I'm not going to lie and say that I am not a bit weary of this concept, or that it isn't strange to see Dick costumeless after so many decades, but, we've been here before. Older readers will remember the post-Robin, pre-Nightwing years where Dick spent some time away at school, and didn't wear a costume at all. Over the vast majority of his career, Dick has been behind a mask, but here in Grayson, that old device is shed for a role that still operates in the shadows, but in the guise of a special agent rather than a superhero.
In this first issue of Grayson we find Dick operating as part of a covert extraction team somewhere along the Trans-Siberian railroad. He is tasked with removing an apparently dangerous metahuman from a train and getting him to safety. Through a combination of stealth, acrobatics and cunning that we've seen for decades, Dick completes his task. Once taking his target to the rendezvous point though, an unexpected encounter awaits. Dick is faced with the challenge of squaring off against Midnighter (of Stormwatch fame). After holding his own and successfully completing his mission, we get to the meat of the larger narrative within Grayson. Dick is working for the organization Spyral (created by Grant Morrison back in the original pre-New 52 volume of Batman Incorporated), and his partner is the new-to-the-New 52 Helena Bertinelli, the Huntress of the old DC Universe.
It is revealed that Spyral is working on a database of metahumans and heroes that tracks who they really are, and it is also alluded to that one of their core missions is transparency within the superhero community, which is of course a threat to many that Dick knows and holds in close regard. From this information, I think it is fairly safe for us to assume as readers that Dick is there to infiltrate Spyral and report back to Batman in order to safeguard the entire superhero community. As we know, the whole world thinks that Dick died as Nightwing during Forever Evil, but Batman is the only person who knows otherwise.
Knowing the old DCU relationship between Dick and Helena, it will be interesting to see how their relationship is approached here in the New 52. Helena Bertinelli is a character with a very loyal following, and one that fans have been clamoring for a return of, so now that we have it here, I hope it is handled with the appropriate reverence.
The writer on Grayson is Tim Seeley, who has experienced recent success at Image with his zombie story, Revival, and who turns in a fine first script here in Grayson #1. The big story on the creative side in my opinion though is that Mikel Janin is the artist on this book. If you read the first 30 issues of Justice League Dark then you already know what an incredible talent Janin is. If you haven't, and this is your first exposure to his work, then I'm sure you already realize just how amazing he is. His line work is among the absolute best in the business, and his character models are equally as impressive. I have mentioned in previous reviews that I wished DC would move him to a higher profile title than JLD because I thought his work needed to be seen by more people, and I hope that Grayson is that opportunity.
Overall, this was a great first issue. It laid down an intriguing new chapter in Dick Grayson's life for us to follow, and the foundation is built solidly off of recent DC history in both the New 52, as well as a little of Morrison's old groundwork just before the relaunch. With a character like Dick Grayson it is hard to please fans because there is such a long and successful history to live up to, but at the same time, Dick Grayson fans are more open to change than fans of many other heroes, because we've seen Dick flourish repeatedly in situations just like this.
For every person that loved Dick as Robin, there are two who prefer him as Nightwing, and for every one of those Nightwing fans, there are many who consider Dick's time under the cowl as Batman to be the ultimate evolution of his character. When Dick was "demoted" back to being Nightwing for the New 52 many fans complained, but ultimately, his second time around as Nightwing was excellent, and gave us many wonderful stories and adventures. I have no reason to believe that that can't happen again here in Grayson, and this first issue confirms that hope for me, at least for now.
We Dick Grayson fans are an open and welcoming type, much like our hero, and I think that Seely, King and Janin will find that as long as they treat this character right, fans will support them the way they have supported most other creators who have been lucky enough to guide this character's long, storied journey.