At last, the true dynamic duo is born, as the characters must come to grip with their own traumas and their own personalities and how they differ and how they help one another. There is a lot to like about this mini-series that re-explores the early days of Robin and Batman, through a different lens, while there are other aspects that might be hard to see for such beloved characters.
Batman and darkness go hand in hand, but the overall point of having a sidekick like Robin is that this is the character that can bring some light to the mission. In the first two issues of Robin & Batman, we see how the darkness of Batman threatens to take Robin along for the same ride because both characters are dealing with traumas that threaten to define them.
Redefining the origin story of the dynamic duo isn’t an easy task, especially in three issues even if they are supersized issues. There are a few areas where this conclusion did feel like it slightly had to rush things as the finish line was in sight, but overall, I think at the very end Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen hit the marks they set out to and brought the duo to a more familiar place and ended with some lightness and hope.
There are a lot of reasons that seeing Bruce Wayne being so dark and harsh doesn’t sit well with readers, after all, that we’ve seen, and that fully makes sense. At the same time, I can see how this works because Bruce not only didn’t have an actual life after his parent’s death (moving almost right away into the world of the mission) but he’s a person that hasn’t unpacked a lot of what that trauma did to him. Bruce being a not-great parent is also not a new trend, as he’s failed quite a few times with his various Robins (hell for a good while there in the modern comics Damian was off having other adventures and the main Batman book almost never mentioned him).
Bringing this to a point where Dick becomes aware of how far he’s falling and remembers who he is and what he wants to stand for, thereby changing Bruce too, and beginning the path to the Titans and other stuff was good to see.
Alfred is still the glue that holds so much together, and again I cannot help but miss the character in in-continuity books. For the voice, he brings and the role he has as the surrogate father to basically all the Bat-family really.
Every page is still just beautiful to look at because Nguyen’s watercolor style of art just can’t be anything other than fantastic and engaging. Even with the darker tone of the story the artwork and the colors retain a brightness and light that brings hopeful feelings. On pages where Batman’s influence is pushing Robin, the colors take a darker turn, but then on the pages where he’s more himself (like the end) that darkness bleeds away. Hitting that mark of the light and dark duality of the characters.
Croc hits the right levels of menacing but also sympathetic in that way that many of the Bat villains can be because his origins are similarly traumatic.
A lot of the energy in the book resonates from the lettering work that Steve Wands provides, especially in the colorful and personal caption boxes of Robin. They retain that journal-like feeling they are supposed to not just because of the tone (or us knowing they are from his journal) but the look to them screams journal in the right ways. All the big superhero-like SFX also help set the right tone, ranging from smaller more innocuous ones and bigger bolder dominating levels.
Robin & Batman #3 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.