Robin & Batman #1 – Jeff Lemire, Writer; Dustin Nguyen, Artist
Ray – 9.5/10
Ray: Whenever Jeff Lemire returns to DC Comics, it’s an event. Whenever he does it with one of his a-list art partners, it’s an absolute must-read. His collaborator on Ascender and Descender, Dustin Nguyen, is no stranger to DC as well, being one of the creators of the fan favorite Lil’ Gotham. But they’re stepping on hallowed ground for their new miniseries—the origin of Dick Grayson’s earliest days as Robin. This is a tricky period, with too many writers either glossing over his training to ignore Bruce’s child endangerment, or embracing it in a way that villainizes Bruce. Robin & Batman #1 plays a tricky balancing act, showing Dick’s challenge to balance his grief, his training, and the few bits of normalcy he finds in his very confusing life.
This isn’t a particularly nice take on Batman, but I think this story avoids most of the worst pitfalls. He’s strict and demanding of his new protege, but it’s as much out of paranoia that he’ll lose Dick as anything. He’s overprotective and quick to bench Dick at the first sign of problems, and while Alfred is a bit less vocal than he usually is, it feels like he’s holding back not out of deference but because he sees how much Bruce is struggling. And when Dick is alone, Lemire and Nguyen paint a brilliant picture of him not as a vigilante in training, but as a boy, whose grief over the horror in which he lost his parents is still raw. This is a messy situation, and one in which neither Dick nor Bruce are comfortable with yet.
There is some action in this issue, both an opening fight against a brutal band of burglars and a tense sewer chase with Killer Croc. But it’s the quiet scenes where this story really excels. A confrontation between Bruce and Dick, in which Bruce reveals a “present” that actually violates one of Dick’s deepest boundaries, is tenser than any supervillain attack. Nguyen’s art is brilliantly detailed as usual, creating a cartoony yet deeply emotional feel. The double-sized first issue gives the story room to breathe, letting us get to know these new versions of the characters before the stakes are raised. Based on this first issue alone, I think this is destined to be a new classic Bat-story and one of the best Robin stories.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.