Robin has flown the nest. Damian Wayne has left Gotham without telling the rest of the Bat-Family.
He’s over in Asia, beating up one of the world’s greatest fighters.
Damian’s win earns him a boat ride to Lazarus Island, where more martial masters are massing for matches.
And his first foe?
So why is Damian on this quest to thrash the self-proclaimed most dangerous fighters on the planet? With his ego, it’s not like he has to prove anything.
Hmm, I don’t get it, he’s peeved because Batman and Talia al-Ghul didn’t tell him about the DCU WWF? Never mind, I will be back next issue to find out more. Writer Joshua Williamson’s script for this first issue entertained me, managing the delicate balancing act of giving us the typically arrogant Damian but shaving off some of the harsher edges. So after defeating King Snake he doesn’t kill him, as he once would have done without a second thought… and given who King Snake fathered, Damian has good reason to resent him. Plus, he gives a handout to a guy in need where once he’d have humiliated him in front of his kids for, supposedly, failing as a father. And, as seen in the earlier image, Damian hasn’t forgotten Bat-Cow and Co.
What’s more, we learn something new about Damian in terms of how he relaxes.
He’s one of us! Well, not me, as I’ve never caught on to manga, but it’s all comics. Anything that humanises Damian is fine by me, as the little snot he’s sometimes been shown as isn’t someone I want to see in his own comic. So well done Williamson, and even more kudos for making a story focusing on the DCU’s greatest fighters a fun ride; Lady Shiva, Lady Vic (she’s no lady), Ravager and all the other gimmick-free killers are usually a turn-off, with every story seeing them boast about their prowess before getting a good kicking from the star of whichever book they’re in. It gets very dull, very fast.
Another plus is that the book opens with Batman thinking about Damian – yes, he’s actually remembered that he has a son, something that doesn’t happen often outside the marvellous Super Sons series.
Then there’s the full colour art by Gleb Melnikov. It’s stunning, from the opening shot of Batman and Robin to the terrifically composed final splash. Damian moves across the page with elegance, almost convincing me that he can beat people with decades’ more experience than him, fighters unlikely to underestimate him because of his size and youth. With the mask on, Robin is pure cartoon, but when he’s barefaced we see the thoughts and feelings with clarity. The painterly backgrounds are gorgeous, while the Manga moment looks spot on.
I’m not a big fan of the new costume, a Robin should be bright and all that Bat-grey is beyond drab, not helped by practical Damian ditching the cape, with its flash of yellow, in the arena. Still, it could be a single-storyline thing, and if not, it could grow on me – the loss of the peripheral vision-killing hood certainly makes sense.
New character Flatline is, I believe, inspired by Japanese Bat-baddie Lord Death Man, and I can see that, with the skeleton imagery. I expect Damian will appreciate the Manga vibe.
Troy Peteri’s lively lettering adds to the attractiveness of the book, with fine display fonts and logos scattered where appropriate.
Melnikov’s cover is smartly done, with our pocket rocket standing triumphant over a bunch of randoms. I can’t quite work out what’s going on with the chap(s?) at left, but it’s probably best not to dwell on it. And the new logo works well for this scrappy series.
The publicity told me this series would be focusing on Damian in a fight club scenario, and while that doesn’t have huge appeal, I gave this a go as I like Robin and the tale not being set in the current Future-ish State Gotham is a plus. I’m glad I did, Robin #1 is a great-looking comic that could go interesting places.