Batman vs. Robin #1 review

Batman vs. Robin #1 overcomes most of the pitfalls a “versus” title faces at its very conception. I don’t like seeing heroes fight each other, but the return of a fan favorite character and aggressive pacing allows Mark Waid and Mahmud Asrar to cut to the chase and deliver equal parts spectacle and character drama.

It’s impossible to talk about the book without spoiling an early reveal, which in my defense, was already freely given out by DC in their preview pages. Alfred is back, brought to life by a mysterious power, with Bruce suspicious of the reason why. Waid’s script handles this reintroduction well, giving Bruce moments of happiness, mixed in with a healthy dose of skepticism. Asrar’s figure work carries much of the emotional weight too, giving Bruce a slight lurch forward, as if he’s relenting to the good news but also leaning in close to examine this potential doppelgänger. Facial work is solid, if a little rough at times with some panels not drawing either characters’ eyes, even on relatively close up panels. Nonetheless, the art captures the sense of trepidation and excitement that would come with the mysterious resurrection of a loved one.

Credit: Mahmud Asrar, Jordie Bellaire, Steve Wands

Waid excels with Bruce’s narration as he talks through his mixed emotions, and Steve Wands’ letters also enhance the drama. The best example of this is the panel where Bruce interrogates Alfred over a cup of tea. In the top left, Wands has large narration boxes as Bruce explains the types of questions he’s asking Alfred. The clever trick is how Wands places Bruce’s next narration box where he says Alfred gets all the questions right. This placement forces the reader’s eye to travel across the panel, building anticipation for the reveal of whether or not Alfred gave correct responses. The real emotion then builds as Bruce narrates all of the things only the real Alfred would know to do as he watches this potential impostor do them. These actions, albeit simple, tell the history of the duo while deepening the mystery of whether or not this is the real Alfred. It’s impressive work.

Credit: Mahmud Asrar, Jordie Bellaire, Steve Wands

The book quickly takes a turn into action as Damian and his two “allies”, Tim Hunter and Jakeem Thunder, take the fight to Bruce with little hesitation. This is the part of the book where some readers may be turned off. I personally don’t enjoy seeing Damian and Bruce at odds with each other. While Damian’s torn allegiances to both Bruce and Talia (and his destiny as Heir to the Demon) are compelling, I feel as though many of his recent stories have dealt with this tension. The result is that this fight between Damian and Bruce feels repetitive and not all that shocking. Despite this, Asrar’s compositions keep the action easy to track despite an over abundance of magical energy blowing things up and consuming panels in large electrical explosions. What keeps this sequence from being too dour is the sense of humor in the fight choreography. A large explosion sends several bats flying to safety, the iconic T-Rex comes to life and is ridden like a horse, and Batman sums it all up by saying “magic can be…annoying”. As the fight winds down, this is where the issue’s double length becomes noticeable. Most issues would end with the fallout of the fight, but the extra pages let Waid set up more of the storyline. There is a slight sense of stop and go to the pacing here, but the last twelve pages set up a compelling sense of high stakes danger.

Credit: Mahmud Asrar, Jordie Bellaire, Steve Wands

While Damian regroups at The Tower of Fate, Alfred and Bruce use a magical key, gifted by Zatanna, to visit her at home. The subsequent discovery informs Bruce and Alfred that the magic users of Justice League Dark are all under attack and held captive, with Zatanna herself in “Schrodinger’s Noose”, both alive and dead at the same time. The imagery in these pages is gruesome, but pleasing to the eye mostly due to Jordie Bellaire’s colors. Despite the grisly fates of the JLD, the different color palettes make the sequence visually appealing, particularly the blues and purples of Zatanna’s home. While magical threats in comic books are often oblique enough to muddy the stakes of any given situation, the storytelling is precise enough to maintain my interest. While the ultimate reveal of who seems to be behind all this chaos isn’t exactly the most thrilling thing I’ve read, I trust Waid’s steady hand to make these pieces fit together.

Credit: Mahmud Asrar, Jordie Bellaire, Steve Wands

Recommended if…

  • Seeing Damian and Bruce fight each other doesn’t turn you away.
  • You’re a fan of Mark Waid’s recent DC Comics work.
  • Alfred’s reappearance is important to you as a Batman fan.


Batman vs. Robin #1 is a quick, energetic read that earns the resurrection of a fan favorite character. While seeing heroes fight each other isn’t always the most engaging storyline, the fast pace and high stakes set in this first issue overcome the inherent pitfalls of a “versus” book. Mahmud Asrar’s pencils maintain a sense of clarity despite the over abundance of magical attacks on display and Mark Waid’s script delivers a healthy dose of humor to keep the entire endeavor from being a one note experience.

Score: 8/10

Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman-News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.