Review – Robin 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular: Boy and Girl Wonders

Comic Books DC This Week
Robin 80th Anniversary Super Spectacular
Robin 80th Anniversary Super Spectacular cover, via DC Comics.

Robin 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular – Marv Wolfman, Chuck Dixon, Devin Grayson, Tim Seeley, Tom King, Judd Winick, Adam Beechen, James Tynion IV, Amy Wolfram, Peter J. Tomasi, Robbie Thompson, Writers; Mikel Janin, Dustin Nguyen, Freddie E. Williams, Javier Fernandez, Damion Scott, Jorge Jimenez, Ramon Villalobos, Artists; Tom Grummett, Scott McDaniel, Dan Jurgens, Pencillers; Scott Hanna, Rob Hunter, Norm Rapmund, Inkers; Adriano Lucas, Protobunker, Hi-Fi, Jeromy Cox, John Kalisz, Jeremy Colwell, David Baron, Brad Anderson, Alejandro Sanchez, Tamra Bonvillain, Colorists


Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Lots of Dick Grayson, As Expected

Ray: Robin 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular is part of DC’s series of specials honoring the anniversary year of some of DC’s most popular supporting players – starting with Robin the Boy Wonder.

Even though it’s Dick Grayson’s anniversary, this issue features all four iconic long-term Robins plus a few surprises – with an all-star cast of the character’s most famous writers, including some coming back from a long hiatus. So how does it shake-up to the past giant specials?

Corrina: Dick Grayson takes center stage, which is only proper, though I do wonder at the inclusion of Stephanie Brown. I always love her in anything but her time as Robin was so short and ended so terribly–heck, she only became Robin because it was planned to kill her in a crossover–that I’d far prefer to see her in a Batgirl Anniversary special.

Instead, I had hoped for something including Duke Thomas and the Robins from the underrated and short-lived We Are Robin series instead, especially given how that created a whole new fascinating mythos for Gotham. (Which is alas, mostly forgotten.) But perhaps this is DC’s way of giving a proper tribute to a character they once treated so shabbily.

As for the stories, reading the creator credits in Robin 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular is like taking a walk down memory lane, and seeing the various Robins in their prime is also like a window to the past. If the stories are solid, not spectacular, that’s fine as the essential personalities of Dick, Jason, Tim, Steph, and Damian all shine through.

Ray: First up, it’s Marv Wolfman and Tom Grummett telling the story of Dick Grayson’s last day as Robin, as the now-18 Dick and Batman clash over Batman’s strict rules. We see how while Batman is always focused on the mission, Dick pays more attention to the civilians caught in the middle. This scene has been done a number of times, but Wolfman gives it a lot more compassion than normally – his Bruce isn’t a cruel taskmaster firing his sidekick, but a father struggling to say goodbye. It’s an excellent way to kick this book off.

Corrina: The break-up between Batman and Robin gets some nuance in this story. It’s a good coming-of-age tale for Dick leaving Robin behind. But, on the 80th anniversary of Robin, I was also hoping for a classic Batman/Robin original version tale too.

Ray: Even though Chuck Dixon is one of the most iconic Dick Grayson and Tim Drake writers, I’m conflicted about having him in this volume due to his recent embrace of the worst elements of comic retrogrades. But given the addition of Scott McDaniel – who hasn’t been seen on a DC comic in a long time – and the timing of his story being during the Cataclysm story from 1998, I’m wondering if this is a story from the vault rather than a current one. It’s a high-speed story of Nightwing pushing himself to the limit to save civilians during some aftershocks, with some great action segments. It’s a reminder of why Dixon used to be such a beloved DC writer.

Corrina: It’s definitely a reminder of Dixon’s long runs on Nightwing and Robin and I’m not surprised to see a story by him here though, like Ray, I suspect it’s a vault story. I’d almost forgotten how kinetic McDaniel’s art could be and the story shows off Dick’s compassion as well as his athletic skills.

Robin 80th Anniversary Super-Spectacular
Stephanie’s moment to shine. Via DC Comics.

Ray: Next up is a story by Devin Grayson and Dan Jurgens, which is another time capsule of a tale focusing on the Titans run written by her. The main characters aren’t the Titans team, though – they’re the hapless HIVE agents who came up against them, got their butts kicked, and are being thoroughly trashed by their boss Damien Dahrk. It’s amusing, especially thanks to a last-act twist that shows just how incompetent these villains are. But it feels a bit out of place to anyone who doesn’t really have any nostalgia for this era. Again, wondering if this is a vault story.

Corrina: I do have nostalgia for this era, and I do love hapless villain stories, so I was pleased to read this one. It’s a good representation of how Dick was written during this era of Titans and how his cleverness and leadership was essential to the team.

Ray: Closing out the Dick Grayson era is a tale from the iconic Grayson creative team of King, Seeley, and Janin, and it’s every bit as bizarre and enjoyable as the original run was. Focusing on Dick training his protege Paris in the middle of a crazy mission, it does a great job of showing how Batman inspired Dick’s role as a teacher – and also how he drastically breaks from his mentor in his own style. The art is fantastic and the story has several bizarre detours into Gorilla City and Atlantean conspirators. Perfect tribute to one of the most creative books in recent DC memory.

Corrina: Janin is a late comer to the “who’s the most definitive artist for Dick?” debate but he’s definitely in my top three Dick Grayson artists of all time. The spy-era of Grayson could sometimes be confusing and convoluted but it was also a ton of fun, presenting the most swashbuckling-style spy ever. This is an excellent example of what you’ll find in Grayson, if you haven’t read it yet.

