Review: Robin War #1
“Robin War #1 is a fast-paced start to a storyline that promises to explore the high points and lows of the idea of civic duty and how it fits into law and justice as a whole. Also, the fact that it’s filled with a ton of ass-kicking Robins doesn’t hurt things, either.”
Robin War #1
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Khary Randolph, Alain Mauriet, Jorge Corona, Andres Guinaldo, and Walden Wong
Release Date: Wed, December 2, 2015
While Batman fancies himself a loner in his war on crime, as former Batman scribe once noted, “The first rule of Batman is that he was never alone.” That help has come in many shapes over the years: from his surrogate father Alfred to business partner Lucius Fox to Dr. Leslie Thompkins. However, it’s no stretch that when one thinks of Bruce Wayne’s partner on the front lines of his war, Robin, the Boy Wonder, comes immediately to mind. Introduced into comic book lore a mere year after the Dark Knight first emerged from creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane’s imaginations, the idea of a teen sidekick to the Caped Crusader has existed in some form or fashion for 75 years. As a nod to the long legacy, DC Comics is celebrating Robin’s big anniversary with its crossover Robin War, beginning in this week’s Robin War #1 by writer Tom King and artists Khary Randolph, Alain Mauriet, Jorge Corona, Andres Guinaldo, and Walden Wong.
This storyline most likely couldn’t have existed without the major changes to the Dark Knight’s world of late. With Bruce Wayne having no memory of his past or skills as the Caped Crusader, groups of teenagers, inspired by Batman’s legacy and the idea of Robin, have taken to wearing the colors of the Boy Wonder and picked up the torch the Masked Manhunter left behind to protect Gotham City. (Pick up Lee Bermejo’s excellent We Are Robin series for more of these crimefighters’ derring-do.) Meanwhile, former Commissioner James Gordon, taking the role as a police-sanctioned armored Batman, hasn’t yet earned the gravitas of the presence that Bruce Wayne carried, leaving these well-meaning teens unchecked in their vigilante activities—mostly. (I won’t reveal who the Robins are working under the auspices of. Check out the books!) With Bruce’s former apprentices scattered, these factors make for a perfect storm for tragedy to strike.
And strike it does. After one of new Robins accidentally shoots and kills a police officer, Gotham City decides to take a hard line on vigilantism, going so far as to blame the original Batman for setting up a precedent where the city turns a blind eye to unsanctioned crimefighting. While the cells of young Robins flee police pursuit to decide how to turn the negative public opinion away from them, Bruce Wayne’s former partners convene to decide how to handle the escalating situation, unaware that their adversaries, the Court of Owls, are using the chaos to launch a full-scale war on Gotham.
Right away, we see that King’s plotting wastes no time letting the cauldron boil over on all the players involved. Instead of saving the officer’s death for the end of the book—which, frankly, a lot of deconstructivist storytellers overuse these days—the catalyst for the Robin War is brought to the fore quickly. This gives King the breathing room to set up the pieces for showing the aftermath of this tragedy: public opinion, the dramatic response by Gotham City’s government and police force, and how the heroes involved are coping with the onslaught.
What struck me most, though, is how King shows how the rest of the Bat-family views these Robin cells. Long thought as vigilantes themselves, Damian Wayne, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake are on the other side of the fence, acting as establishment figures who see the rogue teens as unchecked tinder boxes. That’s not without good reason, to be sure. Damian and company have had the luxury and benefit of being trained under the Batman himself and, while many of the Robins are sharp and talented, their greenness can lead to mistakes, as shown with the officer’s death. While I love Bermejo’s depiction of Robin Duke Thomas and his compatriots in We Are Robin, King’s characterization hammers home why superheroics aren’t a place for untrained amateurs.
The bevy of artists who collaborated on this oversized issue brought skills to the table that, while each creator’s style is distinctly his own, is linework that operates wonderfully with the rest. The action has the kinetic energy necessary for a book brimming with Robins, while at the same time carrying a grit that gives readers the notion that the stakes at play are incredibly high.
Robin War #1 is a fast-paced start to a storyline that promises to explore the high points and lows of the idea of civic duty and how it fits into law and justice as a whole. Also, the fact that it’s filled with a ton of ass-kicking Robins doesn’t hurt things, either.
Robin War #1, by writer Tom King with Khary Randolph, Alain Mauriet, Jorge Corona, Andres Guinaldo, and Walden Wong on art, is in stores now.