‘We Are Robin’ Sticks The Landing In Its Second Issue
As much as I've been enjoying most of the new "DC You" titles, I'll admit that the first issue of Lee Bermejo, Jorge Corona, and Khary Randolph's We Are... Robin didn't do a whole lot for me --- and not just because of that weirdly punctuated title. That first issue had a solid main character with a clear motivation, a couple of interesting set pieces, a sweeping threat to Gotham City and a genuinely great first page, but something about it just didn't land.
When the second issue hit shelves this week, though, I decided I'd give it another shot, and I'm glad I did, because this is where the hook finally lands, and where the story ramps up into something that's engaging, exciting, mysterious and, if you're the kind of person who obsesses over Batman's sidekicks, very rewarding to read.
In a lot of ways, it's one of those second issues that feels like it should've come first, to the point where it actually makes me wonder if the book could have benefited from getting all of the setup taken care of in one of those shorter preview books. Look at Omega Men --- arguably DC's best new title over the past few months --- and the way that it used its "Sneak Peak" pages to get all the pieces arranged so that it could hit the ground running when the ongoing started. They weren't wasted pages, either; that thing clocked in at 11 pages on Comixology and featured the (apparent) death of Kyle Rayner.
With We Are... Robin, however, that first issue felt like it was all setup and no payoff, taking a long time building to the reveal of the Robins, something that we all knew was coming because it's the actual premise of the book. And even though the setup wasn't bad, it still felt like we were covering the same ground that we've been over before, with Duke Thomas in the role of a Troubled Kid having trouble in Gotham City's foster system, which is presented to us in a way that's downright cliché, no matter how great that first page was.
But in that second issue, it all comes together in a way that makes the concept really work.
The first issue may have only hinted at the way that the team of young Robins was put together, and how they were operating in this Gotham City that suddenly had a vigilante power vacuum being filled by a giant robot bunny rabbit, because it spent all of its time establishing Duke as a viewpoint character, but really, it's easy to see why they'd go that route. And in a way, it's necessary.
Don't get me wrong, Duke's already an interesting character, but he's really only appeared in a few issues, and those were very minor roles set five or six years apart. He's in Zero Year as the kid who rescues Bruce Wayne when the Riddler takes over the city, and he's there at the end in Endgame, where the Joker forces him into playing the role of Bruce in a re-enactment of the Wayne murders, something that leaves his parents missing, presumably dosed with the toxin that caused the city to riot.
Even that, the idea that Duke's family aren't the only ones missing and that this is an entire city of millions of people still recovering from a devastating rampage, is a great hook for his character, but at the end of the day, Duke was just a small cog in stories that were about Batman. Moving him into the spotlight means setting him up as a character, and it's hard to fault the first issue for doing that. And also for having the actual, last-page, shock-ending reveal be a massive closet full of nunchuks and matching jackets, two things no superhero team should be without.
The thing is, aside from a brief interaction with Leslie Thompkins, we only saw Duke by himself in that first issue. The second one is what sells it when we see him interacting with the rest of the team, setting the groundwork for the dynamics that are going to make this story work. We get to see the rest of the team interacting with each other, too, and really, it turns out that that might actually be the thing that I wanted, getting more of the genuinely great idea of kids wanting to take up the legacy of Robin rather than Batman.
That in itself is fascinating to me, because you almost never see it. It's in Tim Drake's origin, of course, that he decides Batman needs a Robin, but casting it as a movement, that it's something for kids to look up to because they want to help --- because helping is what Robin does --- makes me much more excited about the premise. Seeing it filtered through Duke, this character who actually does have a history of helping Bruce Wayne in one form or another, is the entry point to his character, and seeing the other Robins react to the same situations reveals a lot about them, too.
Plus, this is where the real mystery of the book --- or at least this first arc --- gets started.
The idea of the mysterious man recruiting all the Robins and sending them on their missions is what really got me about this book, because it's exactly the sort of thing that I love.
It's a mystery that, if you've been paying attention, doesn't seem that hard to figure out --- assuming, of course, that Bermejo, Corona and Randolph aren't going for a major red-herring swerve. I mean, Spoiler Warning if you're waiting for the reveal --- and this is me giving you space to stop reading --- but it's not difficult to piece it together from what we've seen of a thin man with a knack for taking on various roles who, after the events of Endgame, is only seen using his left hand. And if that's who's behind the whole thing, then the concept of someone funding a group of Robins --- not Batmen, but Robins --- has suddenly gotten a whole lot more interesting.
And with this second issue, so has the series. Everything feels like it's in place now, from the mysterious benefactor to the first mission, and if you had a reaction similar to mine when the first issue came out, give this one another shot. There's a lot going on here that makes it work, and if the next issue continues to build on itself the way this one did, it's going to become something really fun.
And hey, at least they dropped the punctuation from that title.
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