Review: Robin 80th Anniversary Falters More Than it Flourishes

Art by Lee Weeks (DC Comics)

When DC Comics announced a 100-page giant celebrating the character Robin, and the many people who have donned the mask, fans rejoiced. Armed with a plethora of writers who have either made an impact on the character or have a strong love for them. Topple that with a combined thirteen artists and inkers and this book seems like a home run. So why isn’t it?

The first story, “A Little Nudge,” by Marvel Wolfman (Wrier), Tom Grummett (Pencils), and Scott Hanna (Inks) can only be described as ‘home sweet home’. No writer has had a bigger impact on Dick Grayson than Marv Wolfman. Creating the New Teen Titans, evolving Robin into Nightwing, and having a memorable tenure on the character’s solo series, Marv not only reminds readers who Dick Grayson is but why he moved out of Batman’s shadow. Additionally, the combined work of Grummett and Hanna creates a colorful world that helps boost the story to another level. Overall, this story outsold from the first panel to the last.

Following that trend was the longest-tenured writer for Nightwing, Chuck Dixon. With pencils by Scott McDaniel and inker Rob Hunter on the story “Aftershocks.” Dealing with the effects of the Cataclysm, the story itself was riddled with life and suspense. Unfortunately, it was so suspenseful that it became rushed and hard to follow. However, the boxing and artwork provide a nostalgic 90’s aura to it, which ends up carrying the story. Overall, this issue was packed with high expectations and simply fell short.

The third story focusing on Dick Grayson, titled “Team Building” was written by Devin Grayson and matched with Dan Jurgens (Layouts), Norm Rapmund (Finishes) and Hi-Fi (Colors). Featuring the Titans and H.I.V.E as a supporting cast, “Team Building” emphasizes Dick’s leadership ability and the importance of how he runs the Titans. The artwork is nothing short of spectacular. Every detail is so glamorously depicted within the framework that creates a nostalgic story filled with compassion and intensity.

The final story focusing on Dick Grayson, “The Lesson Plan,” written by Tim Seeley and Tom King with Mikel Janín as the artist, falls short in almost every way. For a story focusing on what Dick Grayson learned from his time with Batman, there isn’t a single thing done right. Known as a tactician and skilled detective his whole life, Dick is suddenly a “follow your gut”-improviser. Although the goal of this story was most likely meant to showcase how Dick had adapted from Bruce and become his own man, it falls short on what kind of man he is.

Although Jason Todd only had one story, it was a grand-slam in every fashion. This should come as no surprise considering Judd Winick may very well be the best writer the character has ever had. Similarly, with Dustin Nguyen as the artist and John Kalisz on colors, “More Time” is a story illuminated with life. Nguyen depicts the characters in a cute, defined, welcoming fashion that holds the readers’ interest from the beginning to the end. Additionally, Kalisz uses a contrast of cool-blue and warm-orange on almost every page, separating the past and present. Overall, “More Time” reminds readers to look past Jason’s angry stereotype and remember that connection he shared with Bruce.

Tim Drake is perhaps the most successful Robin. He’s perceptive beyond his years, a skilled crimefighter, and one of the world’s greatest detectives. Both Writer Adam Beechen and artist Freddie E. Williams II have a history with Tim Drake, both on his Robin Solo, Teen Titans, and Red Robin. With a dynamic duo like this, it’s no wonder “extra credit” is a phenomenal story showcasing how the many layers to Tim make him so spectacular. Freddie E. Williams is accompanied by Jeremy Colwell on colors, and the two of them create a detail-oriented story that uses line-work and shading to create a lifelike environment. Furthermore, this story reinforces the importance of Tim Drake as well as provides hope for his future.

Current Batman writer James Tynion IV reunited with his former Detective Comics artist Javier Fernandez for the story “Boy Wonders.” Set as a prelude to Tynion’s Detective Comics run, the story’s main theme is identity. Primarily, who is Tim Drake? And who should he become? Although James Tynion IV has a powerful love for Tim Drake, the story seems to fall short of its predecessor. Additionally, Fernandez’s art once again seems too shaded, making the characters look too sharp with faces that seem incomplete. With readers already feeling confident Tim knows who he is and what path his life should follow, the purpose of “Boy Wonders” is questionable at best.

Although Stephanie Brown had a short tenure as Robin, her time marked the first mainstream female to done the “R.” Not only was she the first female Robin, but Tim Drake left some big boots for her to fill. With that said, writer Amy Wolfram focuses on that obstacle in her story “Fitting In.” With former Batgirl artist Damion Scott at her side, Wolfram is able to turn back the clock and create a heartwarming story for fans to enjoy. Scott’s over-emphasis on shapes and line-work furthers the playfulness within the story reinforces the fun of the story. Overall, “Fitting In” is just as enjoyable as one can imagine, while not losing focus on the impact of Stephanie’s career as Robin.

The reunion of the Super Sons creative team was nothing short of super itself. Writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Jorge Jimenez come back in their heartwarming story “My Best Friend.” It’s no secret Peter J. Tomasi knows the importance of Damian Wayne. Whether it’s his relationship with his father or his best friend, Tomasi once again writes a well-rounded story that is further elevated by Jorge Jimenez. Jimenez, known for his soft line-work and ability to separate the characters from the background, doesn’t disappoint. In a story where Damian isn’t up to no good and Jon Kent hasn’t been aged up, “My Best Friend” emphasizes that these two heroes are just kids. More importantly, kids who couldn’t be happier to have each other by their side.

The final story, “Bat and Mouse” follows the trend line of every other anniversary story as it prepares readers for a future storyline. Writer Robbie Thompson and artist Ramon Villalobos attempt to close the books in a suspenseful fashion. However, the story itself isn’t new. Not only have fans been aware of Damian’s shady handling of prisoners in Teen Titans, but Bruce has been suspicious for months. With art that seems too defined and incomplete, the story fails to carry much of any weight.

There are some stories in the Robin 80th Anniversary that warm hearts and remind readers of the core of these characters. But it’s not enough. Maybe it’s the nagging reminder not much of this matters; seeing as the current state of many of these characters weighs over the heads of many fans. Dick Grayson is a shell of himself, Tim Drake isn’t Robin anymore (or Red Robin), and Damian Wayne seems to be the furthest thing from what Robin should represent. Not to mention the very canon itself of some of these stories remain questionable. In conclusion, the delivery of Robin’s 80th Anniversary 100-page giant falls short and leaves an empty feeling when all’s said and done.

Rating: 6.5/10

Published by Michael G

Michael is from Illinois and the founder of Comics Cave Reviews. When he isn't reading or writing comics, he's probably watching hockey or playing guitar.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: