Robin War #1 Review (Week of December 4th)
If there is one mess that DC refuses to clean up, it’s their Batman universe. Indeed, why should they? It simply sells too many comic books. A major part of the mess consists of too many Robins or Robin related characters. DC has attempted to keep the Robin mess divided up enough that readers can pretend that the mess isn’t there. But it is. Damian, son of Batman explores the world with his pet Gorilla, Time Drake (Red Robin) simultaneously exists in modern day Gotham as well as the future as Batman Beyond. Jason Todd floats around in limbo and is sparingly used when a Bat-related character is needed to hit first and ask questions later. Of course, there is also Dick Grayson, who is a former Robin, former Nightwing and current super spy Grayson (not to mention a current Nightwing in the bad dream/hallucinatory Titans Hunt). With proper research and repeated ‘wikipeda-ing’ of the various aforementioned characters, readers can conceivably make sense of the schizophrenic Robin continuity in the new-52 Batman Universe.
Oops. I almost forgot a Robin; many in fact. There is a gang of teenagers in Gotham that draw their inspiration from Batman’s sidekick collectively referred to as “We Are Robin”. The inciting tragedy that lies at the premise of ‘Robin War’ involves an accidental shooting of a Gotham police officer who attempts to break up a robbery that has already been addressed by a ‘We Are Robin’ gang member. Not knowing what to make of the wannabe Robin, the officer attempts to arrest him setting off a chain of events that lead to the passing of new emergency powers for the Gotham Police force that allow them to ignore civil liberties and enforce what is soon referred to by citizens as the “Robin Laws”.
Heightened media hysteria over the controversy is clearly being orchestrated by nefarious forces with an as-yet-to-be revealed agenda. What is clear in this opening chapter is that the true villains behind the ‘Robin War’ seek to use the War against all Robins as a smokescreen in furtherance of their own agenda. Robin, Red Robin, Jason Todd and Grayson know that something is amiss but it will take time for them to sort through the urban chaos that only shows signs of getting worse as the issue ends.
Writer Tom King does an excellent job scripting this comic. It is impossible not to see tragic parallels to our real world. The issue of police shootings/brutality is ever present throughout the United States and the fear of misguided gang members/terrorists running amok and harming innocent citizens has recently played out with stark brutality in Paris. It is precisely because of such controversies in the real world that the readers will find it very easy to relate to the paranoia and fear of Gothamites in “Robin War”. It is with equal ease that one can imagine the passing of laws that suspend civil liberties to combat such perceived threats. The corrupt councilwoman who leads the charge against all the Robins would not necessarily be seen as corrupt in our world given its current social, economic and political climate. It is precisely because of these real world analogies that compel me to follow this Event and see where it goes. As ‘Robin War’ unfolds, I hope it has more to say beyond exemplifying yet another predictable Court of Owls obsession with the Bat-Family. Tom King is very familiar with real world politics and was even a former member of the C.I.A. before moving on to the prestigious world of comic book writing. If any writer can make a statement and defy expectations it is he. (And as a quick digression, I recommend King’s Vertigo title “The Sheriff of Babylon” which also came out this week).
Artistically, there are a no less than five talents that contribute to visuals. Incredibly, I did not find the story impaired by this; in fact, I found the opposite. The slight differences in style actually reinforced the sense that different individuals and areas of Gotham were affected by the events. The next chapter in this series takes place in Grayson #15; which leads me to an ongoing criticism of Event comics in general. DC continues to go back to its Event-formula of having two bookend issues with a myriad of other titles crossing-over in between. Since I have seen DC do this with Robin: Alpha and Robin: Omega (with umpteen cross-over titles in between), I can safely predict that you will not miss a single plot point by simply waiting until Robin War #2 comes out to discover how they story ends. King will presumably be writing the final chapter of this event and therefore, any significant plot point contained in the cross-over titles will be summarized appropriately. On the off chance I am wrong (and I won’t be) any reader will be able to pick up the cross-over titles at their local comic shop because (rest assured) retailers will over-order on the cross over titles anyway. So relax and don’t feel compelled to jump around trying to make sense of what is going on with this series. NO matter what DC marketing tries to tell you, their past Event behaviour makes clear that you need only collect Robin War 1-2 and not all the cross-over titles. Trust me on this. Unless you already collect Grayson, Teen Titans, Gotham Academy (etc, etc), do not feel compelled to do so to understand Robin War. The series proper will be all you need to buy.
I award Robin War an 8.2/10.