We are Robin is finally here…and it doesn’t disappoint! This first issue is filled with plenty of action, social significance, elusiveness, and two (that’s right, count them) TWO cliffhangers!
For those of you not familiar with the character of Duke Thomas, he was created by Scott Snyder and appeared sporadically throughout the main Batman book. During the events of EndGame, Duke’s parents were Jokerized and never found after the city got the situation back under control. It looks like We are Robin is going to be about Duke searching for his missing parents. In the interim, Duke has been living in foster care, and all he had to endure has had a negative effect on his demeanor. As a result of this, he is prone to acts of delinquency that gets him bounced from home to home. After everything that happened to him, he still clings to the hope that his parents are alive out there somewhere and he dedicates himself to finding them.
As the story starts off, it is kind of jarring to see the extent to which Duke is alternately portrayed: he was previously depicted as highly motivated and selfless. At first, I thought that Bermejo was just completely off base with his characterization, but as the story progressed, I began to realize that we were merely seeing a character at the end of a life changing story arc that we didn’t really get to witness the specifics of. At the moment, we are forced to concoct our own scenes that lead him to this place. Although, given his past, it isn’t hard to see this as the potential outcome.
After reading the very first scene, I was a little concerned: it starts off with three guys roughing Duke up while one of them warns him not to date his sister. Ok, that seems entirely plausible. Then things escalate in a heartbeat as they pull out lethal weapons and proceed to attack more viciously. So, things just went from a warning to potential murder? Duke successfully evades the attacks by doing back flips off a chain link fence and then manages to take out all three dudes. How is that possible? I know you want to open your story with something dynamic in nature… but it’s Duke! We don’t really have any evidence that he should be able to do any of this. Personally, instead of going, “Wow!”, I was going, “huh?”
One thing I will be very conscious of when reading and reviewing this series, is just how realistically the actions and abilities of normal people will be depicted. They are not supposed to be expertly trained individuals: as if you or I went out and just decided to fight crime. I expect people to get hurt. I expect consequences. Anything less would be too much to swallow. Reality kicks back in later on in the story when Duke admits that he has no desire to go roof jumping like the other super heroes do as he has no interest in falling to his death. It’s a nice bit of brevity that reestablishes his normalcy after that acrobatic playground display. (If it was ever mentioned that Duke is a gymnast and I merely forgot, then I recant my objection to the back flip.) Likewise, last month’s preview book had the “Robins” going up against guys with machine guns for crying out loud! If someone doesn’t get hurt in the process of all this super heroing, I’m going to call shenanigans! Plus, if there are any kids reading this, I think it would send a strong message to their impressionable minds if you include realistic repercussions for the actions of the “Robins”.
Speaking of kids, for those of you thinking about giving this to a younger child, you might want to take a second to reconsider. In the same way that not all animated movies are for kids, not all comic books are either. Anyone giving this a cursory glance at the comic shop would be rightfully excused for assuming that it is for kids. The cover is graced with an entire pack of “Robins”, and initially, Robin was the identifying character in Batman comics that allowed children reading it to immerse themselves in the adventure. The kids weren’t expected to believe that they could ever be Batman, but Robin was a different matter entirely. Not only does the comic have very mature content and situations, but there is a decent amount of cussing. Words like B!+@h and A$$ just flow right off the characters tongues like it ain’t no big thing. I’m not trying to tell you what you should and shouldn’t be showing your kid (heck, I was 11 when I first read The Killing Joke!), I just want you to be aware that it is there, if it is something you’d rather them not be exposed to.
When I first heard about We are Robin, and that Lee Bermejo was attached to the project, I became super excited. I figured that even if the story fizzled, we would still be getting some insanely good artwork out of Mister Bermejo. Then I found out that he was the writer and would only be doing cover art for the issues. To be honest, I was a little disappointed. But I am now happy to say that Jorge Corona actually does a tremendous job at quelling my misgivings. I’m not going to say that he is the same level of artist as Bermejo, but in a way, I think that Corona’s pencils are almost more fitting to the story being told than if Bermejo had been the one illustrating it. Corona’s art has a youthful exuberance to it that I found brought the characters to life in a more approachable and less grim fashion. Given Bermejo’s penchant for realism, I can only imagine how graphic the images from this book would have been under his hand.
This issue is $3.99. It does come with the customary 22 pages that accompany the other $3.99 books that DC releases, but my question is, why is it a $3.99 book? I broached this question last week in the comment section of Robin: Son of Batman. I noticed that there were several $2.99 books that got bumped up to $3.99 for June. Personally, it always seemed to me that the $3.99 price point was exclusive to the flagship titles of DC’s lineup. Now it looks like it’s a free-for-all for anyone. While what was presented here was good, I’m not sure if it was worth shelling out the extra dollar for. I looked on DC’s main website and it shows that at issue #4, it will be dropping down to $2.99. We may just be paying a premium since it is new and therefore special in some way, but I still feel like I’m being gouged.
- One of this issue’s cliffhangers features a gentlemen in shadow, mulling over the idea of helping this pack of kids become more proficient at their super heroing. Alfred Pennyworth anyone?
- I liked the fact that they mentioned Duke’s penchant for Lord of the Rings. It tells me that Bermajo is paying attention to the finer details. If you look back at Batman #30, you can see a bunch of Lord of the Rings/Dungeons & Dragons toys in the background of his room.
- Back in 1991, there was a story that was featured in issue 21, 22, and 23 of Legends of the Dark Knight. The title of this little adventure was Faith, and it featured Batman saving a drug addict from certain death, who then turned his life around and formed a street gang of “Batmen” to aid the Dark Knight Detective in his war against crime. The “Batmen” are a band of misfits, formed from runaways, ex-addicts, and the generally down trodden. (sound familiar?) Much like this issue of We are Robin, Faith also featured Dr Leslie Thompkins in a supporting role. If you’ve never read this before, you may consider my mentioning it here as a recommendation to do so (it’s only 1.99 an issue on Comixology). Written by the great Mike W. Barr and Penciled by Bart Sears, it’s a little gem that no Batfan should be deprived of.
- Was it just me, or did anyone else think that the scene that took place in the sewers was somewhat reminiscent of an episode of Batman: The Animated Series? Specifically, The Underdwellers with the Sewer King.
- One of the “Robins” in this issue is seen wearing a yellow coat with a hood. The first thing that popped into my head was Marvel’s Jubilee. Then I started thinking about the DC vs Marvel crossover from 1996. In that miniseries, Robin and Jubilee ended up hanging out together. (Thanks for riding my train of thought, and watch your heads as you exit…)
- This isn’t really relevant to We are Robin, but I figured that some of you might be interested to know that this is my 100th article here at Batman-News. Hey, Batman and Robin have been known to proudly announce their milestones. Why shouldn’t I?
- You’re a fan of Lee Bermejo. Ok…so recommended for everyone!
- You have been fascinated with Duke Thomas as a character and want to see where his adventures lead.
This first issue does a tremendous job at setting up where this book is headed and really hooks you. When everything was said and done, I was chomping at the bit to get a look at issue #2. For a new #1, that is the exact kind of reaction a creative team hopes to hear from their audience. Bermejo and Corona have gotten my attention, and I’m actually hoping that they can keep it.
SCORE: 8 / 10