On a polar plane, if r = a + bθ, then for any given real numbers a and b, changes to the value a will rotate Jackson Lanzing around a fixed Collin Kelly, while changes to the value b will affect the distance between Roge Antonio and Jeromy Cox. Any given ray that intersects successive turnings of DC Comics will do so at a constant distance.  And since its May, 2016, then said distance can be expressed as 2πb if θ is measured in radians.  Which of course it is, lest things start getting silly.

TO QUOTE Steve Rogers: “Hail Hydra”.

Now this is going to be a pretty spoilerish review of Grayson.  It’s the big finale after all, so you should have read it by now!  You’ve been warned, so gird your loins.

I'm sure you know the whole thing about Chekhov’s gun, right?  There are variations on the exact quote (not only due to the translation, but also to him presumably having proclaimed the concept multiple times yet never documenting it himself, resulting in multiple writers reminiscing on his point in print), but the guts of it is, “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there.”  If you've read Robin War -- or even just my last few reviews of Grayson -- then you know all too well that a fairly large metaphorical rifle was hung on the literary wall of the character of Dick Grayson.

So to me, that’s the problem with applying the principal of Chekhov’s gun to comics. A writer might have control over their immediate story, but they’re not the only cook in the kitchen.  Series are passed from one writer (or team) to another, characters appear in stories by other writers which need to fit in to the overall continuity somewhere, and sometimes, the executives come up with a brilliant idea for a huge crossover that forces all titles to wrap up what they’re working on and go off in a new direction.  So even the most carefully placed guns sometimes don’t get fired, Pop! 

Lanzing and Kelly didn’t stage this gun, though.  Tom King did.  Then King got the presumable dream gig of writing post-Rebirth Batman, so the job of wrapping up Grayson was handed off to Lanzing and Kelly (while Tim Seeley moved to post-Rebirth Nightwing and took the responsibility for fixing (yeah, I said fixing) the New Suicide Squad.)  So kudos to them for finally firing it!  But in the same issue, they went ahead and fired that other rifle that King and Seeley set up in this very series just a bit earlier.

And that’s the problem with this issue.  One gun is the payoff.  The ticking time bomb we've been waiting for, for five months.  And the other gun is the deus ex machina that cleans up the mess just six pages later.  Our time bomb was contained.  We don’t get any stories to explore and develop the destruction.

When Somnus was first introduced, it seemed pretty obvious that it was King and Seeley’s mechanism for undoing the big reveal of Dick Grayson’s identity to the world when the time came for him to stop playing spy.  But it was also established that it would require both Helena and Dick to activate it (Though, since Daedalus was apparently hiding in the Spyral computers all along, I suppose we can allow that he had his own backdoor to activate and operate Somnus via long, maniacal villain monologues.  That’s sort of his thing.)  Grayson never really dealt with the fallout of Dick’s identity breach, but it’s always been in the background as sort of an unspoken reason why he couldn’t go back to his prior life and say, “lol, just kidding, I’m not dead” -- even after he learned that the reason his reports to Batman weren’t being acknowledged was because Bruce was amnesiac after a brief case of being dead.

The impact of the Robin War reveal, however, never seemed to affect ANYTHING other than having one more costume for Dick to wear in his psychic five-Dicks-vs-one-Dick battle.  (Don’t Google that phrase.  Well, Google it if you want to.  But maybe not at work?  Just in case, you know?)  So I feel a bit cheated to have it resolved in one issue.  But such is the nature of comics.  I’ll try to find time to express my nerd-rage in between issues of all the great new Rebirth titles.

Other than that (yes, aaaaaall that), this was a great issue.  I realize I’ve been pretty much raging about all the things that they didn’t do in this issue, but that’s really the fault of the fact that it’s a comic book featuring a publisher-owned character in a shared universe, not Lanzing and Kelly.  There are things I think they could have handled a little better, but overall, it was one of my favorite pre-Rebirth finales so far.  They created a magnificent testament to what makes Dick Grayson so intriguing and unique as a character -- his faith, his love, his positive outlook, his mental agility to match his acrobatic ability, and his willingness to put himself at risk to save the day.  Oh, and I suppose I’d be a horrible Grayson fan if I didn’t mention his butt.

The art was fantastic too, with Antonio channeling a bit of a Jae Lee vibe when we enter the internal struggle between Dick and Daedalus.  This issue was far more … trippy than most of this run has been, and appropriately so.  It’s the perfect art style for the end of a series that has shifted from superhero espionage to spy vs spy games to full on comic book science supervillain-tier mind control.  Until it isn’t.  And Antonio transferred his style very gracefully to “Istanbul.  One week later.”  Much of the grace of the transition was certainly due to the color work of Jeromy Cox, shifting from the black and red pallet of the inner Spyral sanctum to an earth tone pallet of the desert, then to the bright blue skies of St. Hadrians.

But we can’t really complement Cox’s color work without pointing out what color that last frame is, right?

We’ll simply accompany this final issue (save for the Annual, of course) of Grayson with one last spy theme; Who Can You Trust by Ivy Levan.  Yes, I’m using the opening credits of Spy as the closing credits for Grayson.  But it’s all good.  Enjoy.  (The movie is great, too.  Get on that if you still haven’t watched it.)

This issue clearly needs to be compared to 土蜘蛛 (tsuchigumo), the giant supernatural dirt spider of Japanese folklore that is either the origin of a derogatory term for clans that did not follow the empire or named for said clans, depending on which historian you believe.  The renegade warriors would hide in underground caves and mounds to surprise their enemy.  The giant spider demons, on the other hand, would actually lay their own silk tubes to hide in to lay in wait.  So either version works just dandy for the analogy.  Even if one’s enemy is in one’s mind and the caves or tubes are metaphysical constructs to protect your psyche from mental attacks because you were trained by the Batman.  So you lay your silk mind tubes long before the enemy is even known, luring them in, thinking they have the advantage, and then … all sorts of fancy shmancy craziness happens.

I’m trying not to dwell on how the results of the Somnus satellite and Helena’s very specific exception list almost directly contradict the events of Titans Hunt, or at least significantly complicate the memory-recovery-centric plot, and should probably throw a monkeywrench in all the developments that it sounds like Rebirth will be bringing us.  See the aforementioned “the problem with the medium” manifesto.  Plus we’re mixing comic book science with comic book magic, and that pretty much always makes a mess... or summons Klarion.

I’m trying to enjoy the great ride we got in this series.  We got spies.  We got love.  We got death.  We got double-triple-quadruple-crosses.  We got Nazis.  We got Midnighter!  We got globe-trotting shenanigans!  We got a handful of brand new characters with great potential for future stories!  Yes, it was probably concluded sooner than King and Seeley envisioned, but Lanzing and Kelly provided as strong an endgame as we could expect from the sudden redirect.  We also get Nightwing back out of the deal, so nothing to complain about here!

Except that we’ll probably never find out who Amelia Spellman is.

In the end, for better or for worse, all the toys are put back on the shelf for the next writer.  Spyral still stands, with a new Patron (and still ambiguous Headmistress?), ties to Checkmate severed.  St Hadrian’s continues.  Dick and Helena return to their tights.  The status quo is restored.  All is right with the world.  Save for all those horrible and mysterious things going on that the heroes need to figure out, of course.

Maybe Amelia is the big bad of Titans?

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

GRAYSON #20 GRAYSON #20 Reviewed by David Andrews on June 22, 2016 Rating: 5

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