Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Robin #175 Review

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Joe Bennett

Robin #175 is a great issue, really expanding on and developing the story of R.I.P., while simultaneously telling the story from the point of view of Robin, who, honestly, is more interesting than Bruce Wayne right now. Moreover, it is nice to see a part of a crossover that, unlike Detective Comics #847, is actually a part of the story by more than pure editorial fiat.

The story is about Robin and his growing fears that Batman, his mentor and now father, has in fact gone insane, and that is why he cannot find him. By and large, this is true, though the insanity was brought on largely by drugs injected by Doctor Hurt. Robin doesn't know this, though, and despite my often arguing that Batman is sane but driven, this comic made me realise that the last two years of Batman's life are really consistent with someone who is losing his mind.

Some of the dialogue is very witty. My favourite was from Robin's voiceover: "Purging his 'inner demons,' then off to a hidden temple in Nepal where Bruce said he needed to die and become reborn. Leave it to him to make that sound like a plan." Spoiler simply cracking up to the point of tears when Robin says he thinks Batman has lost his mind really sums up how most sane people would approach people dressing up as bats and birds and swinging around the city: "Of course he's crazy! We all are. I mean, look at us!"

One thing I really appreciate about the Robin comic is the way it draws Tim Drake as a complete human being, worthy of carrying a comic book himself and every bit a hero in his own right. As this book reaches its conclusion, we understand exactly what Robin plans to do and why he plans to do it. He plans to go up against Batman and defeat him, and I, as a reader, even want him to. Moreover, it looks very much like he might be the one to replace him. I know Batman #666 hints that Dick Grayson will be the likely next Batman, but Tim Drake would be the better Batman. He's more mature than Dick Grayson, and Dick Grayson moved on with his life a long time ago. Tim Drake is his son, and I imagine Batbrat (Damian) will probably become the next Robin.

One of course can't comment on this book without commenting on the cover. It is a representation of the final issue of the "Death in the Family" story in which Jason Todd dies (which was in turn an homage to the Pietà). At first, I thought that it was only a cheap marketing gimmick, especially with the header "Death of a Family", and I suppose it is a gimmick, but it is actually more than that. The point of this book is Robin realising that he may be losing Batman, which would be his greatest loss since his father died, and that he will need to carry on his mission without him. It really is a book about loss, and having the cover from Batman's greatest loss since his parents died is actually a very insightful and a important parallel.

This is an excellent book. It isn't quite as groundbreaking as the R.I.P. story, but it makes up for that with keen psychological insight and clear storytelling. I look forward to reading the rest of this story and this is a great start.

A-

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