The first issue of Robin ended on a deadly cliffhanger that left me eagerly awaiting answers to a million questions. The biggest one being did Robin really die, and if so what does that mean for the book going forward?
The short answer is yes. Of course. But he’s also mostly fine. On Lazarus Island it takes dying more than once to make death stick. Still, that doesn’t mean Damian’s got unlimited lives, he only gets three deaths and then he’s gone for good. It’s an interesting concept, and feels a little video game-like, as if there’s a three heart meter above Damian’s head and he’s lost one already. It also adds some interesting stakes to the story, since at some point true death will become a factor.
That’s not the only rule we learn however. Williamson spends the first half of the issue explaining the finer rules of the tournament, which includes things like what areas or times are off limits for fighting, how the tournament is structured, and what to expect from some of the other fighters. After that, the story turns more plot based as Damian begins his investigation into the island itself.
While having the first half of an issue be what’s essentially a lot of exposition about rules, it’s nowhere near stagnate or boring. Ravager does most of the explaining to Damian after he wakes up, and can I just say? Rose Wilson? I’d die for her. She makes the explanations something really enjoyable through her wit, commentary, and ribbing of Damian. I mean nothing beats her first words being a vocal representation of the second hand embarrassment we were all feeling last issue: “I’m so embarrassed for you.” It’s delightful and I’m eager to see more of her through the story. Especially since it’s quickly made obvious that she’s not going to be an antagonist. She’s got reasons for being on the island that have nothing to do with fighting her way to the top, which puts her in the perfect place to be an ally, mentor, and almost big sister figure to Damian.
Another stand out character this issue has got to be Flatline. Last time I said I hadn’t seen enough of her to really make a decision, and this issue I kind of fell in love with her. Her personality is a fun contrast to her Goth exterior, as she seems pretty excited to be there and eager to nag Damian into becoming her friend. I’m always down for characters who straight up adopt him right away, after all he’s not going to admit to needing friends on his own. As the apprentice to Lord Death Man I still don’t know a ton about her motivations regarding the tournament, but now that I’ve gotten to know her a little better, I’m eager to see more of her down the line.
Beyond fleshing out characters and giving us the rules of the tournament, this issue also starts to introduce some plot elements. I’m wont’ dive too deep into it yet, as I think it’ll develop more later, but I will say that I like that Williamson is keeping up with Damian’s investigation into the island. It’s easy to forget that the inciting incident behind all of this was Damian’s desire to investigate the mystery of the tournament and why it was hidden from him and I’m glad we’re getting that development already.
So there has to be something I didn’t enjoy right? A nit to pick at? Well, that comes tied with the rules and Damian’s reaction to them. Upon learning that death doesn’t stick the first two times someone loses, Damian kind of goes on a killing spree. He takes down a group of fighters out of the blue and I’m not pleased with that. This will be old hat to readers who followed my Teen Titans reviews, but Damian’s decision to stop killing is something I find integral to his character growth. However, the moment he learns he can kill, he flies into a fight.
I was really hoping to see some hesitation regarding killing from Damian. I know he’s been leaning away from Batman’s teachings for a while now, but I also want to hear a little more from Damian himself on this subject. Robin has been pushed as a story about him finding himself between Batman and Talia’s teachings, and I’m really hoping the series will slow down and give us some introspection from him regarding killing and how he feels about it. In this scene, it was very much played as a moment where he can show off and prove he’s supposed to be on the island, but what happens when he’s not soothing his wounded pride? And what of his solemn oath to not kill again? Is it really so easy for him to turn to slaughter when he doesn’t have to feel guilty over it? I’m really hoping we’ll get some answers to these questions over the course of the series.
To jump to happier things, let’s talk about art. I have a feeling the art section of my reviews are quickly just going to become a couple paragraphs of me gushing about Melnikov’s art, but I love it. I especially love the debut of what has to be one of my favorite outfits for Damian ever. I mean look at that. He’s all ninja, all fashion, and totally fabulous. Plus those gloves? I love them, I want them, and I’m desperate to know if the fingerstripes are a nod to Nigthwing’s old uniform or not.
Looking at characters over outfits, I really enjoy how much life Melnikov puts into everyone, especially through their body language. Everyone is very expressive, no matter if their serious, having fun, or something in between. We see this shine through in moments like Damian’s little “I’m watching you” motion to Flatline, and her own reaction. Plus the lighting there, done by colorist Luis Guerrero is absolutely stunning.
Another moment I have to point out is when Rose offers to train Damian. She’s bright and open, but Damian himself looks introspective. I can’t help but pause on that panel and wonder what he’s thinking there, and what is going unsaid? Does he want to say yes, but is holding back? All these moments gives these characters and story itself so much life.
Speaking of Rose, she doesn’t take no for an answer from Damian, and by the end of the story she’s roped him into a very unique type of training. It’s not the same kind of shocking cliffhanger as the first issue, but the issue doesn’t need it. Williamson is still laying out the foundations of what this tournament will look like, and how Damian plays into it all. Where the story ends is a logical next step, and one I’m eager to see play out next month.
- Damian in a fighting tournament is still appealing to you
- Rose Wilson. She’s wonderful here, and makes the narrative shine
- You too wanted to learn the rules behind this whole thing
I can happily say I’m still enjoying Robin a ton. Williamson gives us all the worldbuilding I asked for last issue, and I have to say some of the rules of the tournament are just downright cool. I love the emphasis on other characters like Rose and Flatline. Their inclusion helps to make this tale feel rounded and full. I’m hesitant on how I feel about Damian’s own character development, which I think needs more time given to it, but in general this is another strong issue. When I think of fighting tournaments and Robin, I think of fun, and so far the story is providing that in spades.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.