Gotham City has a Robin problem, and their answer is to criminalize Robin in all forms.
This will probably end poorly… Your Major Spoilers review of Robin War #1 awaits!
ROBIN WAR #1
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Khary Randolph/Alain Mauricet/Jorge Corona/Andres Guinaldo/Walden Wong
Colorist: Emilio Lopez/Chris Sotomayor/Gabe Eltaeb/Sandra Molina
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual & Tom Napolitano
Editor: Mark Doyle
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $4.99
Previously in Robin War: Batman is dead, as far as we know. Richard Grayson is now an agent of Spyral. Jason Todd, once dead, is now palling around with Arsenal as The Red Hood. Tim Drake is the leader of the Teen Titans as Red Robin. Damian Wayne still skulks through the shadows as original flavor Robin. Meanwhile, the streets of Gotham City are awash in kids taking up the mantel of Robin as a cause celebre, while pundits and police alike worry that someone is going to get killed wearing red and yellow…
Guess what happens next?
THE GOTHAM POLICE STATE
We open our issue with a slightly maniacal teen Robin (one that I don’t think we’ve ever seen before) using a gun to take down a liquor-store robber. Unfortunately for our would-be Robin, the arrival of a police officer leads to tragedy, with a sudden gunfight leaving both the robber and policeman dead, and him scarred for life. In return, the Gotham city council immediately makes it illegal for kids to go out and fight crime as Robin, in an attempt to weaken the We Are Robin crowd. Thanks to Commissioner Noctura (who I am quite sure is Bat-villain Nocturna, even with her carefully crafted brilliant alias), it’s also illegal to wear ANY Robin logo or colors (which is problematic, given that the colors in question are red, green and yellow, which seems like a difficult law to enforce.) Duke Thomas, the lead Robin of the ‘We Are Robin’ comic, quickly finds out how difficult that is, when he is immediately (and brutally) arrested for wearing red shoes, in a moment that feels a little bit tone-deaf, given recent real-world policing issues. Fortunately, he’s part superhero, and escapes custody in an impressively acrobatic manner, allowing him to gather all the We Are Robin crowd together to make a plan. What the don’t count on is the intervention of Damian Wayne (referred to in the issue as “Real” Robin, which also seems tonally problematic, for different reasons), followed by Tim Drake and Jason Todd, with Dick Grayson breaking away from his superspy gig to head for the big Robin Jamboree as well. As the issue closes, The Council Of Owls laugh their sinister laughs in the shadows, having manipulated everyone to do their bidding.
MAKES BATMAN LOOK LUDICROUS (INTENTIONALLY?)
I haven’t been reading the Batman title regularly, but I’m also a bit bothered by the showing that new Batman Jim Gordon puts in this issue. His arrival is greeted with a full-page silence from Damian, followed by “You’ve got to be kidding me”, and a three-page beat down by a twelve-year-old kid. His armor is also strangely bulbous and silly looking, which makes me wonder if the creators aren’t intentionally playing into the complaints about the new armored Bat-suit. It’s also a really depressive story, as corrupt city councilmen under the influence of a corrupt secret society quickly pass a clearly unethical law that allows corrupt officers to brutalize young kids, in a story that started with a teenager gunning down a man in cold blood. Even for a Bat-title, this one is grim. I do like the character interplay between our Robins, especially Jason and Tim’s back-and-forths, but of all the ‘We Are Robin’ team, only Duke gets any real airtime, while Riko is only seen in a telephone conversation with him, and the others standby silently during the big meeting. With the sheer number of artists in play, this issue was bound to be inconsistent, with certain pages (like wacko Robin Travis’s death) done very well, and others (like the Batman battle) feeling cartoonish and off. The final two pages are especially suspect, with the Court Of Owls appearing, but their masks looking silly rather than intimidating…
THE BOTTOM LINE: MAN, THAT WAS DARK
In story, in tone, and in the varied art-styles, Robin War #1 is all over the place, with the only really consistent parts being the crushing sense of oppression and injustice, making for a very dark issue that I’m not entirely sure how to process, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall. The parallels to real-life movements are inescapable, and may work better for some readers than for me, but the overall feeling after reading is one of utter despair, which I suppose means that the issue did it’s job of conveying life in Gotham…