The Dark Knight has been hitting comic shelves for more than eighty years, and when you look at the career of Batman, the Caped Crusader has been through several reboots, ample re-imaginings, various media crossovers, and more merchandise than we can shake a stick at. When Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen decided to tell a new story taking readers back into Gotham's past and focusing on Dick Grayson joining Bruce's never-ending war, the creators have woven a story that feels like one of Batman's recent best and one that will hopefully go down as a quintessential Robin story.
When approaching Batman, on the writer's side, Lemire is able to perfectly break down the trio of characters in Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, and Alfred Pennyworth, displaying the power struggle between the residents of Wayne Manor. Bruce is a hard-headed vigilante who is laser-focused on his mission, Dick is attempting to prove himself to the Dark Knight while also struggling with the loss of his parents and the circus-life he left behind, and Alfred is the most tragic character within the Bat Cave, as he watches his son Bruce not only destroy himself but also snare a small boy into his quest for vengeance. This is not new territory for any of these characters, but Lemire finds the sweet spot that makes this Gotham seem fresh.
Lemire captures the frustration of Grayson and turns the tables on the dynamic between Dick and Bruce. It's a partnership that seems doomed to fail, and in a way, it eventually does when Robin strikes out on his own as Nightwing, though it's certainly not for a lack of trying from both parties. The creative team also takes the opportunity to switch things up with the origin of Killer Croc, which feels organic and binds Waylon's path with Dick's. Killer Croc is a scary villain, when you leave his intelligence out of the discussion, and makes for a perfect antagonist to Robin as the young crime fighter expresses how overwhelmed he feels facing a monster.
Dick Grayson spends the majority of the issue acting as the narrator, and while I will typically see narration as a crutch for some stories, it fires on all cylinders here in taking readers into the mind of Robin. Robin and Batman are oil and water and Lemire makes sure to demonstrate that fact in interesting new ways.
In the art department, Dustin Nguyen seems as if he is an artist that was made in a lab to perfectly portray the dark and gritty streets of Gotham City, who handles both line art and color duties in this debut issue. It is sometimes difficult for an artist to capture the different tones of a comic book story, especially with the likes of Gotham City able to flip on a dime between the mundane nine-to-five routine of Dick Grayson and the stunning darkness that bellows from the Batman's cape. Capturing the terror of the Dark Knight can sometimes be tricky but Nguyen nails it whether you see Bruce exiting the Bat-Mobile or swinging from the city's skylines.
Robin And Batman #1 feels perfect, wherein I was wracking my brain looking for faults but wasn't able to find any. The story of Dick Grayson has been told countless times before, but this feels like one of the best retellings of Robin's early crime-fighting career beside the Batman.
Rating: 5 Out Of 5
Published by DC Comics
On November 9, 2021
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Dustin Nguyen
Colors by Dustin Nguyen
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Dustin Nguyen