Teenagers fight hobos, Duke chats with the mystery benefactor of the “Robin” crew, and the gang rushes to dismantle a slew of bombs threatening the city! Will they make it in time, or is Gotham doomed?
No, that wasn’t a hook to get you to read this issue. We will have to wait till number 3 to know the fate of our not so illustrious band of misfits and their bomb dismantling dilemma. For now, all I have to sink my teeth into for this review is that opening sentence. To be honest, the content here was a slight let down from the first issue. It also didn’t help matters that I was expecting to get to meet the gang at this point and didn’t. It seems that Bermejo has decided to go for the slow burn in revealing the characters and their motivations to us, and I’m not entirely sure it is the wisest course of action for a brand new book.
A current example of a slow burn book would be Catwoman. It has taken a lot of time to set up complex relationships and vastly intertwined plot threads, but a book like that can afford to take chances since it is established and has a well known main character as its primary draw. With We are Robin, none of that holds true. While Duke is known, he definitely doesn’t have the same kind of star status that a character such as Selina does. Don’t get me wrong, the slow burn is a perfectly acceptable mode of story telling to employ, I’m just not sure this book has the luxury of taking its time to capture an audience. Not only does it need to keep up a certain momentum, but it is also critical that we get introduced to these people as soon as possible.
Part of the success of any book is having characters that people can relate to, empathize with, and root for. The plethora of characters this book has would seriously work in its favor if only they were fleshed out. With as many characters as there are, you’re bound to find someone you like. In my opinion, not only is it important that we connect with the characters, we also need to care for their fate when they rush off into dangerous situations. Right now, it feels like I joined a multiplayer game to complete an assigned task but have no clue who I am playing with and therefore could care less if they get blown away in acquisition of the goal. At this point, the story is all about the doing of stuff but has not taken the time to examine the whys of it all. I’m willing to concede that leaving them undefined was intentional, that the idea of them bonding over saving others was enough to form an alliance, but for me, this didn’t work. I need to know them as people, not just random archetypes.
We know the motivations behind characters like Bruce and Dick, but why are these kids doing this? Anything they do in the name of super-heroics is potentially life threatening. Have they had a life experience that would push them towards actions with such a lofty punishment for failure, or are some of them merely doing it because they are young and naive and think themselves invincible. Then again, maybe it’s for kicks, or to quell boredom on a Saturday night. The point is, I have no idea, and that is a huge problem for me.
As I said in my last review, I’m going to look carefully at the abilities and choices of characters in order to determine if they are indeed viable. Always keep in mind, these are not fully trained super heroes. Since we have not yet been given backgrounds on anyone yet, it is fair to assume that they are no more skilled than you or I would be…so that is exactly how I intend to evaluate them. Would I go into the sewer to find my missing parents?…sure. Would I be able to fight off a bunch of malnourished homeless people?…sure,this still seems plausible. Would I rush into a building that was rigged to explode, keeping in mind that I had no personal stake in the outcome?…NOPE! That was where this issue lost me, and where I might add that relevant character motivation would have lent a huge assist in making it believable. On top of that, the one character whose thoughts we can actually see, gives no appreciable reason as to why he eventually decides to join the group. He just does.
The art is once again provided by Jorge Corona. While I don’t have too many new observations to add in regards to the art, I did notice that more than half of the backgrounds were rather sparse. The first book had a fair share, but this one definitely has more. I’m not sure if it’s an artistic choice or if has more to do with a time crunch, but either way, there it is. I will share a particular panel that I did rather enjoy.
Duke and the mystery benefactor are in a police interrogation room, but instead of just showing the scene head on, Corona opted to go with rendering it as a reflection in the one-way mirror. I can’t pinpoint exactly why, but there is something about this layout that feels very cinematic to me. Generally speaking, the rest of the interrogation sequence was also storyboarded exceptionally well, incorporating a wide variety of angles and depths.
- Yeah, the mystery benefactor is totally Alfred Pennyworth. If it ends up being someone else, I will be shocked. If that is him in makeup, I’m happy to finally see him using his acting and makeup skills. It is an ability of the character that is sometimes overlooked, or at least, there is usually little opportunity for it to be utilized. I’m hoping it is his makeup skills and not that silly holographic mask we keep seeing the Bat-family using. I don’t like when they unnecessarily use technology when a far simpler and much more practical application is available. Aside from the fact that it looks like Alfred in makeup, it is also worth noting that the character only uses his left hand.
- While I am displeased with the fact that the kids have not been given proper motivation, it will be a real deal breaker if Alfred doesn’t provide a reason that I can accept as to why he is doing this. After all, he has always been one of the voices of reason that stood for the cessation of Batman and Robin.
- This one is a little morbid, but I am bringing it up more as a cautionary tale than anything else. In my last review, I spoke about the importance of showing that being a “Robin” has consequences. That way, we won’t get a bunch of kids running out at night and getting killed trying to stop crime. This, coupled with the fact that the kids from this issue are running around in the sewers reminded me of a tragic accident that happened in 1991. It was the year after the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was released in theatres. It was basically the height of Turtle-mania, and every kid was into them. A trio of friends decided to go into the sewers to play TMNT. Unfortunately, one of them didn’t come back out alive. I hope that parents out there are teaching their children that there is a difference between fantasy and reality and that confusing the two can lead to serious consequences.
- You wanna see a bunch of homeless people get beat up. (I’m not sure why you’d WANT to see a bunch of people who are down on their luck getting trounced, but if you’re in that demographic, then here is the book for you :)
- You like the idea that the fate of Gotham rests in the hands of a bunch of kids that are up way past their bedtimes.
After how much I enjoyed the premier issue of We are Robin, I was a little bit let down by this particular installment. As character took a backseat to action, I found myself thrilled by the exploits of a group of protagonist I didn’t know or understand. Personally, I find it hard to care about the fate of characters that I have not yet had an opportunity to get to know. While the story didn’t help me invest in the characters, it did lay groundwork for a future that is ripe with potential. Still looking forward to seeing where this goes, and hoping to get clued in on the motivations behind these new “Robins”.
SCORE: 5.5 / 10