Reviewer’s End: Grayson

I’m reviewing all the “Future’s End” comics DC are putting out this month! Every issue they’re putting out is set five years into the future of the current storyline, as part of their now-annual ‘gimmick month’ idea. As a result, each issue is a one-shot, basically, telling a possibly standalone story about the future of their current heroes.

So let’s head next to Grayson, and a review I’ve put off a little while because I have a very subjective stance on the comic which I doubt many other people would have had. The issue is by Tom King, Tim Seeley, Stephen Mooney, Jeromy Cox and Carlos M. Mangual.

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Here, King takes on scripting duties himself – he was originally thought to be an advisor on the Grayson series, being a former spy himself, but has instead quickly proven himself to be an adept comics writer – for an issue which messes around with the format. In ‘Memento’ style, the comic starts with the final chronological action of the story, before going back in time a little with each page that follows. So, every single page tells the story that leads up to the page before it, if that makes sense. It’s a story in reverse.

And it’s a rather well done story in reverse, at that. The issue manages to seed a lot of recurring themes, phrases and ideas into the single issue which pay off repeatedly. The very first page, for example, sees Dick Grayson being hanged by the neck. But, as we read through the subsequent pages, and go back in time, the character starts mentioning a “rope trick” he knows, one which may or may not have come into play before the events of the first page. Certain phrases are used at the start of the issue, before we then see how they originated.

Lots of little tricks like that throughout the issue, basically. It’s well-written, with good – but sometimes spotty – artwork from Stephen Mooney. Generally he’s on-point artistically, but there are several moments where the anatomy seems strained and awkward, and the body language suffers as a result. His storytelling is very good here, and he manages to obscure all the secrets of the issue despite having to start off with the conclusion to the story. As comics are completely a visual medium, he has to put everything on the page right from the start – and the fact he manages to hide the twists which are in full sight right from page one is nothing short or miraculous, at times.

But my issue with the comic is – I hate this kind of storytelling. Just personally. I get really pent up about mystery stories, and quickly reach a point where I really struggle to not skip to the end. I’ll give you an example of it, even – the Douglas Adams ‘Dirk Gently’ books. These are books which start out with seventeen strange riddles, which don’t fit together until right at the end of each book. You have to go through the whole book before you get an answer to why there are so many mysteries, and which ones are relevant to the plot itself. That drives me NUTS.

I recognise that’s entirely subjective, and a personal strangeness which shouldn’t have any affect on your own reading of the issue. But just personally? I really struggle to read a story which deliberately starts off with a roadblock, and forces the reader to wait for anything to be explained. So Grayson actually really wound me up, as I was reading it. The writing and art and everything was fine – but the choice to tell it backwards, in this deliberate obscure manner, plays directly into one of my personal irritations. As a result, I stopped reading before the end. I just couldn’t take it.

The issue (which I have NOW read in full) is a decent one. It’s better on re-read certainly, if you have the same traits I do as a reader. But the format subjectively tugged on one of my neuroses, and so I couldn’t really enjoy it very much.

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