We start with a monster-of-the-week story, as Dick and Agent-1 have to ensure that Tiger Shark doesn't steal a priceless rug that the father of one of Saint Hadrian's students is shipping home. (Agent-1 tries to take a dig at Dick by asking if he's upset that they're essentially playing body guards for the one percent, but Dick reminds him that he owned a circus and knows that sometimes you have to do a private show for the "blue bloods" to pay the bills. It's always nice when King and Seeley take the chance to remind us that Dick's past -- in all its forms -- hasn't been erased. DC has been playing so fast and loose with continuity that such reminders are definitely welcome.)
But, we quickly move onto the larger story. Dick has set Tim on discovering Agent-Zero's identity and, not surprisingly, Tim does so in pretty short order. The problem is that King and Seeley do a lot of waving their hands in front of the blackboard to make it work. I had to re-read last issue to remember that Dick and the team managed to hack into Hypnos, allowing Dick to see Luka Netz's face when she spoke with him at the end of the issue. The fact that they were able to hack into Hypnos based on a sub-agent's access to the database was problematic enough, but that's a problem for last issue. The problem for this issue is that Tim admits that Netz has no records, so it's unclear how he was even able to identify her in the first place. It's not like she had a Facebook account. Then, King and Seeley take another step closer to the unbelievable as we learn that Netz has been following Batman and Dick for years: using an image-searching program, Tim discovers that she's in the background of every photo ever taken of the Dynamic Duo in action. Dick isn't too surprised by that, since her goal (and Spyral's) was to discover their identities. But, King and Seeley go even one step further. Tim put out an alert to discover when someone searched for those images and learns that Netz has been scrubbing them from the Internet. (He confusingly calls her "Ms. Howard" here, though I have no idea why.) It leads him to discover her location outside Berlin.
As I said, my initial problem with this sequence is Tim being way too successful, way too quickly in tracking down Netz. But, I also can't believe that Bruce himself wouldn't have discovered Netz in the background. As Tim acknowledges, only a limited number of photos exist of the Dynamic Duo in action, and it seems like the type of thing that Bruce would scour. In other words, Tim discovering her identity so quickly raises the question of why other people haven't done so, undermining exactly the story that King and Seeley are trying to tell, of Agent-Zero as a shadowy agent with unclear goals. (Is she even technically working for Spyral?) The best part of this sequence is the banter between Dick and Tim ("sweet humble brag, brah"), even if Seeley seems to conflate Jason and Tim a bit.
Once we move past the hand-waving explanations, the issue gets markedly better. Tim encourages Dick to use his "charms" on Helena, in the hopes that she'll reveal everything she knows about Agent-Zero. (If you need a reminder of Dick's "charms," just see the first page of this issue, where he's stripped naked and inspected by Dr. Netz while Helena watches. Vapors, I had.) Dick reminds Tim that Helena's "cool," so his charms don't work on her. But, he tells Tim that his charms do work on someone: cue Midnighter! Dick gets Midnighter to send an agent of the God Garden into Netz's Berlin complex, raising Spyral's awareness and getting Dick and Agent-1 sent there to intercept. (The God Garden is on Helena's enemies list.) It's a great play and a reminder that Dick might not be the detective that Tim is, but it doesn't mean that he ain't bright.
Again, I'm not sure where we're going here with the overall story. All the pieces connected logically, but I still don't have a good sense of the puzzle. We have problems that creep up occasionally, like the "Ms. Howard" comment, that make me feel like I'm missing an issue or something. Then, we still have the Agent-8/Agent-1/Dr. Netz angle; Helena thinks that Spyral's enemy is Checkmate, and we're supposed to believe that it's Dr. Netz, but maybe it's Luka? I get that it's spy games, so we're supposed to be confused. But, I feel like the water level is rising and we have to get some answers before we start treading water for too long. In other words, an answer (or two) that reduces the number of open mysteries that we have to track would go a long way at this point.
** (two of five stars)