Review: We Are Robin #4
“We Are Robin #4 handles the quiet space that this large cast of characters needs before they engage in their next moves. Bermejo and Harvey develop a chapter that speaks to teenage issues and grappling with responsibility for the 21st century in a way I’ve rarely seen since some of the Spider-Man stories of old, and that’s the best praise I can give a tale.”
We Are Robin #4
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Lee Bermejo
Artist: James Harvey
Release Date: Wed, Sep 23, 2015
Responsibility—who has it and who should wield it—is a trope used in comic book stories almost from the very beginning when Superman first donned his garish, circus strong-man costume to cure what he saw to be the ills of the world. Batman saw his responsibility to use his considerable means to keep his city and the larger world safe from those who would do it harm. Spider-Man learned at an early age that if a person has the power to affect change in one’s broader community, then he has a responsibility to use that power to the best of his ability to make that change a reality.
That idea of responsibility is at the heart of writer Lee Bermejo and artist James Harvey’s We Are Robin #4 from DC Comics, in comic shops now. Since issue 1, Bermejo has looked at the series’ protagonists, teenagers who have been inspired by the Dark Knight’s example, and showed how these youths have taken up what they see as their responsibility to their home of Gotham City. They look at a world where their city is constantly under siege and decide that they have a duty to protect it whatever way they are capable. Bermejo has questioned in all four issues thus far, however, how far that responsibility extends. Are we compelled to do Good with a capital G even when we aren’t equipped to do so? Should we weigh our desire to follow that torch of responsibility versus how able we are to follow it?
Bermejo delves into these questions further in issue 4, as we feel the aftermath of the death of Troy, the Robins’ first loss. With this loss, the Robins are finally coming under the kind of scrutiny you would imagine a group of rag-tag street heroes would come under in our social media, all-eyes-on-us age in which we currently live. Bermejo peppers the dialogue with tweets and news media responses to Troy’s death, with many questioning whether any of the good the heroes have done can outweigh the loss they’ve suffered and the potential danger the Robins pose to themselves and others.
From there, Bermejo goes from the macro to the micro, focusing on Girl Wonder R-iko’s reaction to Troy’s death and the public’s outcry, retreating into herself and questioning her actions with a hard look of all that’s come before. Will R-iko put away her desires to be hero to the streets of Gotham and, if so, is that maybe a smart choice? Can even her idol sway her decision one way or the other and should it? Bermejo tackles these issues deftly, not looking at the issue by making a blanket declaration about what all of the Robins should choose, but a singular Robin, this Robin. Not only does Bermejo acknowledge the shades of grey that loom over these questions, but he uses that acknowledgment to let us get to know one of the Robins a bit more intimately than we might in an action-packed installment.
I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on Bermejo’s use of social media in this issue. While the previous chapters have highlighted how our technology could make the conceit of We Are Robin more believable than it might have been a decade ago, I appreciate how Bermejo also gives a strong nod to the dark side of social media. As he noted in our interview, social media has a strong, reactionary side to it, for good and for ill. We see that in this issue with how the public gives kneejerk reactions to the Robins’ derring-do, as well as how our celebrity-obsessed culture can become dangerous for all involved. One particular scene with “cape chasers” rooting out superheroes with a manufactured danger made me think of Princess Diana’s deaths nearly two decades ago. While the circumstances are different, the parallels between the dangers of grasping at celebrity, especially for extraordinarily selfish ends, are relevant today now more than ever.
James Harvey more than helps stick the landing on bringing the mood to the mostly pensive atmosphere the characters find them steeped in for this issue. While series regular artist Jorge Corona has been spot-on in executing the necessary balance between character development and action that is necessary for a title like We Are Robin, Harvey’s pencils are more than appropriate for this issue and allows the characters to breathe. His heady, almost 3-D images that permeate the book are sometimes disquieting, which helps sell the effect Bermejo is going for in his script: We don’t know how the Robins are feeling after the death of Troy, and the Robins themselves don’t seem to know that answer, either. Particularly unnerving was the use of space in R-iko’s bedroom, where her figure seems small and confined compared to the enormity of the room itself. R-iko herself is wrestling with her place in a larger world, and the art drives that point home.
We Are Robin #4 handles the quiet space that this large cast of characters needs before they engage in their next moves. Bermejo and Harvey develop a chapter that speaks to teenage issues and grappling with responsibility for the 21st century in a way I’ve rarely seen since some of the Spider-Man stories of old, and that’s the best praise I can give a tale.