It’s that time of year when annuals start popping up and you know what that means: done in one stories! Sure it’s helpful to have read the characters’ previous exploits, but annuals usually fill you in on what is going on in order to make the story an easy to read for everyone. The question remains though: Grayson Annual #3 — is it good?
Grayson Annual #3 (DC Comics)
So what’s it about? The official DC synopsis reads:
Determined to find out the identity of Spyral’s Agent 37, detective Jim Corrigan gathers a collection of heroes who have seen the swirl-faced spy in order to hear their accounts. With guest appearances by Harley Quinn, Azrael, John Constantine and Green Lantern Simon Baz, get ready for some of Dick Grayson’s greatest hits!
Why does this book matter?
Grayson has had a resurgence now that he’s a secret agent and shed the image of “Batman Light.” Even though he was Batman for a while there, the character has managed to take on a unique personality over the last few years which makes him more intriguing than he’s been in quite some time.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The characters all come together to tell their stories of Grayson who they know as Agent 37.
This annual is more of an anthology than a single story as we peer into each of four characters’ memories to see how they’ve interacted with Grayson over the years. As the synopsis above explains, they’ve come together to figure out who Agent 37 is by sharing their stories; this gives ample reason for the characters to be crossing paths and the group is eclectic enough to shed some light on a wide range of Grayson’s deeds.
The main story taking place in the present day is written by Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly with art by Roge Antonio; the tale brings the rest of the stories together quite well and even includes a few tasty details that reward the eagle eyed reader in the end too. The inks are quite nice in particular as they highlight the somewhat shady nature of all the characters (from the synopsis) meeting. There are also some helpful subtitles on each character as they enter to let us know who they are. Even if you’re unfamiliar with a character as recognizable as Harley Quinn, you’ll still be able to jump right into this annual and for that Lanzing and Kelly deserve praise.
The first story follows John Constantine and is drawn by Natasha Alterici. Her linework is thin and pleasing to the eye with some great renditions of a Nosferatu-looking vampire. The story highlights Grayson’s supernatural missions and his ability to use his physical skill to get out of nearly any predicament. Constantine’s inclusion is more of an observer role, but serves to show us how even Grayson can impress a hero from the supernatural side of DC Comics.
I kind of wish he made that bridge with his pee.
The second story involves Azrael and has art by Christian Duce and colors by Mat Lopes. This is a war story of sorts as Azrael and Grayson meet on the battlefield fighting a common enemy over a relic. It effectively shows a soldierly side to Grayson, but also how he’s won the respect of Azrael In fact, Grayson earning respect becomes a common theme among the stories.
Next up is Harley Quinn, and this story touches on the two’s current connection, but also their similar backgrounds in gymnastics. Pencils are by Flaviano with colors by Jeromy Cox who bring a lighter more comedic feel to the comic. There’s a fun laser net splash page that just barely works as it conveys a dance of sorts between Grayson and Harley. It also seems to be the only story where Grayson comes out the loser — which is interesting, though not really the point of the story.
The final story involves Simon Baz AKA Green Lantern. Drawn by Javier Fernandez with colors by Chris Sotomayor, this is one of the strongest superhero stories of the bunch with great character work. Lanzing and Kelly solidly convey Baz has much to learn in being an effective hero and the dialogue solidly conveys Grayson’s good nature in teaching him a thing or two.
It can’t be perfect can it?
There are minor quibbles throughout the issue. Most notably is some of the art in Alterici’s portion as some of the panels are a bit flat and unfinished looking. The Azrael story isn’t very meaningful, in part because of Azrael’s holier-than-thou demeanor and the art is somewhat average as it doesn’t progress the story enough and feels a tad stiff.
Is It Good?
I’d call this a very easy win for anyone interested in a done in one entertaining comic that doesn’t require extensive knowledge of the characters. Grayson Annual #3 contains good character dynamics, dialogue, action, and a satisfying, well-earned conclusion.