Embrace the Year of Robin

Dec 6, 2015

robin trade paperbackI’ve never been a big fan of Robin. I really only had respect for Dick Grayson as Nightwing. Once he put on the Bat suit, I gained even more respect for him. I’ve only had passing familiarity with Tim Drake and Jason Todd. And before the summer of this year, I readily spit on the grave of Damian Wayne.

But something has gone on this year that has changed my perspective. One of those was the need for a salve after the scarring I received from sitting through Batman Eternal. I have noted before how this book’s meandering quality frequently disrupted my level of interest in the story. But one good thing that came out of that tale for me was how excellent the Robin and Batgirl threads were. For most of that run, that side-story was the best thing going in the book. I absolutely loved seeing each one of the Robins interact with Barbara Gordon and how they each regarded her individually and as a Robin-collective. Adding Batwoman to the mix that one time was also interesting as it showed even more of a foil between those two characters (Robin and Batgirl).

And I say two, even though it is four, because another thing that happened to me this past year has been the cementing of the notion of Robin as an entity, an archetype, an icon. Just as much or even more so than the Bat. As well as the notion that the mythology of Robin is as much a part of the Batman mythos as the Joker. In fact, I could offer the notion of Batman-Robin-Joker as a holy trinity of that mythology. With no one of those parts necessarily greater than the other. Although my theology has always been weak.

Admittedly, I’ve never really given a hoot about Robin. Who was in the suit. Or the extension of their legacy beyond Bruce. But over the last couple of years, each of these young men has had a story forged that has reached a pinnacle of strength in this anniversary year for the Robin character. An apex. An apogee. For me, the combined story of Dick, Tim, and Jason, has never been as strong collectively as it has been now at the dawn of Robin War. It seems like one of them has always been strong while the other two have been absent, weak, or otherwise a throwaway. I only comment on this as far as my own perspective. I have significant gaps in my readership of comics, so this not an attempt to render an historically-based judgment on these stories.

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I’ve been going through significant pains as I have been trying to reconstruct my monthly recurring pull-list. I tore it down to bare metal this spring as I felt entirely confused by both Marvel’s and DC’s creative approach to their universes. I recently emerged from that purgatory, and was very surprised to find three Robin books on my roster; in fact all of the Robin tales other than “Grayson” and “Red Hood & Arsenal”.Batman-and-Robin-Eternal-Cover-1 Don’t read anything into that; a certain amount of my pull-list is procedurally generated and I just kept missing an opportunity to read more Grayson. I did read the first few issues and found it thoroughly enjoyable.

With the barrage of Robin books on DC’s monthly shipping list, I feel like they have a lineup that is as interesting to me as any previous comics collective, such as the X-books over in Marvel, or the original battalion of Bat-books that launched with the New 52. Chief among these for me is the “We Are Robin” title. A decidedly urban take on the Robin mythology, that does not feel infused with the normal Gotham City fairy tale fluff, this book feels as real as any capes comic can be. It is very street level. There are tones of All-New Ghost Rider in here, thrown in with scents of other Marvel Knights comics. There is a certain childhood flavor; I cannot say innocence, but inner-city kid vibe that resonates with me. And I think that keeping the Bat out of the book has been a great creative choice, though I cannot see them keeping that up. I also sense that we are about to loose that childhood as I expect to see the kids in capes, boots and masks pretty soon. But it is kn. That is part of the Robin mythos, too. It is not only about each Robin’s childhood, but about their passage and evolution into manhood. From sidekick to hero.

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Nearly its equal, I am also very amped about the Batman and Robin Eternal comic. As much as this book explores the relationship between Dick and Bruce, as well as Tim and Jason, it has the relationship between the three Robins front and center. This is such an important tale to be told in the DC Universe and one that I feel has never been knitted together, or at least well. I love the interaction between these three different generations of Robin, and the creative team is doing an excellent job of putting on a show of how their relationships with the Bat were similar, but also so very, very different in many ways.

The only thing I can say is that I am gobbling this stuff up. Right now my relationship with the Robin character is more relevant than my introspective on the Bat has ever been. At least as a matter of literary observation. I am loving these stories and I am bullish on the books as a cohesive unit as they are being hewn together in very relevant and interesting ways. Robin War is finally an opportunity to see all of these storied wended together, and I have high expectations for a Robin-centric tale that leans on the mythology of the DCU, but his not held back by it. Let the good times roll.

comics-batman-and-robin-alex-ross

Final note: if you need an arc or topic to crawl through, I would say grab the trades of all of the 2015 Robin books, or buy the individual back-issues digitally and experience the Robin mythology as a single story. I need to catch up on some of those myself. I think it will be worth your time.

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