The Robin mantel has gone through countless transformations throughout the years. From the five primary incarnations who have taken up the mantle, to the thousands of multiple variations in the multiverse, the Robin persona has become more of an idea, rather than a character. Sometimes it’s easy to forget it all started with a young acrobat that lost his parents, and a man trying to help him get out of the darkness. Not because Dick is a forgettable character (I actually think he is one of the most memorable characters in the DC universe), but because he has grown so much that thinking of him as Robin is really weird. But sometimes… sometimes it is good to get back to basics.
Robin and Batman #1 by the creative team of Dustin Nguyen and Jeff Lemire takes us back to the first months of Dick and Bruce’s relationship. This is not the story of the mythical crime-fighting duo of Batman and Robin, this is the story about a lost and frightened kid that is entering a new world, a kid that no longer knows who he is, a kid that will soon be known as Robin, a kid named Dick Grayson.
This book has an incredibly hard job to accomplish. The story of Dick Grayson’s first months as Robin has been told many times, trying to give it a new spin or a new angle can be challenging, but Lemire and Nguyen do a pretty good job with it. They touch on some familiar themes like the rocky relationship between Bruce and Dick, and the origin of the Robin name and costume, but they do it in a way that feels extremely personal.
Dick’s narration being the thing that weaves the issue together really helps the reader get into his head and understand where he is emotionally. Lemire does a great job balancing Dick’s characteristic;y charming personality with the mood of a kid that has just lost his parents. While the book does touch on the (sometimes tiring) debate of if Batman should be using kids in his fight against crime, it does it mainly from Dick’s perspective. He knows this is dangerous, he knows this is real, and the ways he responds to this is what makes this book truly special.
Of course, I couldn’t do a review of a Dustin Nguyen book without praising the hell out of his art. Nguyen’s art is stunning in all of his books, and this one is no exception. Each page is a delight to the eyes. This book in particular really benefits from Nguyen’s style, I feel that if Dick himself had to choose an artist to tell his story he would choose Nguyen. His style just feels extremely faithful to the character.
One of the best moments of this book (which honestly I NEED to mention) is a parallel made between two pages. One where Batman and Dick are riding the Batmobile, and the other where Alfred and Dick are riding the car from school. These two pages do a wonderful job of presenting the three main characters of the book in an easy and really precise way. There’s also a twist on a classic Batman villain that could be really interesting, but I won’t spoil that here.
Robin and Batman #1 is a wonderful book that will have fans of the character satisfied and happy with the story being told. This retelling of one of our modern myths could soon become a new classic and I really recommend you go read it.