As a comic book fan myself, there are definitely a number of issues that I consider "guilty pleasures" and many watch heroes I have grown up with meet grisly demises. While Dark Nights: Death Metal - Robin King #1 has those in spades, it lacks a reason to care. In reviewing this latest entry to DC's monolithic crossover, I wanted to use examples from similar stories we've seen over the years such as Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe and DC's latest foray in DCeased in breaking down why this comic is not worth your time or money.
The "Robin King" is essentially a redux version of the "Batman Who Laughs," an evil Bruce Wayne who finds himself on the side of evil. While there's a certain charm to be found in the Jokerized version of the Bat, whether it be in his ironic cruelty or striking aesthetic, the same can't be said for this "boy blunder." The issue focuses on Robin being drafted by the Batman Who Laughs in a bid to change the universe to better reflect that of the "dark multiverse" while also taking a few hero's "scalps" along the way.
What makes the likes of Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe compelling isn't simply watching heroes die, it's following Frank Castle justifying his decisions as he pulls the trigger time and time again, often finding ironic ways to take down the super heroes in a "what if" tale. With Robin King, this dark version of Bruce Wayne has to be one of the most irritating characters I've ever read and this isn't attributed to the atrocities he commits. There are plenty of stories wherein an audience can connect with a nasty villain committing mass murder, but this evil Robin is so un-likable it drags you out of the comic kicking and screaming.
The main hook of the Robin King is that he takes a page from the Justice League story "Tower of Babel" and retains a method of defeating every hero in the DC universe with an item in his utility belt. What proceeds are joyless executions that don't even provide an ironic twist. Impaling Hawkman with a spear, shooting Steve Savage in the face, and simply cramming a device into Firestorm's brain does not elicit any emotion from me when reading this, especially when you simply cannot root against your protagonist in any way, shape, or form.
Peter Tomasi attempts to break down the Robin King's relationship with the Batman Who Laughs and its shaky standing, but as soon as this plot line is introduced, it's ultimately tossed to the side to expand the ever-expanding threat of Death Metal. While Riley Rossmo's art attempts to inject frantic energy into the proceedings, there are numerous errors such as one hilarious panel where none of the heroes appear to have faces. I'm not sure if this issue was rushed to capitalize on the popularity of the Robin King or Death Metal itself, but it definitely needed more time to percolate.
The second story of the issue focusing on the Robin King provides nothing to really enjoy, with a protagonist whose "message" is paper thin and does little to justify the need for this story to exist. Luckily, there is another story that focuses on a fight featuring Duke Thomas, a.k.a. the Signal, fighting an evil Batman with similarities to the villain Chemo and powered by the liquid of the Lazarus Pit. It's a real shame that this story by Patrick and Sampere had to be shackled to the aforementioned Robin King piece, as it succeeds on nearly every level where the main story fumbles.
As someone who has been enjoying Dark Nights, I simply cannot recommend this issue, even for those looking for a "cheap thrill" in watching big time heroes fail. Readers are left with little worthwhile knowledge as to why the Robin King is a compelling character. This is most definitely a one-shot you should avoid.
Published by DC Comics
On October 20th, 2020
Written by Peter Tomasi & Tony Patrick
Art by Riley Rosmo & Daniel Sampere
Colors by Ivan Plascencia & Adriano Lucas
Letters by Rob Leigh & AndWorldDesign
Cover by Riley Rosmo