THIS WEEK: The DC Round-Up crew gathers on our own virtual Lazarus Island to discuss Robin #1 by Joshua Williamson, Gleb Melnikov, and Troy Peteri, as well as the current state of Batman comics, deep cut villains, copyright infringement, and more…
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Gleb Melnikov
Letterer: ALW’s Troy Peteri
Cover Artist: Gleb Melnikov
JOE GRUNENWALD: Damian Wayne is back in the spotlight as the star of a new Robin ongoing title! Friends, what did you think of the first issue of the boy wonder’s new series?
CORI McCREERY: I really liked Robin #1 quite a lot. Damian is actually my least favorite Robin, so it takes a lot for me to enjoy a Damian story. That said, its just amazing how consistently good the Bat-Line is right now, and I think a lot of that has to do with the creators communicating well. Joshua Williamson takes things that James Tynion has established and runs with them perfectly.
ZACK QUAINTANCE: I will echo all of that. The coherency across the Bat-Line is fantastic. I never thought I’d be reading Robin and Harley Quinn, and thinking: great job everyone being on the same page here.
GREG SILBER: I liked it a lot too, but I should note that Damian might actually be my favorite Robin. He has a special place in my heart because he’s been the main Robin ever since I started following Bat comics regularly. I think Williamson has a good handle on the Son of Batman, but it seems like he’s keeping things close to his chest. Looking forward to seeing it play out!
ZACK: Much credit is owed here to Gleb Melnikov too. I thought this book looked fantastic.
GREG: Oh yeah, I don’t want to leave him out of the conversation. This is a perfect aesthetic for a Robin book.
CORI: Oh yeah, Big Gleb did fantastic work on this issue. It’s a teenager that actually looks like a teenager, which can be something hard to come by in comics.
JOE: This first issue of Robin is a really nice encapsulation of what feels like the Infinite Frontier mandate to me: acknowledging what’s come before to build something new for the future. Not only do a lot of characters who haven’t appeared in years pop up in this book, but it’s all in service of doing something new with them, which was really refreshing.
JOE: Also, I want to know if the four panels of manga that Damian is reading in the middle of the issue were intended to be read right-to-left or if that’s just how he decided to draw them. Either way I loved that effect.
CORI: Yeah that little sequence was a great showcase of Melnikov’s talent, showing he can pretty seamlessly change styles.
JOE: I’m not as enamored of his artwork overall as I think the three of you are but he does fine work here. I just especially appreciated that page.
GREG: I love that Damian’s a manga fan as astorytelling choice. I don’t know that we’ve gotten many glimpses of Damian’s hobbies in the past beyond “likes animals” and “fighting” but I can totally see him getting into manga at this age.
ZACK: Yeah, that was a big “oh right, of course he is” moment.
CORI: Joe, notably not on the Big Gleb train. Hate to see it. Know who I hated to see, in a good way? Mother flippin King Snake. As I’m currently reading through all of Tim Drake’s appearances, it’s fun to see this jerk pop up in a modern book.
ZACK: Seamless transition, though, love to see that.
JOE: King Snake was a character I never thought I’d see again. I was surprised to learn he had died pre-Flashpoint? So hey, maybe he and Roy Harper should compare notes.
ZACK: He is also apparently Bane’s father, which is a thing I think Cori was well-aware of, but I had no idea.
GREG: I have to be honest—and I’m risking my rep as a Bat fan here—I don’t know that I’d ever read anything with King Snake before this. But I DID enjoy him getting his ass kicked.
JOE: Sir Edmund was the villain of the first Tim Drake Robin solo miniseries. And he’s popped up here and there since then. And then he died.
CORI: I wasn’t WELL aware of it, but I remembered it when it got brought up. I read too much of Gotham Knights to not remember Sir Edmund and the lie of Bane being Bruce’s half brother. King Snake mostly pops up in Tim Drake stories, and because Tim is not as capable of a fighter as Damian, usually proves much more of a challenge for Tim than he did here.
JOE: Damian doesn’t need a whistling staff!
ZACK: King Snake was really just a face to kick here.
GREG: He’s drawn with a very kickable face.
CORI: Oh that’s very true to past appearances Greg. He always has a kickable face.
ZACK: But even that face kick was used to tie back to other Bat-happenings, kind of used as a subtle reminder that Damian had good reason to be real mad at Bane.
CORI: Oh that’s very true to past appearances Greg. He always has a kickable face.
JOE: So I admit that I haven’t been tracking what Damian’s been up to since his resurrection, but I know he’s had something of a falling out with the rest of the Bat-family? Is that right? It’s touched on briefly in this issue but I appreciated that knowing exactly what’s been going on in his life was not a requirement for entry.
CORI: Well he started mindwiping villains and putting them in a secret prison, which daddy bat did not approve of, so yeah.
ZACK: It was a whole thing.
JOE: Oh. Okay.
GREG: Ah yeah I forgot about that.
ZACK: We need an editor’s note box here: *It sure was a whole thing! Don’t let your mind stay wiped, check out Teen Titans #whatever.
CORI: He dramatically tore the R off his chest and threw it at his dad’s feet.
JOE: Rude! He is a rude child.
CORI: Only to put on a pallet swap costume that still has the R.
GREG: The R stands for Rude now.
JOE: His new codename is Rascal.
GREG: Remember that Rihanna song, Rudeboy?
JOE: No. So something I really appreciated about this new Robin #1 was that it feels like the first time I’ve read a Damian story where the writer isn’t just doing a poor imitation of Grant Morrison.
CORI: Only a single “TT.” to be seen.
