Old school fighting tournament meets the DC Universe in the latest entry into the increasingly diverse offerings coming from the publisher’s Batman line of books. Bold, loud, colorful, gorgeous, and intriguing are just a handful of words that can describe this debut issue that presents something both familiar and different at the same time.
Over the years some have claimed that there are only certain numbers of stories or story archetypes that exist. With the amount of time that human beings have been telling stories, it is only natural that there are certain types of tales that are often repeated through the various storytelling formats. While these stories may often share similarities or full-on have the same plot/foundation, it’s the presentation or trimmings or deviations that make it stand apart.
Robin #1 delivers a format that is not a new one to those that have ever watched any sort of martial arts-related film or played almost any fighting video game ever created. The secret tournament that attracts fighters from all around the world is nothing new, in fact, parent company Warner Bros. has a new Mortal Kombat film out right now, but that is perfectly okay.
Joshua Williamson, Gleb Melnikov, and Troy Peteri lean right into the fact that this is a plot we all know, but make it their own through the use of the wealth of characters and settings and concepts they can pluck out of decades of DC Comics history and stories. There is no need to lay out what this tournament means because that does not matter. There is a momentary reference to this being something the League of Lazarus does every one hundred years, but the wonderfully impulsive Damian Wayne/Robin interrupts the backstory cause he’s amped to fight.
There is a variable who’s who of Batman-related antagonists and DC Comics characters seeded through the issue once they reach the island. While that is really fun to pick through and see who is recognizable, we need to talk about the overall art presentation. This is a truly stunning, gorgeous, colorful, and fun book. Melnikov handles all of the art, except the excellent bold complimentary lettering from Peteri, and it’s just a sight to behold.
Every single character that pops up is distinct and wonderfully rendered alongside the gorgeous expansive set pieces. It’s all just as bold and loud and epic as you would expect from any story that is focused on such an over the top and awesome concept like a fighting tournament. As mentioned above, Peteri matches that energy with his SFX lettering which just shouts at you off the page in some of the big moments, while working the regular dialogue in the more restrained and quieter ways that are needed.
Gorgeous art and wonderful lettering are just two parts of this overall delicious cake that has been baked. Williamson makes it work on his side by nailing Damian’s personality and offering up some looks into the character’s current mental state as he’s at war with his guilt and trying to find his own way out of his parental shadows.
There are a number of characters not seen in a long time and a lot of new ones being thrown into the mix with this story and all of them work well so far. Watching all of them clash in the issues to come will be a delight.
Even the final page offers up a sort of plot trope that the audience will know well, but it doesn’t take away the surprise or the wonderful execution of the moment. Again, it’s not about the originality of the concept, but how you package and present it as you move forward.
One aspect of the story that might go overlooked a bit with all the flash of a fighting tournament is the pages shown above with the Bat-family and their search for their missing son/brother/friend. One complaint that was held by many in previous recent eras of Batman was how detached the family could feel at times and how much of a neglectful parent Batman had become following some great years before and after the New 52 reboot. Williamson doesn’t shy away from that here with Batman’s commiserating about his actions seemingly pushing his son away, and hopefully, it’s a thread that continues to be followed.
Robin #1 is now on sale from DC Comics in print and digitally.