Robin is a series that continues to defy expectations and cannot be classified within any sort of box as its focus shifts but never fully leaves the mission behind, a mission to deep dive into Damian Wayne and his life/legacy. Every aspect of this book finds a way to perfectly blend the more fun and outlandish with the more emotional and grounded side of things.
Learning about one’s family tree and history is not an uncommon experience within human society, many even pay good amounts of money these days to discover their family roots. Most don’t get to actually experience their family history by being trapped within the mind of their great-grandmother who is an ancient being that held a fighting tournament in order to summon a world-ending demon. That’s because most of us aren’t Damian Wayne/Robin.
Right away, the swerve that was pulled here by Joshua Williamson making it seem like this was to be a time travel story for Robin only to pull the rug out was well played. Time travel stories are fun but watching Damian struggle mentally (and ultimately triumph in the realm of the mind) was an even better journey. For all their time in the comics, there are still many areas where the al Ghul family history has gone unexplored and all that we learn here fits so well. Dancing between what continuity is known to add something new isn’t an easy task ever, but Williamson makes it appear to be.
While he’s a villain and often has goals that are harmful to others, getting to see a bit more of who Ra’s al Ghul was and is as a person was nice. It gives depth to the character as well as to Mother Soul/Ruh al Ghul and by connection Damian himself. Always caught between two worlds, we get to see just how conflicted those two worlds truly are and how similar they also are in many respects.
With the fighting over (mostly), this issue is very much mostly a montage/history lesson piece but that doesn’t change how wonderfully Roger Cruz, Norm Rapmund, and Luis Guerrero bring it to life artistically. Cruz’s detailed and energetic style captures the raw emotion of these moments so well and Rapmund’s inks just make it even heavier and deep. When Ruh passes and Ra’s lets out his grief, it’s truly felt on the page especially with the variety of panels and the changes in focus alongside the deep invading shadows. Leading perfectly into the jump scare sort of horror moment on the next page that sets the tone for what is to come.
That depth and shadow aspect is reflected in Guererro’s colors as well, as they have a bright pop to them but are also muted in a way that matches the tone of this story. Even with the change in focus of the issue, there is still that same sort of fun but serious energy permeating the colors as we shift between superhero and mystical/supernatural elements in the story. One really nice touch is the way that green tones can be found in the pages, from colors of items to green like hazy filters, matching the color of the Demon and the Lazarus which are both so deeply tied to the al Ghuls.
Even the lettering picks up these tones as Troy Peteri heavily brings the green into play for Ruh’s speech bubbles and captions. His work here keeps up the slightly more serious tone of the issue but never loses any of the energy or flairs for fun bombastic elements. We get more of my favorite things, the logo like name drops and a whole bunch of powerful in-the-moment SFX that can be ‘heard’ so well. Peteri also is one of those that make sure that the font changes to depict talking vs yelling vs whispering which is always truly appreciated in these stories.
On the surface, Robin presented as the fun pull out all the cameos fighting tournament situation, but quickly has morphed into something deeper, a character study of Damian Wayne as he tries to find himself but also a deep look at family. It’s a refreshing direction for this character who is full of such possibilities and potential, the surface of which has barely been scratched in the fifteen years the character has existed.
Robin #10 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.