This annual takes readers back to just after issue #6 and gives us a collection of short tales about the series supporting cast. It focuses mostly on Flatline, Ravager, and Respawn, but includes most of the other new characters Williamson has introduced in the series.
The story in this annual is very light. Damian has arrived back on Lazarus Island and is investigating his competition, and he’s been given the perfect tool to do so: the escarma stick given to Damian by Dick. It has a tracker and link to the Batcave in it, meaning Damian can do some research on his competition. This acts as a framework to highlight different characters in short segments. Some are very brief files in line with the basic overview we got from Rose in issue #2, and others have more depth to them ranging from short-ish to about medium length for characters like Flatline or Ravager. Between each one we get some commentary from Damian as he’s following them through the island, scanning faces, and reading files.
The opening story is one of the longest, featuring Flatline. Here, Williamson goes into more depth on her backstory than we’ve seen before. The tale highlights her childhood in Russia, how she developed her powers, and some of her training with Lord Death Man. It also shows how she ended up on the island. Plus it gives a little insight into Lord Death Man himself, and his own reasons for taking her on and sending her to the island. If you’re a Flatline fan, this is a great brief on her character and how she came to be.
From there the story gives us some short single page highlights of characters like Black Swan, XXL, and Drenched. What I really like about these bites of information is that Williamson really utilizes this short space to give interesting insight into the characters. The top of the page gives a breakdown of who they are, death count, and abilities, while the actual comic shows some of their personality. Take XXL for instance, so far all we’ve seen of him is his bravado and his hype squad cheering him on, but from this brief picture into his life before the island we see that not everything is as clear as it was when Rose was initially explaining it.
Ravager’s the next long-ish tale, though with so much of it dedicated to fighting it feels shorter than Flatline’s just because the content is a little lighter. It also might as well be a Ravager and Respawn story even as focused on Rose as it is. Here at last we get to see what pushed her to come to the island, and get some insight into what’s going on in her life, and just how Respawn himself might be tied into the Wilson family.
Connor Hawke has the final singular story in this mini-anthology. It’s not as short as the single page highlights, but it’s fairly brief itself. It acts as a great primer for any readers unfamiliar with Hawke, giving a basic history of his character, what happened to him, and how he resurfaced today. It gives some insight into his personality, but because it’s pretty brief it really is more of a breakdown of his backstory than anything. Though, I’m not too worried about it being brief, he’s a character I have a feeling Williamson is planning to highlight more in the series even post-tournament.
What I like best about this annual is that it lets us get to know a lot of the bigger characters in Robin. Williamson so far has focused primarily on Damian –which I don’t mind at all– but that focus comes with the downside of not being able to give much time to the supporting cast. He’s used this annual as a chance to fix that, and give some insight into these characters we’ve already spent quite a bit of time with. It gives me hope that we’ll see more of them later in the series, even after the tournament has concluded.
It also works well to add some tension into upcoming issues. Next month we’ll see the whole crew face to face with the demon Mother Soul’s raised, plus a hoard of ninjas ready to keep them on the island, and it’s nice to know more about these characters going into that. Everyone is on their last life, and without a little backstory to bolster them the tension of whether or not they’ll make it off the island wouldn’t be the same. Without this little bit of insight the danger their facing might feel a little less impactful, especially if any end up in harms way over the next couple issues.
The art team for the annual includes Roger Cruz on pencils alongside Victor Olazaba on inks, Luis Guerrero on colors, and Troy Peteri on letters again. Hand in hand they do an amazing job on this issue. I like Cruz’s style quite a bit here, his lines are sharp and clean and his character expressions are really nice. He also does an excellent job on the few action filled moments we get this issue, specifically with Flatline and Ravager. The paneling is cool and dynamic, and the fights are nice and clean and easy to follow.
Guerrero’s colors are also wonderful. They’re clean throughout, and he uses them to create some really cool moments. One of my favorites is how we physically see Flatline’s hair color change as she battles some Russian spies. It’s gorgeous visual storytelling to watch her transform from panel to panel.
The issue wraps up with an epilogue that has me quite excited. It, more than anything else, really ties into the rest of the series in a way that will make you want to pick up the book and look forward to the future of the series. Some familiar characters show up in a way that has me hoping we’ll see them in the next couple issues.
- Flatline’s your girl and you want to know her past
- In-between tales are your cup of tea
- You like the occasional character highlight reel story
While this annual doesn’t really push the Robin narrative forward, I think it does a great job highlighting the book’s supporting cast in a way that makes sense to the readers and story. Characters we already care about are highlighted and expanded on like Ravager, Flatline, and Hawke. Others like XXL and Black Swan don’t have overly long backstories forced on readers, but their inclusion lets us get to know more about them, and start to take an interest in them. As a whole, I think this book is worth picking up if you want to know more about it’s cast overall.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.