Written by: Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing
Art by: Natasha Alterici, Flaviano Armentaro, Christian Duce ,Javier Fernandez, Roge Antonio
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: June 29, 2016
I mentioned in my preview for this Annual that this is the craziest Annual I have ever looked forward to reading and I stand by that. Sure, DC seems to be pushing the issue by giving Grayson it's third annual after only twenty issues, but if you can't beat them join them. What does that mean? I have no idea except I am jumping on the apple cart and enjoying the ride. I really don't have much more to say, so let's get on with the review...
The issue opens with Harley Quinn arriving at a party and boy, it's a crazy party. It seems that John Constantine, Simon Baz, Azrael and herself have all been contacted by Jim Corrigan with the burning question...who is Agent 37?
Alright, I'll admit it right here and now...this is one of the most ridiculous setups I have dealt with in a long time. In fact, it barely even makes sense on the setup level, but I am an odd type who always enjoys a good clip show and this Annual is pretty much that...a Grayson clip show.
Each party goer gets to tell about their own brush with the mysterious Agent 37 and Constantine goes first. Of course, his story involves the Occult and it's the weakest of the bunch. Constantine stumbles upon a Vampire family about to take a bite out of a handsome young guy with a nice butt (guess who) and while John can't save him, his blood (and the hypnos in said blood) do the trick. There really isn't much more to it and by the end of the story, this one just felt like a hypno refresher course that probably was unnecessary to those who would buy and read this issue. I will give credit to artist Natasha Alterici for mimicking the style of the Constantine solo book, though.
Next up is Azrael. His story is set in the most dangerous place in the DCU and I don't mean Detroit! Nope, Azrael was in Kahndaq when he ran into Agent 37. The story is all about how great a guy Dick is and while the art by Christian Duce and Mat Lopes was outstanding, it felt odd to me after reading Batman and Robin Eternal. Lanzing and Kelly kind of give the reader a wink about how it fits in, but not really much information. Still, the story was okay and like I said, shows that Dick is a great guy which I will never complain about.
Harley is next and she starts her story with a wink herself. This is easily the best part of the book and Lanzing, Kelly and artist, Flaviano, rally nail the Harley vibe here. The dialogue and art are spot on and the whole thing is a lot of fun. Seriously, any comic that references Janet Jackson's Nasty is always going to score bonus points, but the hits just kept coming. Like the Azrael story, Lanzing and Kelly give readers one of my favorite things, but this time it's Harley being the good gal and the hero. It fits in so well with what we've gotten from Harley in the New 52 and even ends with a great fourth wall breaking joke.
The final story is with Simon Baz and if you know me, you know I love Simon. Javier Fernandez is on art here so you know it looks fantastic and the story is okay even if it is a bit too quick to get settled in on anything with real substance. I love that Dick asks about Simon's gun and taught him lessons that nobody else was on earth to teach him.
It all ends back at the party and when everyone (except Simon) guesses who Agent 37 is, we get the real surprise of the issue. I won't spoil it, but it doesn't make much sense except in this self contained story, but yet, it still put a smile on my face. That's really how I felt about this whole issue. Lanzing and Kelly were given the task to make an Annual that would not affect anything at all...not the past or the upcoming Nightwing Annual. They went the route that I like with Annuals...come up with a ridiculous teamup and have some fun with it. They even upped the ante and went four times bigger and I will not claim this is an essential read, but it was still enjoyable enough.
Bits and Pieces:
There really is no reason at all for this Annual except a very ill timed fifth week in the first month of Rebirth. However, Collin Kelly,Jackson Lanzing and a handful of artists put their best feet forward and we get a ridiculous yet enjoyable clip show of a romp. Necessary? No. Fun? Yes. Sometimes, that's enough.