After only 17 issues Joshua Williamson’s Robin comes to an end this month. And I have some thoughts on the ending, so let’s get right in.
To start with, this does not feel like the end of a series. None of the last couple issues leading up to it have had that feeling, and honestly I’m not sure why it has to end in the first place. Almost from the start of the series, Robin has felt like it has a lot more to say about Damian and his journey than 17 issues can cover, and has laid the groundwork to build those stories out over a longer period of time. So this abrupt ending stands out in a painfully glaring way and feels out of place. Until this issue there’s been nothing in the text itself to indicate it was coming to such a quick end, it’s been instead chugging away with it’s story, reintroducing characters who left during Shadow War, starting new plot threads with characters like Mara, and generally recapturing the fun it’s spend so much time nurturing. This issue even attempts to continue that, which furthers the odd feeling you get reading it.
The narrative is pulled between trying to wrap up Damian’s arc, propel him towards Batman vs. Robin, and finish telling the story it started with Lord Death Man and Flatline. Unfortunately it’s messy. The issue feels partially like a normal Robin book: quippy, fast paced, and humorous, and partially like a goodbye: lingering on moments of growth, reflecting on Damian’s journey, and even giving the manga he’s reading an ending. Between all that we have hints of what’s sure to play a role in Batman vs. Robin like ensuring Mother Soul has Damian’s heart and introducing some further lore about the island. It’s a lot to try to do in a normal sized issue, and almost makes it feel like this was dropped on Williamson with very little warning.
Because it’s doing so much there isn’t a ton to anyone’s parts of the story. Take Lord Death Man and Flatline for instance, he’s inevitably betrayed by Mother Soul who pumps him full of Lazarus magic and sends him off to fight Damian and his friends only to be taken down easily. And the reveal that Flatline betrayed Robin has just as little substance as he brushes it off seemingly without a care. The story cares so little about building up drama there that the next few pages are dedicated to partying on the island, including a whole double page splash with them at the beach. I hate to say it cares little about the inherent drama, but rather it doesn’t have the time to fully flesh out that aspect of the story.
Speaking of splash pages, let’s dive into the art before I get to my feelings on the story’s resolution. Roger Cruz has the honor of penciling this final issue, and does a good job. I’ve mentioned the beach party spread, and it’s fun. He captures in a number of moments the joy of teens hanging out at the beach with sand castles, surfing, and beach volleyball. It makes me sad to see these as brief moments instead of lived scenes, but the snapshots are wonderful and work as a nice send off to the island aspect of Robin’s adventures.
The ‘wrap up’, if I can call it that, of Damian’s own story feels almost hollow. Yes Williamson writes in some callbacks to the start of the series, like having Damian’s manga end in this issue, but there’s also no substance to any of it. Damian doesn’t have a personal resolution to anything that’s happened, instead he still has more research to do. He says goodbye to all his friends because they have to leave so he can be put in place for Batman vs Robin. The whole thought experiment with him helping rehabilitate teens who’ve been villains is totally forgotten. It’s just left to hang loosely. There are elements about the wrap up I want to like, and elements that feel like they’d be appropriate if the series had a proper send off. And I think that’s my biggest issue, it doesn’t get to have that send off. It doesn’t get the issues it needs to wrap up stories, give Damian a full character arc or generally feel like it’s respectfully ending a series. Instead of allowing anything to be wrapped up the story is forced into this weird place where it has to send characters away and set Damian up to be alone so that the events of Batman vs. Robin can happen. Instead of being an ending it’s a jumping off point for readers to go pick up a new book instead. It even ends with a call to action literally saying “To be continued in Batman vs. Robin”.
It’s just–it makes me so sad to see a story I genuinely loved end on such a disappointing note. Even if Batman vs. Robin turns out to be something that does continue the events of Robin, and is something I genuinely enjoy, it’s just hard to see this book ended before it’s time for something like that.
The ending doesn’t just make me sad, but angry as well. It can feel like there’s no respect for the reader here, or the story being told, or the character’s we’ve come to be attached to. Major plot threads are left dangling, his new relationships feel severed with a jagged edge rather than naturally split, and the ending can’t even be called one when you’re being told the story is continuing somewhere else. Like I speculated earlier, it feels a bit like Williamson was told only recently that this issue that the story would be ending and he had to wrap it up. It certainly reads like something similar happened. Even thinking about Batman vs. Robin as a sequel series doesn’t resolve my frustrations. Why do a series all on its own rather than switch writers and continue this one? Because DC thinks that pitting Batman against Robin is going to sell more books? Most fans I’ve talked to are sick to death of seeing the once Dynamic Duo face off against each other. Even if it doesn’t play off as them actually fighting, the trope is so overused it’s almost painful that it’s the reason that this series is ending.
I hate to leave my comments on this series at something so negative, so I’ll use this last paragraph to talk about the series as a whole. Despite this rocky send off, Robin has been a joy for me to read and review. From my initial excitement at the premise, through it’s ups and downs Williamson has done an amazing job pacing, plotting, and crafting this into a set of delightful adventures for my favorite Robin to be on. I am thankful that I got to cover it, and even more so that these fun, odd, island adventures got to be a part of Damian’s history. I will miss this series, that was for over a year, the best part of my monthly reading list.
- You’re prepping for Batman vs. Robin
- And it’s the last issue so you might as well finish it
- Beyond the abrupt ending Robin has been amazing series and still worth checking out
Robin has been a joy to read and review since issue #1, but I cannot say the same about it’s ending. What should have been a triumphant finale given plenty of time to resolve its storylines and characters feels instead like a rushed sales pitch for a different title. Nothing is resolved here, from character motivations to relationships, and that’s disappointing for such a good series. I’m sad to have it end on this note, but I am looking forward to it’s continuation in the pages of Batman vs. Robin. May it be a worthy successor to one of my favorite runs.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.