Best Shots review: Damian steps out of Batman's shadow in Robin #1

Robin #1
(Image credit: Gleb Melnikov/Troy Peteri (DC))

Robin #1 follows the groundwork laid in the two-part 'Demon or Detective' backstories of Batman #106 and Detective Comics #1034, where Talia, in typical cold and covert fashion, left Damian in the dark about the League of Lazarus and the centennial competition that undoubtedly involves death and Lazarus Pits. This issue opens with a tortured Batman searching for his scion and Oracle reassuring him that, "We'll find your son… wherever he's causing trouble."

Robin #1 credits

Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by Gleb Melnikov
Letters by Troy Peteri
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Damian has gone off everyone's radar, even Oracle's, and is as determined not to be found by the Bat-family as he is to uncover the League of Lazarus Tournament. Damian's signature impetuousness compels him to earn passage to the island where the tournament takes place. His path to get there involves a cage match with King Snake, Bane's father. While images of Alfred swirl in Damian's head, his fight with King Snake is nothing more than a means to an end – and the narrative just doesn't dive that deep. It doesn't even mention that connection.

(Image credit: Gleb Melnikov (DC))

Damian's defeat of King Snake comes as easy as the abrupt arrogance that has come to define the character. Self-importance is alive and well in Robin #1 and is the catalyst for every storyline turn. While readers have come to know and love/hate that characterization, the sanctimonious snark reads as painfully unearned here if you are new to Damian. It begs the question, if Infinite Frontier is meant to enrich DC's canon, then shouldn't the stories not take top-tier characters for granted? Considering his lineage and lived experience, maybe offer the kid some nuance. Writer Joshua Williamson tries with a handful of panels of Damian enjoying manga and tossing a roll of cash to a family in need while he waits to board the boat to his destination. But with nearly half the issue focused on fight sequences, I guess we don't have enough real estate to give Damian any more depth.

With fisticuffs as the focus, Gleb Melnikov does a fine job of showcasing the Boy Wonder's swift and brutal combat skills, along with Flatline, one of the highly touted new characters in the book. Melkinov's sharp line and sleek shapes are well-suited for this story. Further, the bright colorwork adds adventure to the tone. The red as Damian annihilates King Snake; the blue when he's sitting alone; the yellow on Lazarus Island; and the purple upon encountering Flatline – all add personality to a comic that could have easily been muddied and shrouded in too much black and blue. One piece of the art that doesn't work is the red smorgasbord of anatomy oddly configured upon a white background that is the main cover for the issue. Considering how fun Melnikov's colorful alternate wraparound is featuring Bats, Ravager, and a handful of other characters, it's a puzzling choice for a first issue, and frankly, for any installment in the series.

However, once beyond the cover, the issue is abounding with shadowy nods to the rich history of the League of Assassins. Williamson delights fans with mentions of Shiva and Richard Dragon, as well as a cacophony of characters, old and new, all ready for a good fight. There is a ton of opportunity when exploring the most skilled hand-to-hand combatants of the DCU, and Robin #1 is a fast-paced, punchy leap to an island full of possibility. But if you want the readers to care what happens next, let's not forget to earn the feeling amidst all the fight.

Of course Damian Wayne is on our list of the best incarnations of Robin... but is he the greatest?

Vanessa Gabriel

Vanessa Gabriel does marketing, communications, and design things by day and comic nerd things by night. She's written comic reviews for over a decade but has opined on the portrayal of Wonder Woman for much, much longer.