A Magical New Origin Story for Dick Grayson – “The Lost Carnival” Graphic Novel Review

The Lost Carnival
Images provided by DC Entertainment

The Lost Carnival: A Dick Grayson Graphic Novel is a coming-of-age young adult story focusing on Batman’s first sidekick, Dick Grayson, while he is still living at Haly’s Circus with his parents. The story reads like a love letter to Dick Grayson fans but is also an excellent introduction to the character for new readers.

I was provided with an eARC of The Lost Carnival from DC Entertainment. All opinions are my own. Please note that there will be some spoilers below.

For those who are big fans of Dick Grayson like I am, The Lost Carnival is a breath of fresh air. I was quite happy to see such good writing for the character. While this is not a canonical story, it definitely could be one. Dick is more like the character we know and love than DC Comics’ current version: Ric Grayson.

While this novel is an origin story, it is not another rehashing of what we are used to reading. The novel provides new insight into the character without losing sight of the Dick Grayson fans are familiar with. I was very excited to read this book and I am pleased to say that it did not disappoint!

The Lost Carnival gives us a glimpse of a teenaged Dick Grayson’s life in the circus along with his relationship with his parents, his first love, friendships, and magic. There is some angst about whether the circus is where he wants to be. Dick is at the age where he’s still figuring things out about himself and who he is as a person.

Lost Carnival 1The novel starts at Haly’s Circus with the Flying Graysons headlining the show. Dick feels disenchanted by the low turnout and complains to his parents about it. “I gave up my summer for the routine. It’d be nice if people were here to see it.” Dick explains to his father that he wants things to change. He doesn’t want to do the same routine for the same bored crowds. After speaking with his parents, Dick decides to venture out from Haly’s with his friend Willow, who is a magician in the circus.

Dick and Willow come across a group of teenagers partying at a local ravine. They notice that the teens are bullying a couple of people from the nearby carnival. Dick defends them by physically fighting the bullies. One of the carnival performers, a girl around Dick’s age, uses magic to assist Dick when one of the bullies gains the upper hand. Dick finds the magic and the girl intriguing. His encounter with her inspires him to visit The Lost Carnival.

While Dick explores the carnival, we get a reference to Batman and what is to come for Dick in his not so distant future. He walks by a fortune teller who tells him, “There is a knight looming over your days to come.” Dick misunderstands the woman and replies, “I’d say all my days have a night, but okay.” Poor Dick has no idea what’s in store for him.

Dick soon runs into the girl, Luciana, whom he saw using magic earlier. Dick continues to spend time with Luciana whenever he is able. There is an obvious mutual attraction and romance soon blooms between the two teenagers. But not everything is what it seems with the carnival and one bad thing after another begins to happen. Dick finds himself in the midst of a mystery that he must solve in order to protect his friends.

Author Michael Moreci writes Dick Grayson as a very genuine character with relatable thoughts and concerns, especially for teenagers. It’s also obvious that he is familiar with the character and stays true to who he is, despite this being a non-canonical story. While a good percentage of the story is set in a magical world, it still feels real. This is mostly because each character Moreci introduces, even those with smaller roles, have distinct personalities, thoughts, fears, and aspirations.

Moreci is also somewhat familiar with the carnival life himself. As he mentioned in a SYFY WIRE interview, he used to work at carnivals in the summertime. He also put a lot of research into the history of circuses and carnivals when they were in their prime and it certainly shows.

The way that Moreci writes the circus as more mundane in comparison to the carnival, which is fantastical and larger than life, really illustrates exactly what Dick’s state of mind is in the story. How he writes Dick’s relationship with his parents is beautiful and especially heart-breaking considering what is to come. The end of the story is particularly bittersweet but is one of the best moments of the entire novel.

The artwork done by emerging artist Sas Milledge with Phil Hester is gorgeous and fits the overall themes of the graphic novel so well. There are not a lot of colors used, but David Calderon’s use of those colors is especially powerful. When Dick is with Haly’s Circus, the colors are muted blues which fits how he currently sees the circus; tired, boring, routine, and old. On the other hand, the carnival scenes are lighter orange and sepia tones which illustrates how whimsical and magical the carnival is. It clearly shows how exciting Dick finds the carnival in contrast to the circus.

The cover, however, is probably the most beautiful artwork of the entire book. It fuses both the blue and orange colors that are seen throughout the novel. It does an excellent job of bringing everything together while still illustrating the differences between Dick and Luciana and how Dick sees their differences in his mind. They are different, but not unable to coexist.

Overall, I found The Lost Carnival to be a very well-written and thought-out coming-of-age young adult graphic novel. The writing is sensitive to real-life teen issues and highlights Dick Grayson’s growth. Dick is still figuring out his way in the world and learning to accept and understand the importance of where he comes from.

Throughout the story, he comes to see real value in his friends, family, and circumstances by finding a deeper meaning in all of those things. His adventure ends with hope while looking toward what the future will bring. He realizes that his life in the circus cannot last forever, but he wants to enjoy every moment of it with his family while he can.

To me, what makes this story so special is the great care taken in the writing of Dick and Luciana. I was easily drawn into their story and didn’t want it to end. As someone who has also been performing since I was young, I could especially relate to Dick’s experiences. I’ve been there! And yes, sometimes what other performers were doing seemed much more interesting to me.

I remember what it was like during my awkward teenage years, growing up as a singer and musician, and how often something I usually loved just wasn’t as fun as it should be. My experiences were a little different from Dick’s (I was on stages dealing with egos and not under big tops!) but I think that’s why this book resonated with me so well.

I highly recommend The Lost Carnival: A Dick Grayson Graphic Novel to anyone who is a fan of Dick Grayson. I would also recommend this book to people who are not as familiar with the character but would like to learn more about him. While the novel is intended for 13 to 17-year-olds; it’s an excellent introduction to the character that can be enjoyed by teens and adults alike.

The Lost Carnival: A Dick Grayson Graphic Novel is available today from DC, local (where curbside/shipping is available) and online indie bookstores, and your local library digital apps.

Author: Jessica Rae

Jessica has a BA in music with an emphasis in voice and spends her day typesetting, editing, writing, and moderating webinars. Jessica primarily reviews anime and comic book series. She also offers insights on various movies, books, games, and other geeky topics.

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