Grayson #15: “Robin War Part 2: The Originals”
Written by Tom King and Tim Seeley
Illustrated by Mikel Janín
Colored by Jeromy Cox
Lettered by Carlos M. Mangual
I am Robin.
You are Robin.
We… are Robin.
Thanks, Dick. You always know what to say.
That was weird.
Month after month, this creative team has delivered one of the best books in the mainline DC continuity at least. There have been a few lulls, but nothing disastrous to the point that the overall quality suffers. Each issue, even the “lesser” ones, has something to contribute to the overall narrative. Even when it doesn’t quite hit the mark, Grayson still tries to do something different.
With that in mind, I don’t know why issues like this surprise me. Leave it to King, Seeley, Janín, and Cox to pull the rug from under me in the best way.
Following directly from last week’s inaugural Robin War issue, Dick, Tim, Jason, and Damian have taken the outlaw We Are Robin group underground both for training purposes and their own safety.
Not to say I like the casualties or collateral damage, but I really like the catalyst used to drive this crossover. I’ve been reading We Are Robin since day one, and while I like the idea of the group and it’s an enjoyable read, there didn’t seem to be much consequence for the group’s actions other than one tragic death. The idea of well-intentioned but woefully unprepared kids trying to make a difference, only to lead to tragedy, is some pretty powerful stuff, and I’m so glad that’s what this is about rather than an arbitrary brawl. It feels real because there are stakes and consequences, and the superheroics complement that rather than supersede it.
Plus, as much as I love Secret Agent Grayson, the sooner he’s back in a costume the better.
Just make sure it’s blue, not red.
In a lot of ways, this issue is structured like September’s phenomenal #12: the overarching narrative is punctuated by vignettes focusing on a different Batfamily member (in this case, the four Robins), leading to a third act development that completely changes the game.
It’s a familiar technique, but not utilized as a crutch; instead, King uses each montage to focus on the different personalities of the boys, and their ideas on what it means to be Robin. Seeing Damian mouth off to the recruits or Jason taking them street-side simply to spite Dick shows he knows how to handle these guys, and it leads to interesting interactions with the We Are Robin crew once they get their mission.
Speaking of, meet your new favorite character:
Dax made me like reading Jason Todd. That’s a real hero.
There are moments where this issue feels like part of a crossover and not an issue that could stand on its own well, which is to be expected, but it’s still remarkably well told. Like I mentioned, it does seem similar to that earlier issue with its pacing, but the twist at the end was so well implemented and caught me so off guard that I laughed out loud for not seeing it coming.
Besides feeling like one part of a larger whole, the only other narrative hiccup is in the portrayal of Duke Thomas, but that really isn’t King’s fault. Duke has had such inconsistent characterization across titles that he’s still a cypher, though he’s most consistent here with how he acts in We Are Robin. So, not so much the fault of this book as an ongoing problem, but it bears repeating.
Now what can I say about Janín and Cox that hasn’t been said a thousand times before, just by me alone? It’s a credit to both the writers and artistic team that they allow the story to be told not just in words, but pictures as well.
That panel comes right after the set up for a big speech from Dick. Instead of giving him a didactic talk about leadership, he lets Duke observe and listen to the city, taking the time to be aware of everything going on: the environment they’re in, the situation they’re a part of, and Duke’s own role with the Robins.
As far as tie-ins go, just by reputation alone this is a cut above. Besides driving a larger narrative, King also gives us a meditation on what it means to be Robin. There are many thoughts presented, many points of view given, but unsurprisingly it’s the first Robin who perfectly explains not just the core of Robin, but Batman himself.
That’s what this book is about: not just a Boy Wonder, not just an acrobat, not just Nightwing.
- You’ve been following Robin War.
- You love Dick Grayson.
- You, like everyone else, love Tom King.
- Seriously, Dax is pretty great.
Overall: A better tie-in than any crossover really deserves, though that isn’t surprising given the caliber of the creative team. A suitable progression of the narrative, a meditation on what it means to be Robin and a hero in general, and a genuinely exciting surprise ending elevate this above any shortcomings it may have. It may not fully stand on its own, but it’s good on its own.