Robin deftly manages to juggle the overall plotline while leaving plenty of room for fun, emotional, and very painful character development and moments that make each issue better and better. All of this is brought to life with bold energetic artwork that fully sells the fun but brutally serious tone that this book balances perfectly. This is truly the Damian Wayne book his fans have been waiting for.
With all the stresses and responsibilities and life grinding that tends to fall on many people’s shoulders, it’s not always easy to make friends. Especially if the people you’re trying to make friends with are some of the deadliest fighters in the world taking part in a fighting tournament on a mystical island. That’s a lesson Damian Wayne learned the very hard way.
Comic books, like all other forms of entertainment, often can lean into the tropes or cliches that abound in all forms of entertainment. Sometimes that can be a detriment, then you have a book like Robin where all the tropes and cliches about fighting tournament stories feel fresh and fun in spite of them being something we’ve seen many times over the years. Joshua Williamson, Gleb Melnikov, Luis Guerrero, and Troy Peteri are crafting hands down one of the best Damian Wayne stories we’ve gotten in his fifteen years of existence (yep, it’s been almost 15 years folks).
One of the keys that makes this work is that the fighting tournament isn’t the main spotlight focus, there is enough room for development and exploration of Damian himself and those around him. Having Ravager be sort of his guide, someone very familiar with a costumed father who is sometimes single-minded on a quest you get wrapped up into helps a lot with this. It gives him someone familiar to bounce of and someone that won’t feel odd trying to push him to lighten up and try to be more than the grim persona he so often keeps up.
At the same time, the re-introduction of Connor Hawke as not only a competitor but as a kindred soul for Damian to bounce off of, their costumed father issues being even closer than those of Damian/Rose, is a brilliant move. Connor is a much-beloved legacy character that has long been missed since the rebooting of the DC Universe in 2011. Having him back with his connections still in place but his history and setting somewhat altered to fit this new realm/era is the proverbial icing on the cake.
As mentioned with the last issue, this series is not shying away from the video game aspect of this tournament, and the work from Melnikov, Guerrero, and Peteri leans into that in the best way. There is just this colorful energy that very much is in the same vein as video games. Just look at the panel below, a static shot of the beach that feels so much more dynamic and energetic just with the simple duplication of Rose and Damian to indicate movement. The colors shift to fit with this, being somewhat more muted when needed (for shadows or darker moments) before shifting back into bold colorful aspects that are befitting for an island full of brightly costumed folks.
Another feather in the cap is the use of so many close-up shots to really hit home on the action moments. It just brings an intimacy to the scenes that makes things pop even more.
There is a scene with Damian and some knives and a trick, and a full-blown illustration would work but one can easily argue that the choice of a slew of close-up panels was even more effective. Especially once you throw in minimalized but bright colors Guerrero and the loud and bold SFX from Peteri.
It goes the same through the later fight scenes, where the use of the closeups makes every blow truly felt between the maybe friends turned combatants. That frenzied video game or fight scene energy comes roaring back, and each o the SFX that comes with painful blows is felt. Nothing is held back as the book is fun but deadly serious at the same time. Which is the best kind of mix.
A final note about Damian’s journey in here, the moment where folks talked over him and wanted to talk about his dad was all too heart-wrenchingly painful. It’s a feeling that probably anyone who has a parent that is well known in circles has felt at some point.
Robin #3 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.