2012: The year characters figured out Batman’s identity just by looking at his face.
This issue focuses entirely on Dick Grayson’s Robin origin and leaves the Nightwing transformation for another day. It uses quite a few elements from the animated series, sets up the next storyline with Lady Shiva, and even nods to its previous story arcs by including childhood pal Raymond. Eddy Barrows is back at the pencil and he does a great job for the most part. Some of the facial expressions look kind of creepy. Happiness and sadness in particular aren’t conveyed very well, they don’t look natural and sometimes look kind of frightening. But besides the critique of character faces from time to time the book is quite gorgeous. A full page shot of Robin at the back of the book is truly stunning and one of my favorite images all year. He looks so iconic and there are so many great details in the background like the dead guy, the street on fire, and Batman picking himself up off the ground. It looks incredible. The final shot is beautiful as well. With so many great shots I feel bad for pointing out the odd facial expressions because otherwise the book looks phenomenal.
Some classic details are altered of course.
- Dick is no longer Bruce’s ward. He visits Wayne Manor as a “part-time job” sort of like Terry McGinnis
- It seems like Tony Zucco was never caught
- Dick’s tenure as Robin has been greatly reduced and it seems that he spent most of his time at the batcomputer
- Dick figures out who Batman is by looking at his face, much like John Blake in The Dark Knight Rises. I’m fine posting that spoiler. You’re someone who reads Batman comic book reviews, I feel safe in assuming you’ve watched The Dark Knight Rises at this point
I’m happy to say that the Court of Owls wasn’t mentioned. Having Haly’s Circus be a front for that evil organization (an organization without a plan of what to do when they took the city) as seen in earlier Nightwing and Batman issues this year left an awful taste in my mouth. It’s a really unnecessary way to overly complicate an already fine origin story. Plus if such a powerful, evil organization was running the circus, would they really put up with a small timer like Zucco hassling them for protection money?
A lot of what you see here is pretty familiar. Other than the bullet points I listed it doesn’t deviate too far from what longtime fans already know but it’s great to have something like this around for new readers. The only things I had a problem with were the identification of Batman. I hated it when John Blake did it in Nolan’s movie and I hate it here. It’s too simple. And in the Nolan movies it really made Gordon seem dense since he saw Bruce and Batman quite frequently and everyone in those movies figured out he was Batman way before Gordon ever put two and two together. Luckily he only ever gave one kid a coat and that was a very memorable experience 30 years later. And I should also note that by putting Dick behind a computer for most of his side-kick years and having him figure out Batman’s identity on his own it strips characteristics away from Tim Drake that made him unique to the other Robins. My other problem was that Dick was already way, way too formidable prior to his training. I hate how overly bad ass these kid sidekicks are.
Batman had to travel around the world and train under every martial arts master and cold blooded killer in the world for like 7 years before he could be Batman but a few months of training or (in Barbara’s case) a few self defense classes and a trip to the library make these kids just as up for the task of masked vigilante? The teen allies never seem to struggle anymore. When I reviewed Knightfall Vol.1 I was caught by surprised to actually see Tim Drake get bested by a henchman it had been so long since I had seen a sidekick get outmatched because they weren’t good enough. It’s one of my main problems with Damian, he’s too perfect at 10 years old.
You want to show Dick Grayson as being a good enough fighter that Batman would consider him as a future ally? Fine. Just don’t go overboard. 7 vs. 1 is overboard. If he can bring down 7 grown men with weapons when he’s only a kid then he really doesn’t need that much more training. He’ll be fine. In fact, he could probably go a few rounds with Batman if he’s that good already.
This was a good issue and one of the better zero issues of any bat-title this month. The art looks fantastic, it touches on a lot of really important points in Dick’s history, and it even sets up some things for an upcoming arc making it a terrific jumping on point for new readers. I wish we could’ve seen more of the transition to Nightwing, but perhaps that’s asking too much.