We Are … Robin #1
Written by Lee Bermejo, Art by Jorge Corona, Rob Haynes and Trish Mulvhill
We Are… Robin is the latest addition to the ever-growing line of books at DC featuring Batman or are set in Gotham City with Batman as a major presence. With some fifteen regular ongoing comics currently set in and around Batman’s world, you’re probably thinking do we really need another one? Well, we might not need a new one, but We Are… Robin makes a strong case for why just one more isn’t such a bad thing really, especially when it’s such a fresh take on as old of a concept as Robin, the Boy Wonder.
The first issue introduces us to our main character, a teenage kid named Duke Thomas, pretty much as he’s getting the crap beat out of him by some alpha-bullies at school. Duke hit on some dude-bro’s sister, and if you’ve ever seen any movies or TV in your life, you know how that turns out usually. Duke seems to be about fifteen or so, a recent orphan who lost his parents in the craziness that was Joker’s Endgame in Scott Snyder’s main Batman title. (Or possibly not…the book heavily hints they might still be alive and recovering from the Joker toxins, but are lost somewhere.)
While the bullies are giving him hell, his inner monologue shows that he’s smart, witty, a little bit cynical, and can more than hold his own in a fight, at least long enough to not get seriously injured. Although the police come break up the fight and haul the jerks away, a mysterious bystander begins to take note of Duke and begins texting someone or someones called “the Nest” that they believe they’ve found “him.”
After almost getting hauled off to juvie, Duke has a meeting with the only real well-known Batman family character that appears in this issue (besides the Bat himself, in a brief wordless cameo) Dr. Leslie Thompkins. For those of you who don’t recall, she is the social worker who helped young Bruce Wayne come to terms with his parent’s death, and is now trying to help the lost orphaned youth of Gotham, but Duke proves that isn’t going to be easy. Although she promises him that they’ll keep searching for his parents, she places him in the foster system with parents that are less than ideal, after he gets into trouble with the authorities over the schoolyard fight.
Since the new foster parents are basically the most awful people ever, he runs away, and decides to hide out in Gotham’s sewers, because only good things can ever happen in the sewers. It’s there that he quickly runs afoul of a sinister underground cult, because hello, it’s Gotham, and he’s saved by a group of kids who all refer to themselves as Robin (and yes, we literally get a moment where the kids say the book’s title “we are Robin!”, but it works). But these scrappy kids don’t look like superheroes; they’re more like a superhero fan club. To them, Duke is seemingly worthy of Robin status, because one time he “hung with the Bat”, although it was more like his life was saved by Batman once, but I guess that’s close enough for them.
The vast majority of this first issue is just really about getting to know Duke, and the issue isn’t particularly action heavy, (aside from a little parkour action) but that turns out to be OK. Writer Lee Bermejo, who wrote the graphic novel Batman: Noel (and provided cover art), gives Duke an interesting inner monologue, allowing us to get to know him well and really sympathize with his plight, getting the reader to like him almost from the get-go. This is a smart kid who simply had something horrible happen to him, and now has to to pay the price of being the ward of a system that either doesn’t care about him or is just too overwhelmed to care about him enough to really help. He comes off a little bit too smart at times for an average teenager, but he’s cut from the Peter Parker/Spider-Man mold in that way. Except this Peter didn’t have an Aunt May after Uncle Ben died or super powers, and is even more screwed that Spidey ever really was.
While I really liked Bermejo’s writing, artist Jorge Corona’s looser, more cartoony style usually isn’t really my cup of tea. (Or really not usually my cup of tea on a traditional superhero style book, I should say.) However, I can’t deny that his layouts are pretty great; the guy’s a good storyteller, his art style is never cluttered, and I always can tell exactly what’s going on. I will say that I wish the Robins themselves had a more distinctive look to them though; I realize they’re not exactly superheroes in the tradition sense — at least not yet — but their look is a little generic. Hopefully that’ll change down the line.
The overall concept of We Are… Robin is interesting, and seems to take a page out of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, where a local street gang called the Mutants begins to follow Batman and becomes “the Sons of the Bat.” But while the Sons of the Bat were all originally a bunch of thugs who saw the light, the Robins feels a lot less like a street gang and more like a youth movement of some sort, which is an interesting concept, especially since the real Batman is currently missing in Gotham and has been replaced with Jim Gordon in a big robot suit.
The first issue has me intrigued to see if these Robins can organize into something more than just fanboys/fangirls, and transform into something real. Of course, I’m also curious to see how the real Robin, Damian Wayne, is going to react to a bunch of kids using his name. I’d say that so far, We Are…Robin has been given a solid start, and I’m fascinated by where it’s all going. Gotham might be overcrowded with vigilante types, but if you’re open to just a few more, then chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you pick up this issue.
RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS