Demons rise as the tournament comes to an end, as the true endgame becomes 100% clear as the series reaches the point it’s been building to for nine issues to bring Damian Wayne back from tragic guilt. While this series is truly fun to the core, the emotional weight that it showcases with each issue helps elevate it to top-tier levels.
Behind all the great fighting tournament/video game-like trappings, the fantastic new & returning characters, and the overall plot of Mother Soul/League of Lazarus is a character study. As the book bores his name as the title it’s quite easy to guess who that character study is focused on: Robin, otherwise known as Damian Wayne.
It’s been fifteen years now since Damian burst onto the scene when Grant Morison and Andy Kubert turned the previously seen as non-canon Batman: Son of the Demon into a canon story. He’s been an antagonist, the latest in the line of Robins, taken over as Batman in future stories, palled up with Superboy/Jonathan Kent, joined and led the Teen Titans, and so much more in all that time. After being part of the cause of the death of Alfred Pennyworth, it was easy for the character to retreat to his original lone wolf “I’m the best” bullish personality.
We’ve seen that across the previous eight regular issues and one annual, but along the way too Joshua Williamson has been seeding the way to this point. We get an issue of all-out action as the League of Lazarus has succeeded in releasing the demon that Mother Soul wants to ravage the world (so that it can be rebuilt). While all that action is great, what sells the whole issue is seeing the moment when a beaten Damian is pushed forward by the Alfred ghost, he’s seen in his head all this time. Motivated by the story of his father and ultimately the one thing that started Bruce Wayne on his journey, the ability to ask for help.
All the moments from the previous issues come together as the web that was being weaved is complete, as we get to witness Damian coming back from the proverbial edge, he was dancing upon to reclaim the person that he had become after all this time. Witnessing all the characters rise to his call for help and fight alongside one another to succeed in defeating the demon is one of those powerful character moments.
Roger Cruz remains on the art for this issue after stepping in for the recent annual issue joined by Norm Rapmund on inks and Luis Guerrero who has colored most of this series. As noted with the annual, Cruz has a style that is very similar in tone to what Gleb Melnikov has been bringing to this series in previous issues. It’s very detailed and has very dynamic energy to every panel. Speaking of panels, the paneling style is really great as there are a lot of uses of panels over panels which is a personal favorite alongside things like characters bursting out of panels or a lot of close-up shots.
What’s very interesting is how the addition of Rapmund’s inks in this issue (Victor Olazaba inked Cruz’s work in the annual) actually gives the art a very different look from the previous issue. There is a different sort of weight and depth added to these images.
Guerrero continues to bring that burst of bright fun fighting tournament/superhero pops of color that are at the same time grounded and somewhat muted to match the darker tone of the story. Bright greens of the demon’s skin and Lazarus fire alongside the harsh bright oranges/reds of the raging fires broken up by the supernaturally energized purples of ghost Alfred all just fit together so well. These colors flow through to the memory/dream sequence that Damian has but they are taken down numerous levels in order to drive home the fact that it’s not reality. I truly appreciate touches like this because it would be easy to keep all the colors the same and allow the dialogue and other stuff to tell us that it’s a flashback/dream/etc. but this is far more fitting and shows what care and depth is being put into the work.
Fun but dark are the words I’ve used for this series so often in reviews, and Troy Peteri embodies both those qualities so well into the lettering. Every issue we get some energetic dialogue lettering that keeps changing bubble styles and sizes to showcase the different ways people are talking and allowing room for constant logo drops into the dialogue or for words to be given colorful emphasis when needed. We can see that Mother Soul is yelling in one panel, while Damian is whispering in another as he lays incapacitated because Peteri makes sure we can tell that with how he approaches the fonts.
I’ll also never tire of gushing over the colorful, personality-filled plethora of SFX that dot the pages and bring us deeper into the story. The scene after the bell ring with Damian rising to ask for help was powerful all on its own, but the big giant ‘Ring’ SFX that borders the panels just makes it even more powerful.
Also, can’t forget that the conclusion of this issue genuinely caught me off guard because it wasn’t what I expected one bit. Very well done.
Robin #9 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.