JOE: The way Morrison wrote Damian was iconic, and as the character’s creator it’s natural that others would want to follow what they did with Damian, but it was nice after over a decade to see someone write Damian as something other than kind of a caricature of Morrison’s Damian.
GREG: I’m a huge Morrison fan, but “Robin goes to a mysterious island to do an Enter the Dragon/Mortal Kombat” does not feel like a story they would tell, and I think that’s good for a writer like Joshua Williamson who is, notably, not Grant Morrison.
ZACK: Mad at Dad Island. Is that anything? He gets there and kicks a dad…
JOE: Daddy Issues Island, though that sounds like the name of an unfortunate reality show. <hastily copyrights that title>
CORI: Speaking of copyrights, can we talk about that Respawn dork?
JOE: I don’t know what to say about him other than he was there and he was an amusing gag. But Cori you have the floor.
GREG: If his power is literally copyright infringement that would rule.
CORI: I just wanted to make fun of knockoff Red Tool who is of course a knockoff Deadpool who is of course a knockoff Deathstroke. How lame you gotta be to be fourth generation knockoff?
JOE: Who was the character from that Batman/Superman Annual who was I think the Deathstroke of Earth-3? Also basically Deadpool, though that was more parody than knockoff. Speaking of knockoffs, another character I never expected to see again was Nite-Wing. Lot of D-list Chuck Dixon villains popping up in this issue.
ZACK: That all felt like a real effort to mark this as a Robin comic.
CORI: Good ol’ Tad. Can’t wait to see him get his butt kicked but good.
GREG: Funny, considering Chuck Dixon is now a D-list Chuck Dixon villain.
CORI: Lady Vic is there too! So many Dixon villains!
JOE: I suppose the other one I was thinking of, Tarantula, was post-Dixon on Nightwing.
CORI: Yeah, she’s a Devin Grayson villain.
JOE: But still pretty D-list. Which makes sense, if this is an island where everyone has to battle to the death. DC loves to pull obscure characters from the past just to bump them off.
CORI: But the old characters don’t get a whole lot to do, because this is the Flatline show. What’d you think of this new addition to the Robin rogues gallery?
ZACK: She certainly got results.
GREG: Thematically, I really like the idea that she’s strong because she’s absorbed the failure of others.
JOE: That is a really interesting premise.
CORI: Yeah, her power is nifty, but I also loved her aesthetic. It’s a dang good vampirish look.
GREG: Not just as a Bat villain (“Batman always wins”) but as a general counterpoint to what we usually see from villains across genres. It’s almost like a villainous take on Daredevil or any other character who’s defined by deriving strength through horrible circumstances.
CORI: Okay but Batman does not always win. Notably, Bane wrecked the dude the first time they fought. Like yeah, Bruce eventually came back from that, but he HAS known defeat despite what Flatline says.
GREG: This is true! And I suspect it’ll play into Damian’s inevitable victory. Although, the ending of this issue definitely puts that into doubt…
JOE: I’m not sure how you come back from having had your heart torn out of your chest. It’s been a while since I saw Temple of Doom but I think that guy pretty definitively died.
CORI: Really bold move to kill the main character in the first issue. I guess the rest of the series belongs to Tim, like it rightfully should.
JOE: I would suspect a Lazarus Pit of some sort will come in to play, though I would love if the rest of the series was about someone else, whether it’s Tim or about Flatline’s journey to become the new Robin.
GREG: Well you’ve survived this long being heartless, Joe.
CORI: I felt that burn from here.
JOE: No, Heartless is the new Nightwing villain, Greg.
CORI: …It really is. Well-played Joe.
ZACK: But about the torn out heart…you all, It’s called Lazarus Island. The entire premise of the tournament is probably that they fight to the death…then get revived again.
JOE: So you’re saying, Zack, that it’s a…ROUND ROBIN tournament?
ZACK: I want the record to show I wasn’t saying that, and that was Joe’s line.
CORI: No, Round Robin is the DC Editorial tournament that’s going to result in a different Robin series getting launched.
JOE: Does anyone have any final thoughts on Robin #1?
ZACK: More Connor Hawke, please.
JOE: I appreciate that they’re teasing him out. After the end of that back-up story I was psyched for his return. Delayed gratification on this one works for me, though.
CORI: Yeah, where was my man Connor? Yet another thing brought from the Dixon era of DC.
ZACK: Connor Hawke had roughly as many panels as Respawn, but I do like that, Joe, don’t play all your cards right away
GREG: I have a feeling we might see another recognizable resurrection or two on this island before the story ends, considering the Lazarus Pit’s whole deal.
CORI: But yeah, I’m all in for a Mortal Kombat style tourney. Excited to see it play out past Robin #1.
GREG: I like that Robin #1 isn’t a story that we’d get from any other Robin, too.
CORI: I could actually see it for early Tim, as a way to prove himself. But not later Tim. All in all, I say this gets a Buy from me. It was a lot of fun, and offered some very promising concepts.
JOE: Definitely a Buy for me as well. Excited to see where Williamson, Melnikov, and co. take it from here.
GREG: Same here. There’s a lot of fun Easter eggs in Robin #1 for Batman and Robin fans from way back, but even if you’re new, if the idea of Batman’s son fighting a bunch of people on a mysterious island interests you at all, you’re in for a fun time.
ZACK: Yeah, I’m going with Buy as well for this new Robin #1. Another great addition to what’s turning into a very coherent and thoughtful line of Batman comics…as well as a great adventure comic, striking a lighter tone and delivering some kinetic action-heavy storytelling. Good book, and well-done team.
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