THIS WEEK: The dynamic duo goes head-to-head as Batman vs. Robin begins! Can Bruce and Damian Wayne work out their differences without beating the tar out of each other?
Note: the reviews below contain spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Batman vs. Robin #1
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Steve Wands
Cover Artists: Mahmud Asrar & Nathan Fairbairn
It’s kind of wild to think that, over the course of his nearly four decades as a professional comics writer and editor, and with a significant portion of that time spent with DC Comics, Mark Waid has never written a Batman solo series. Sure, he’s written Batman in any number of other settings – with the JLA, in team-up books like Brave and the Bold and the currently-running World’s Finest, and the occasional one-off story in an annual or one-shot. But Batman vs. Robin is the first time that Waid is writing a multi-issue series with the Dark Knight’s name in the title.
Waid teams with artists Mahmud Asrar and Jordie Bellaire and letterer Steve Wands for the series, which puts the relationship between Bruce Wayne and his son, Damian, at the forefront after years of strain. There are a lot of ways their reunion could have gone, and the creative team picks possibly the least expected of those options, as it becomes clear very quickly that magic will be playing a big part of this series. It’s not the first thing one immediately thinks of when they think of a Batman story, but taking Batman out of his typical element and putting him up against an otherworldly threat is sure a compelling hook for what could otherwise have been Yet Another Batman Story.
It also wouldn’t be Batman without a mystery at the center, and Batman vs. Robin #! Introduces a few of them. Chief among them is the apparent return of Alfred Pennyworth*, who died at the hands of Bane back in 2019. Asrar and Bellaire’s artwork delivers the shock of that moment in the issue’s opening pages in expert fashion, flawlessly selling the moodiness of a dark and stormy night at Wayne Manor. The team’s visuals throughout the issue are superb, with energetic action and solid storytelling. Their rendition of an empty Robin costume attacking Batman is both unnerving and perfectly comic book-y, and it’s just one of many such images throughout the issue.
(*Given Waid’s penchant for nods to past stories, I sincerely hope that at some point in this series Alfred assumes the villainous Outsider persona he adopted following his last resurrection from the dead back in 1966.)
And really, it’s that tone that makes Batman vs. Robin #1 so enjoyable. Waid, Asrar, and co. all know what kind of story they’re telling, and lean into the bombastic event elements to great effect. It’s a serious story, but it’s not taken too seriously – after all, it’s a story featuring a kid who has a magic thunderbolt that lives in his pen, and another kid who uses The Joker’s crowbar as a magic wand – and the result is a seriously entertaining comic in every respect.
Batman vs. Robin #1 is a great kickoff to the miniseries that nicely sets itself apart from all the other Batman stories out there. Waid, Asrar, Bellaire, & Wands deliver an issue full of drama both familial and magical, and they do so in a way that’s sure to have readers itching to know what comes next.
Final Verdict: BUY.
- Elsewhere in new miniseries debuts, we have the long-delayed The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #1, a prelude series for the also-delayed Flash movie. Series writer Kenny Porter is joined by artist Ricardo López Ortiz for this first issue (each issue of the series is drawn by a different artist), an entertaining one-and-done story that sees The Flash turning to Batman for help against a new adversary, and gaining a new costume and new ability in the process. It’s not a life-changing comic, but it’s pretty fun, and Ortiz’s superspeed artwork is spectacular.
- Dark Crisis: Worlds Without a Justice League – Wonder Woman #1 finds both Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter trapped in worlds made especially for them. Tini Howard, Leila Del Duca, and Jordie Bellaire’s lead story moves briskly, introducing the world and Diana’s place in it effectively before things go off the rails in an interesting and unexpected way. Dan Watters, Brandon Peterson, and Michael Atiyeh‘s back-up story is a great pastiche of noir and ’50s sci-fi tropes that also gets to the heart of what makes J’onn J’onnz tick.
- And finally, Superman: Son of Kal-El #15 wraps up the overarching storyline that’s been running in the series since it launched, as Jon Kent (with a little help from his friends) finally facing off against Henry Bendix. Tom Taylor, Cian Tormey, Scott Hanna, Federico Blee, and Matt Herms deliver a satisfying conclusion, albeit one that’s overall maybe a little too pat. Jon’s liberation of Gamorra mirrors Clark’s similar mission to Warworld in Action Comics, and the latter storyline definitely offered a more nuanced approach over the past year-and-a-half than the last two issues of Son of Kal-El did. But it’s a feel-good story, and who couldn’t use one of those every now and then.
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