***Dave Hill's Reviews > DC Universe: Inheritance

DC Universe by Devin Grayson
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's review
Nov 10, 11

bookshelves: text
Read in August, 2006

(Original review Aug 2006)

Overall 3/5
Story 3/5
Re-Readability 3/5
Characters 3/5

Another “themed” novel, this about the dynamic between fathers and … well, adopted sons. Though that includes some of the peripheral characters, the focus here is on three heroes: Batman and Nightwing (the first Robin), Green Arrow and Arsenal (née Speedy), and Aquaman and Tempest (formerly Aqualad).

The setting is an investigation into an assassination attempt against a young Arab prince, whose kingdom was mostly destroyed with a stolen nuke a few years back. But while that story drives most of the action, a good deal of the tale is told in flashback, the tales of the three erstwhile sidekicks, each of them adoptees/wards of their mentors for different reasons, and with different results.

The story is pretty well told — Grayson does good characterization — but not without room for criticism. It’s unbalanced, in the first place. The backstory (and even contemporary action) with Arsenal/Speedy is gone into in loving detail, taking up a disproportionate amount of the book. It’s good stuff, and adheres well to the canon (as much as I know of it), but it almost makes me wish that Grayson had just written that story and left the other two out of it.

The Nightwing/Robin tale is also well told, if not quite as much at length. Part of this may be just that it’s old hat. The story has been recapped eleventy-dozen times over the years, almost as much as Batman’s origin, and the emotional dynamic between the two heroes is also well-trodden. Plus, honestly, Nightwing’s much more of a straight-shooter (so to speak) than Arsenal, with far fewer traumas and flaws than the other, which makes for shorter, less-interesting stories to tell.

These two tales have a degree of interest because, for a good chunk of the novel, each erstwhile sidekick is teamed up with the other’s mentor — Arsenal with Batman, Nightwing with Green Arrow. This provides a bit of interest and contrast, and helps (slightly) illumine the older heroes as well. Grayson, who ought to know better, portrays GA as more than a bit of a ditz, more noteworthy for tall tales than actual effectiveness in crime fighting. Grayson does better with Batman, though not moving much deeper than the Grim Darknight Detective schtick. Maybe there’s some value there, as the tales ought to be focused on the “interitors,” the “kids,” rather than their elders.

The Aquaman/Tempest team-up is shortest and least satisfying of the three by far (such that I wonder if it was a matter of interest on Grayson’s part, or if it was tacked on by editorial dictate — “Hmmm, but I think we want to tell about three heroes, not just two”). I’m least familiar with the backstory here, so I can’t judge how close to canon it is, but Aquaman’s past is a nasty tangle of mediocre-selling comics anyway, so there’s been a lot of authorial and editorial churn, leading to more than a bit of a muddle.

How Aqualad, later Tempest (in yet another reboot) fits in there is even more difficult to work out in a coherent fashion, and Grayson doesn’t really try that hard, instead simply glossing over a lot of the details, focusing (briefly) on one key moment in the relationship between the two (and without much motivation presented at that) and leaving it at that.

Even their involvement in the plot is peripheral. Most of the real action takes place with the other four, with Aquaman (and Tempest) just sort of along for the ride.

The other disconnect here is the nature of the heroes. Aquaman and Tempest are super-human, possessed of strange powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Batman, Green Arrow, Nightwing, and Arsenal are mortal men, behind the costumes and the gadgets, and a tale told about them is going to differ in tone, style, and action level from one told about the others.

Despite these flaws, Inheritance is a good read. The character bits are good, the action reasonable, the villainous plots interesting. I could see this being a comic book mini-series (3-4 issues) and working well, too, but beyond that, Grayson manages to get into the heads of some of the characters in a way that textual media like books can do (more easily) and visual media like comics cannot (without difficulty). I’ll likely read it again.

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