Robin #1 (June 2021)

Versus The World!

Writer: Joshua Williamson, Art: Gleb Melnikov

After learning of the deadly League of Lazarus tournament, Damian Wayne has a new mission: winning the tournament to prove he is the greatest fighter in the DC Universe! But first he must find the secret island where it’s all going down! This brand-new solo Robin series will force Damian Wayne to find his own path away from both sides of his family! New mysteries! New supporting cast! First appearances of new characters! And lots of fights!

DCCOMICS.COM official solicitation

The re-Chuck Dixonising of the Batman family continues in this new Robin solo book written by Joshua Williamson. 

With the plot having been setup in a backup story that ran in Batman and Detective, that being there is a once in a hunded years fight to the death tournament fight to decide the best fighter happening on the mysterious Lazarus Island, this first issue can jump straight to the action.

Damian Wayne wants in on it as the event is being run by the League of Lazarus.  There is clear a link to his Grandfather and he wants to prove that he is number one.  We start with a couple of pages of Batman trying to track Damian but no one has seen him.  Damian had been struggling with Alfred’s death, rejected his father, quit being Robin, walked out on the Teen Titans, and now he is missing.  This cuts to Damian in a cage fight against King Snake and the action begins.

I say that this is a return to the Chuck Dixon style of Batman as, not only has the majority of the Bat-family been reset to who he was writing them, this is a story that he told probably more twenty years ago in a Batman/Green Arrow crossover. In that story ‘Brotherhood of the Fist’ Connor Hawke, the Green Arrow at that time, sets off a chain of events where all the martial artists in the DC Universe are drawn into a fight to see who’s the best. This story sees the first appearance of Hawke since The New 52 reset continuity over ten years ago.

But it’s not just Hawke that links back to Dixon. King Snake was a big player in late 90s Batman, regularly popping up in various books, and was eventually revealed to be Bane’s father, a plot point that has returned. There are also appearances from Double Dare, Lady Vic, and Brutale who were all villains in Dixon’s Nightwing run. This is not saying that Williamson is doing a cut and paste job, he is referencing a style of Batman comic storytelling that really worked and is also adding his own batch of characters to the mix, the two main ones being Respawn (an acknowledge knock-off of Deathstroke) and Flatline, a young female fighter. The story also owes a debt to the films of Bruce Lee and other martial arts films of the 70s. Williamson also manages, in a couple of lines of dialogue, to write Shiva, Bronze Tiger, and Richard Dragon (stars of the recent ‘Batman: Soul of the Dragon’ animated film with a similar plot) out of the story thus making it all a little less predictable.

Damian Wayne has become a love him or hate him character since his creation by Grant Morrison but Williamson handles him effectively here. He is self-assured and full of swagger on the outside but internally he is struggling with his conflicting heritage and seeking guidance. The only direction he is getting is from a vision of Alfred who he knows not to be real. But at heart he is a good person and this is demonstrated when we see him give a role of cash to a poor family. Unfortunately for Damian confidence and cocksureness can only get you so far and his first fight on Lazarus Island, where he is pitted against an equally bratty Flatline, leaves us with a heart ripping cliffhanger.

If you are a fan of the Dixon era and/or Damian this is the comic for you.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

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