And thus concludes a series that never proves its thesis.
If it even has one, that is. I’m still not entirely sure what this story was supposed to be about, and what purpose it serves. It doesn’t work as an exploration of Batman and Robin’s early partnership, it doesn’t work as a coming of age tale for Dick Grayson, and it doesn’t work as a superhero adventure. There’s really very little story and development here, despite running for three oversized issues.
To update my feelings from the second issue, Robin & Batman is not a bad comic, just a very disappointing one.
It’s strange, because there’s quite a bit of plot presented: Dick trying to adjust to his new school, the new team of the Dynamic Duo, Killer Croc seeking revenge for… some reason, and Batman and Robin learning to work together because it’s what’s expected and what the story demands. So yeah, lots of ideas, just nothing is really done with any of it.
Perhaps the most baffling is Croc’s inclusion. When he first appeared in the debut issue, I thought it could be an interesting twist, tying his history in with the Graysons. That he’s all but absent in the second issue didn’t allow his story to develop much, though, so when he finally sets his plan in motion here, it feels rushed. Like an afterthought, even. It might be an interesting idea on the surface, having Waylon be a part of Haley’s Circus, but I don’t think the timelines add up that well. When he’s shown in flashback, Croc is a scrawny little thing, and Dick is quite young. In the present, Croc is a massive, brawny adult, where Dick is still early into his teenage years at most. So unless Croc was older than he appeared in the flashbacks, and he beefed up once he left the circus, I don’t see how they two could have run in the same circles at all, even for a brief period of time.
But that’s relatively minor, considering the short shrift Croc is given in the story proper. He hates the joy Dick had as a normal kid, and wants to take out his jealousy by kidnapping the Boy Wonder. It’s all very standard, rote supervillainy stuff, and not remarkably engaging at that. What’s worse, the pacing of the series makes it so that Croc’s plan comes out of nowhere, relatively speaking, since he’s barely been in the series up to this point.
That could be forgiven, though, if the characters were strong. Despite getting a few extra layers of depth from Lemire, Dick isn’t more than a two-dimensional character, even at the end of all things. We follow him and see his inner thoughts and day-to-day activities, but we don’t really get to know Dick through this story. Everything we leave the story with was knowledge that we brought into it to begin with. He’s not a cypher, but as I’ve said before, there’s nothing new to be learned here.
And then Batman. Gruff, unrepentantly harsh Batman. Taken in isolation, there are a few scenes here that could be seen as moving, and hint at character growth. It’s no surprise that the heroes save the day and come to understand each other better, which… awesome. That’s what I want to see. Like with Croc, though, we get so little of Batman and Robin together that the only insight into their relationship we get is bitterness and agitation, at the very best. All of their crimefighting missions and displays of being “the Dynamic Duo” are told in montage or in media res, never allowing us to get a better idea of how they truly interact. What we do see… well, it’s not always great.
Up to the end, Dick remains a kid with lots of potential who is nonetheless troubled, in desperate need of a guiding light, and Batman is a cold, callous, intimidating figure. It makes his eventual recognition of Robin as a “good boy” feel like an obligation, not a sincere character turn.
But, yes, on its own it’s a very nice scene. The whole extended climax is quite exciting, at least from a pacing and visual standpoint. I liked that there was at least a point where Batman’s hard exterior was broken and he became vulnerable enough to recognize Robin’s skills, even if it it didn’t feel entirely earned.
And yes, Dustin Nguyen and Steve Wands deliver some incredible work here. Every page is stunning, just like the previous two issues, and there’s hardly a panel that isn’t frameworthy.
Even when he’s loose and– dare I say, even sloppy, Dustin Nguyen’s style is in a league of its own. I’d say more, but really, what more is there to say? Dustin Nguyen is a genius, and has elevated this story through his visuals alone.
This series started strong, tough I had my reservations, and just made me sad with its second issue. The third issue is slightly less depressing than its immediate predecessor, though the story feels too broad and decompressed to really hammer home the point Lemire wants to make. Which, after three issues, is still unclear.
Given the nature of comics, though, there will no doubt be a followup at some point. Here’s hoping it’s more focused on the narrative front, and doesn’t go out of its way to be a downer.
- You want closure.
- You like Nguyen’s unique style.
Overall: The ending this series deserves, I suppose, even if it’s never clear what the story is trying to say. If it’s that Robin will become just like Batman, the ending contradicts that. If it’s that Robin’s presence gives Batman a new outlook on life, that’s not evident at all, save for a single line. As I said regarding the second issue, this is not in any way a bad series, but a disappointing one. I wanted to love it. I should have loved it. When all is said and done with Robin & Batman, I didn’t enjoy it, and only just appreciate it for its visual excellence.