Ray: The story shifts to Jason Todd’s era, with Judd Winick returning to the character he helped define with the art from iconic Bat-artist Dustin Nguyen. It’s a minimalist story, but one of the best of the volume. It flashes back between Jason as a young Robin and Jason as the ruthless Red Hood when he was still an enemy of Batman’s, and focuses on a meaningful present Jason was obsessed with giving to Bruce. It’s one of the most poignant Jason stories I’ve read in a while, and cuts to the core of his character and why Winick is so highly regarded as one of his writers.

Corrina: With one story, Winick gets to the heart of Jason Todd and you can see why Winick’s writing of Jason’s return from the dead was so successful.

If you want to know who Jason Todd/Robin/Red Hood is, this is that story, which makes it perfect for this volume.

Ray: Next up is Tim Drake’s time in the spotlight, and I’m surprised they brought back the controversial Adam Beechen to do a story with Freddie E. Williams. Beechen was responsible for the One Year Later arc hated by Cass Cain fans, but his work on Tim and his supporting cast was solid. This story about Tim meeting with his guidance counselor to talk about his college prospects and extracurriculars feels like a time capsule of that run, complete with mentions of characters who haven’t been seen in fifteen years and a costume that disappeared not long after. But it’s a solid tribute to the Tim Drake of the pre-new 52 era.

Corrina: So much of Tim Drake’s origin and coming-of-age once depended on Dixon’s long run on Robin. But this isn’t taken from that era at all (another reason it makes me think Dixon’s Nightwing story was a vault story). Instead, it’s set in that sort of in-between time when Tim’s role was ill-defined by DC. In light of that, Beechen does a good job of showing Tim questioning his destiny, which sometimes feels like meta-commentary.

Ray: The most iconic modern Tim Drake writer is definitely James Tynion IV, and he teams with Javier Fernandez to do a short prologue to his Detective Comics run. Set before Tim agreed to join Batman in his network again, he met with the other three Robins to discuss his options. We see Dick, Jason, and Damian through his eyes and they each in their own unique way give Tim the inspiration he needs to head down the right path. Tynion can write just about anything, and this story shows once again why he’s one of Tim’s defining writers and one of the best Bat-writers of the modern day.

Corrina: Tynion isn’t just one the most recent writer of Tim Drake, he’s the only one who’s seemed interested in using Tim to his fullest potential. This prologue story reflects the role that Tim could have continued to fill in the Bat-family and it’s a solid look at Tim’s relationship to Batman.

Ray: The next story is one of the most surprising, a Stephanie Brown tale from Amy Wolfram and the artist from Steph’s original run as Robin, Damion Scott. The Steph run was short, controversial, and ended tragically for her after she was fired and it led her to accidentally betray the Bat-family. It’s still a sore spot for many of her fans, so Wolfram’s story is essentially a remix of that storyline. Condensing Stephanie’s three issues as Robin into one short story, it pairs her with a strict but kinder and more understanding Batman, who gives her a happier ending to the story. It’s more a What If that is unlikely to be followed up on, but it’s great to see Steph get justice, and the Scott artwork brings back immediate strong feelings for those who read the original story.

Corrina: I do love Steph. I love that she’s not forgotten in her time as Robin. And I love that her personality and optimism and confidence come through in this story. Scott always drew her as someone teeming with life, even in dark Gotham, and it works well in this story. I’ll pretend this era didn’t end so tragically for Steph.

Super-Sons silliness. Via DC Comics.

Ray: Then it’s finally Damian’s turn to shine, and the first story is a Super-Sons story by Peter Tomasi and Jorge Jimenez. Told from the perspective of a young Jon Kent, it’s an epilogue to the title that was interrupted by Jon’s sudden aging and focuses on Jon writing a paper about his best friend and what Damian means to him. It’s a sweet story with some funny visuals, but it’s a little odd given how much of a jerk Damian was to Jon for most of the run. Some funny banter and a nicer version of Damian than we usually see here, though.

Corrina: Damian and Jon, the Super-Sons, were a terrific concept that humanized Damian and allowed Jon to have some fun in his role as Superboy. If you like the Super-Sons, you’ll like this.

Ray: Finally, it’s Robbie Thompson and Ramon Villalobos telling a story that intersects with current continuity following the death of Alfred and Damian slipping off the slippery slope and becoming a jailer. It’s significantly better than the main Teen Titans run at the moment, showing Batman and Robin tailing each other with dual narrations. It nicely covers the pain they both feel about their estrangement and their fears about the other. The choice of Quietus, last seen as a reluctant ally to the Silencer, as the villain is odd and makes a bit too much of the twelve-page story a random robot fight.

Corrina: This seems to be more a preview of things to come rather than a celebration of Damian’s time as Robin. As such, it left me a bit uneasy because one thing we do not see in any of these stories: a solid relationship between Bruce and any of his Robins. That’s especially true of his son and I’d have hoped given how hard Bruce fought to bring his son back to life that we would have more iconic stories featuring Bruce and Damian as the Dynamic Duo. Maybe that will still happen but, lately, Damian seems destined for a darker path.

Ray: Overall, there isn’t a bad story in this oversized special. But there are quite a few that feel very slight and don’t leave much of an impression, and as a whole the issue feels more like a time capsule to past runs than an attempt to celebrate the future of Robin.

Worth buying for the Seeley/King, Tynion, and Wolfram stories in particular.

Corrina: Worth buying for Robin fans. The most definite, iconic story is the one featuring Jason Todd. That’s kinda fitting for the Robin who first came back from the dead.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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