddy-cop comedy, with a musical montage, and silhouetted spies with guns (and crossbows).  There are beautiful women with adolescently inappropriate names, high speed car / ski chases, fist fights, explosions, buff wet men in tiny swimsuits, skydiving, mountain climbing, motorcycles driving down stairs, shark fights, white water rafting, tanks, and white tuxedos.  I think the only thing missing was a villain bent on destroying civilization, putting Agents 1 & 37 in a preposterous trap while describing her plan in great detail.  Though I'm sure we'll get to that in just an issue or two (fingers crossed).

To be honest, I've loved this series from day one (Does it show?). While the transition from Nightwing was very awkwardly handled, taking just Seeley and King's story starting with Grayson issue 1 as its own entity has been a fun and action-packed ride.  It's one of those series that I periodically need to loop back and re-read several issues to connect the dots of the espionage web they are weaving.  Fortunately, the artwork has been absolutely fantastic all along, a valuable feature when character identities are revealed over time.  Janín does a great job on all levels, providing crisp, bold action scenes with a style that fits both the otherworldly tech of a superhero universe and the spy genre well.

And it's all just juvenile enough to work.

In this issue, once you get past the mockery of / tribute to James Bond and the musical action montage that follows, things are not going well for Matron Bertinelli's little club.  What's a girl to do when her two best agents (well, best agent and thirty-seventh best, as we learn that agent numbers are ranks, not random designations) take down more than two dozen of her operatives?  Well, escalate, of course.  And the escalate reveal is indeed glorious, my friends.

When a girl escalates, what are the two boys to do in return?  Make a deal with the devil, perhaps?

Despite the high-speed action filling much of the issue, there was a running gag through the first half that got a certain song stuck in my head.  Nope, not Secret Agent Man nor Goldfinger, though Dick's theme song plays as a medley of the two in my head.  It's the Del Noah & the Mt. Ararat Finks' cover of Henry Mancini's Push the Button, Max! (Professor Fate's theme) from The Great Race.  Does it count as Chechov's gun if you're incessantly reminded of the gun / button in every scene until it's used?

It's an oldie, but a goodie, and no riff on the spy tropes would be complete without a proper password.  And no, I'm not talking about the 2001 movie starring not-Catwoman, not-Wolverine, not-Brick, not-War Machine, and not-… that guy who's totally not based on Bruno Costa anyway.  I'm talking about the 1932 Marx Brothers movie Horse Feathers from which this issue (and dozens of other references in the past 84 years) gets its password: swordfish.

Speaking of Checkov's gun, there's another one in this issue that didn't pay off.  Did you catch it?

You should be very excited about the reveal of five familiar faces and two new characters representing… well, you'll have to read it to see who I'm talking about.  Let's just say that the covert organizations of the DC Universe are well represented and it indicates all sorts of fun machinations going on off-panel in between books.  And there's a certain large gentleman I hope we get to see in a suit and tie more often.  That image is magnificent.

More importantly, how's your Japanese?  It's been over a decade since I studied it, but my Google translate skills are pretty good.  But that only works so well.  Our new friend Keshi (presumably named for the Japanese toys made from eraser gum, or, possibly, a literal eraser) opens with a Japanese line; "私は助 け得ることを 名誉に思 います", in response to that thing that happens.  My best translation is “I would be only honored to assist”, or something along those lines.  Can anyone provide a more solid translation or is that the sufficient gist?  (Literally "I intention be honored to aid only.")

My only complaint over this issue is the weird pun / type-o with Spyral and Leviathan being referred to as “the snake eating its own tale” … which I want to say is a joke, but if it is, I don't get it.  Dick's certainly a character big on wordplay, but it's a visual and thus makes no sense in context.  Plus, with all the recent copy editing slips (“Cost City,” the city of “Gana,” “Pakistanian,” etc) I can't help but wonder if it's one of those rather than some clever gag that I'm too dim for.  I'm still working on really 'getting' Mister Malevo's little trans-farmer / acher joke from issue 14…  (Herding is like ushering?  Huh?)

Okay, maybe I have two complaints.  (And two unfired guns?)  Unless I'm missing an infantile pun in “Amelia Spellman”?  Surely it's not a reference to the only other Amelia in Dick's life?  But I'll put this one on the shelf and wait a few issues for it to pay off before I let it get me riled up.

I want to do one of those little lists of things for us to all speculate on between now and issue 17, but the thing I really want to do is speculate on the seven hidden faces that are revealed, or, more importantly, who the six of them who don't get a subtitle might be representing.  But aside from the two new characters (Keshi and Gwisin), that's really too fun a discovery for me to spoil for you.

So I leave you instead with a simple lament; “Spy Wonder, we hardly knew ye.”

Oh, and is it someday yet?

*** Just reading and writing and rambling in the back of the Joker's old Ho-Home-On-Wheels... Keath.

GRAYSON #16 GRAYSON #16 Reviewed by David Andrews on February 16, 2016 Rating: 5

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