Last month we got the details on just what’s happening on Lazarus Island, how the tournament works, and just how many times someone can die there before kicking the bucket for good. In addition to learning the rules Damian started exploring, and maybe made a frienemy or two. This month promises parties, beaches, and some possible awkwardness as Damian attempts to engage in an activity somewhat foreign to him: hanging out at a beach party.
I keep joking that one of these days I’ll just write a review for this book that’s simply: This book is good, go buy it. Obviously there’s more to say than that, but it’s something I say for a reason. Often when I put down an issue of Robin my only thought is “boy did I enjoy that”. That’s exactly how I felt about this issue, and I think it’s a good thing. It’s good to have genuine fun reading books on a regular basis. That’s what comics should be after all. It’s no secret that I wasn’t the biggest fan of a lot of what I read prior to Infinite Frontier. Books were okay, some frustrated me continually, and very few made me smile on a regular basis. I’m not here to review the whole line DC’s putting out right now, but generally I’m loving a lot of what’s going on lately. What I’m saying, is that it’s nice to enjoy a book on a regular basis again.
A big part of that enjoyment is just how good this book is. Williamson is doing so much here that works, from the pacing of the story to what he chooses to focus on, and even the moments of humor. Most importantly to me, he’s got a great grasp on Damian as a character, and nowhere is it more obvious than here in this issue. So let’s dive into those elements.
Firstly I want to touch on pacing, we’re three issues into this series and honestly? I’m loving the pace Williamson is moving at. The story could have easily jumped right into the tournament proper but instead, he’s giving us a slower start and giving a solid foundation not only for the island and the characters within, but Damian himself. Taking it slow like this works because instead of falling into a trap of repetition where we have a lot of fighting and little character work, we’re getting lots of character mixed with some fighting that feels valid to the story. Elements like watching characters show off last week, and the fight that happens in this issue keep up the action element, while allowing lots of time to develop everything else.
At a smaller level, the pacing of the issue itself is very good too. It’s broken up roughly between the party and Damian’s first real meeting with Conner Hawke. It goes by in such a way that I didn’t realize I was at the end till I hit the last page and went “Wait, what? I want more!” It’s a pace that feels natural. We follow Damian into the party, through it, and out of it, in a way that I think quite a few people might see themselves in. That meandering feeling of being new, trying to fit in, and then wandering off to find a real connection. To me, that movement works and makes the pacing work too as we’re basically drawn in a line through the narrative with Damian.
Now, I want to dive into Damian’s character in this issue. Last month I was a little iffy on Damian’s reaction to being able to kill freely and I’ve softened on that stance quite a bit in the time between issues. If anything this issue made me more convinced that Williamson really gets Damian. In particular, I’m thinking of the beach party. Reading through it Damian –and readers I’d hope– are taken through a number of emotions. You’ve got embarrassment with Damian well aware he doesn’t really fit in with this crowd of killers, and then some victory as he finds a way to actually move past everyone’s derision, and some frustration and disappointment as the conversation switches from him to being all about Batman.
Damian’s reaction to his fellow fighters falling into a discussion about the big bad bat clearly paints how he feels about being overshadowed by Batman, and some of his own reasons for being here in the first place. He wants to find a way to get out of Batman’s shadow, and this was supposed to be a way to do that, whether that’s through his fighting prowess or through discovering a mystery even Batman hadn’t rooted out yet, it’s clear he’s working towards becoming his own person. And I love that. Williamson doesn’t have to even have Damian say it, it’s clear enough through context and how Damian quietly removes himself from the party altogether.
His complicated relationship with Bruce is made even clearer as he and Conner sit down to talk. Both boys have some serious baggage regarding their dads, and in a stunning page we get to see them bond over that fact. We don’t get to spend a ton of time between Damian and Conner, but what the story gives us has me really rooting for the pair to be fast friends, and a team up in the future. Which is a bit contradictory to the whole death tournament thing, but I have some hopes for how all this will play out in the end, and Damian gathering a group of friends from this adventure is one of them.
Tied with Conner we get to see the League of Shadows again, and learn a little more about them. I’m interested to see how they develop over the rest of this arc –and perhaps series. I’m kind of torn about the fight that happens as a result of their inclusion. The fight is cool, but some of the elements around it just didn’t really work for me. On one hand yeah Damian’s ready to throw down at any moment, but on the other there’s just some odd stuff with how the League of Shadows talk and have sway over Conner.
Melnikov is still doing an amazing job on art. To jump back to my favorite part of the issue –which was the party scene where Damian’s overshadowed by Batman– he creates some great moments. One of the fighters describes a fight with Batman he had, and on the wall instead of the man’s shadow we see Batman’s. And then there’s the way Damian’s shoved out of the way as others begin talking about Batman, the look on his face, and physically the way he’s pushed–even without text you’d know how he was feeling here. Left out and suddenly in the middle of a conversation he doesn’t want to have.
Then, of course, I have to mention the page where Damian and Conner are talking. It’s just really lovely. The boys are sitting together chatting, and in the sky we see both Batman and Green Arrow featured. Everything here comes together to really make this work, from Melnikov’s pencils setting the whole thing up to Guerrero’s coloring –he even makes the moon glow. I also have to praise Troy Peteri’s letters, he does a great job fitting the text into the art in a way that doesn’t cover up the gorgeous art, and feels dynamic as well.
Again, Williamson leaves us on a cliffhanger, and again it’s not nearly as dramatic as the first one. Though, this comes pretty close with it’s surprise. I know I did a double take when reading it. As excited as I was to see the beach party featured in this issue, I’m equally looking forward to seeing what Williamson does with this next element he’s introduced.
- Damian bonding with others is something you always enjoy reading
- You’ve been waiting on Damian and Conner to meet
- Stories that draw you in through consistent pacing are your cup of tea
Robin is still going strong. It’s not pulling its punches either emotionally or physically and I’m loving it. The pacing here is done in such a way that I can easily lose myself in an issue, and I feel like Williamson is really building a strong foundation of character, plot, and myth into the narrative. I can’t wait to see how things continue to develop next month. Robin’s been consistently my favorite book each month, and I don’t really see that changing in the future.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.