Robin manages to take a number of cliches and tropes that have peppered fighting style narratives for decades and brings something new and fun and engaging to the table. Rich dynamic and tonally colorful art is brilliantly paired with the flashy fun parts of the story as well as the more deeply emotional and touching work below the surface. This is the type of series that many Damian Wayne fans have likely been waiting a long time to see.
Stories that feature any sort of fighting tournament have been done to death (couldn’t resist) across every medium for as long as humans have been telling stories. The key to making yours stand apart is doing something interesting or fun. That’s very much what is being done with DC Comics’ Robin as the series leans into the fun and trope-like nature of its death tournament setting.
It was very easy to compare the debut issue to something like Mortal Kombt, more the games than the ’90s film or the recent reboot attempt, and that’s a comparison that factors in way more with the second issue. Joshua Williamson sets up rules that include multiple lives like a video game because Lazarus island literally lives up to its name is a smart and very fun choice. It allows for some fighting tournament carnage but it also adds some dire stakes and ties in the first issue’s climax in a way that adds pressure to the protagonist.
While the first issue jumped right into the deep end, the second doesn’t lose any of that energy even while it spends time to set up the overall tournament and the series as a whole through many of the pages. Gleb Melnikov, Luis Guerrero, and Troy Peteri continue to bring their larger than life skill to the pages as they really have a ton of fun not only with the flashbacks and storytelling but with the hyper-stylized video game-like violence and the veritable who’s who of DC characters new and old that have come for the tournament. Some of the brutal moments are truly felt not only because of the imagery but the very well-paced and stylized lettering SFX that Peteri brings to the table.
While there is a lot of brightness to be found in this fun story, Guerrero’s coloring shifts seamlessly depending on the time of day and the mood of the moment. Sliding right into darker and more shadowy tones as Damian tries to get to the bottom of the mystery of this island and the league that is behind it all.
Like most tournament stories there are a lot of fodder characters who are just there to be sacrificial lambs or will be forgotten over time, but the issue spends an adequate portion of pages introducing some of the more notable foes. While this is another trope that is familiar to those that take in tournament-style media, the fact that it’s a moment between Ravager and Robin and then Robin’s typical “I stopped listening once I heard something I liked” energy before diving into brutal action sells it.
It’s not all fun though, as not only is there some eerie mystery to be solved, but the series is very much focused on Damian Wayne as a character and the pains he’s going through. Alfred’s death is still weighing upon his shoulders and the more and more reckless behaviors are putting him at risk, but there is hope that Damian will come out of the story healthier and a better hero. The first issues’ focus on the fact that Bruce feels like he failed his son and just wants to find him and bring him home is a powerful moment that surely will be followed up on down the line.
Also setting the previously mentioned Ravager up as an ally and potential mentor and just someone that isn’t a threat is a nice touch. Rose Wilson’s place in the DC Universe is far more interesting when she’s used as someone that is dangerous and powerful but isn’t just a mirror of her father.
Robin #2 is now on sale from DC Comics in print and digitally.