I really enjoyed last month’s issue and thought it was the best of the run so far. The one unresolved plot thread, however, is Robin’s disappearance as he got lost in time during his and Supergirl’s time-traveling adventure. This issue is a one-shot that’s meant to address what’s happened to Robin, and to have Batman and Superman go after him to save him. Is this one-shot episode worth your time, though? Let’s have a look.
In general, I think this is a fairly entertaining issue, as it definitely has a few things going for it. In fact, I think that this issue starts out pretty well. We find Robin in the past where he’s working a detective case on his own. Robin’s joined a circus and people have been accusing the circus animals of killing members of the circus staff. It’s a fun premise, and after the non-stop chaotic action during the Devil Nezha arc, it’s nice to be able to relax with an issue where the stakes are not as high and Robin takes center stage.
However, as I’m reading this comic I keep asking myself more and more questions. For example, how does Robin end up working for this circus? Sure, he’s a circus kid, but why would this circus in particular hire him if he’s not even revealing his identity to them? Then, only a few pages into the issue, Batman and Superman show up in the circus out of nowhere. While Dick and Bruce’s reunion is very wholesome and it’s nice to see how happy they are to have found each other again, I’m wondering why nobody is batting eye at these two random strangers in weird outfits showing up in the circus, performing acts, and walking around the circus grounds. But these are not the most problematic elements of the comic.
I think this issue’s biggest shortcoming is that it feels pretty rushed. See, this issue is not about Batman and Superman having to find Dick. It actually completely skips over that and instead it gives us the most boring and rushed explanation as to how they manage to find Robin. It’s literally like this: In one panel they are still in the present day, after having defeated Nezha, and in the next they’ve already found Robin. There’s absolutely no challenge here, and the way that all of this plays out is much too convenient and easy. The more I think about this, the more the story starts to crumble.
Another thing that I don’t think is executed well is the fact that we are introduced to a whole bunch of new circus characters. Robin describes a number of them and says their names, but immediately after their introductions they are all left behind and forgotten. Aside from the perpetrator and a few victims that are related to the central detective case, none of these characters actually play a role in this story. It’s not even like they could all be suspects because they’re just never developed as characters. They merely exist in the background, and yet their combined intros take up two entire pages!
Furthermore, for a story that’s supposed to be have a mystery and a detective case at its core, there’s actually hardly any detective work or development of the mystery. We see Robin doing a little bit of detecting toward the beginning, then he hangs out with Batman and Superman, and then it just kind of jumps to the conclusion/reveal and that’s that. As a detective story, this comic fails, and that’s a shame because it’s obvious that that’s what this comic tries to be. Perhaps, if there were more pages available to the creative team or if they fleshed this story out over two issues (maybe even three), the story could have breathed more; Robin would have truly shined as the one to solve the mystery; and Batman and Superman would have actually had something to do as there would have been more time to show how they manage to find Robin instead of just sort of warping to his exact location.
That said, I still appreciate that this series is bringing hope back. A lot of people these days seem to think that the DC Universe is supposed to be the darker universe, whereas the Marvel universe is supposed to be the funnier and more hopeful one. The fact of the matter is, as many long-time readers will know, that DC is supposed to be about hope and optimism. For all its flaws, this issue—and this series—get this right. The book feels like a return to a more classic, optimistic tone and, besides Mora’s artwork, that is the main reason why I’m still purchasing the monthly issues. I just hope that the quality of the storytelling will go up. I know Waid can do it—it’s about time he ups the ante.
As for the art, Mora is absent from this issue. But fear not, because not only will Mora return next month to illustrate the second arc, the fill-in artist in this issue is none other than Travis Moore. His art is very clean and consistent. It’s not as detailed as Mora’s art, but there’s a nice balance between background details and the characters in the foreground. Moreover, Moore draws Dick Grayson as a handsome young man with a friendly attitude, and there’s a real joy to these panels because of how Dick interacts with others and his environment. The layouts are easy on the eye, and the panels form a sequence that makes sense and which is easy to follow.
What’s also interesting to note is that there’s practically no fighting in this comic. The action can be found in the acrobatics that Robin and Batman perform in the circus, as well as the superheroics that Robin, Batman and Superman pull off as they are saving people and animals when the shit hits the fan. Lastly, to maintain a level of aesthetic cohesion, Tamra Bonvillain—who is a frequent collaborator of Dan Mora’s and who has colored the entire series so far—is also coloring this issue. Her colors are always smooth and layered and her various hues and tones mix and match very well. Even though the pencils are drawn by a different artist, thanks to Bonvillain’s colors this still feels very much like an issue of Batman/Superman: World’s Finest, and at this point I honestly couldn’t imagine this series without her.
- Dick Grayson is your favorite Robin.
- You want more optimism in your DC books.
- You enjoy circus stories that involve animals and wholesome character interactions.
Overall: I still like reading this issue, but I can’t ignore the flaws. The creative team has to cram so many plot beats and character beats into 20 pages, that nothing’s properly fleshed out, and as a result all of it feels rushed. I’m glad that we find optimism within these pages again, but if the story itself doesn’t make sense, then even optimism can’t save the final product. This issue is easily skippable and, unless you are a completionist or have a few extra bucks to spare, I recommend you do skip it and wait for the second arc to start next month. Nothing here is essential to the overall series, after all.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.