Robin: Year One
Writers: Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty
Artists: Javier Pulido, Marcos Martin, and Robert Campanella
Typically not one of my favorite characters to write about, Robin, a character who's mantle is currently being worn by Damien Wayne; Bruce Wayne's bastard son. Robin: Year One covers the first year for the very first Robin, also the most popular, Dick Grayson. Known to most Batman fans as a member of 'The Flying Grayson's' and whose parents were tragically murdered by Tony Zucco in an insurance fraud claim. This character is the most prolific Robin, he almost more famous for leaving the Batcave behind to take up a more mature role as: Nightwing.
Robin: Year One is unlike Batman: Year One in that by the time we see Robin, he's already working with Batman to take on criminals. He's green for sure, but he's also ready and willing to jump into the action without the reserved calculations normally reserved for Batman. Unlike the other Robins like Jason Todd and Damien Wayne, Dick Grayson is not quite as arrogant, damaged or headstrong. He's much more lighthearted and his character is more similar to what we see in the later Robin character of Tim Drake. He's fun, lighthearted, making wise-cracks and giving Alfred a hard time. This is not the dark, dank, depressing world of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One.
However, because Robin/Dick Grayson is a junior high kid, the comic does a nice job of picking villains that reflect the sort of ironies of Batman working with, essentially, a child. Detective James Gordon, just a Captain in this comic, points out to Batman: "you are supposed to be the keeper and the protector, and here you are with a child?" Batman simply replies: "He's ready." When internally, Batman is not all that sure himself. The comic opens with the villain of The Mad Hatter abducting children that are Robin's age for a South Eastern slave (prostitute) trade. This is heavy stuff to open with, but it really highlights what we often forget while reading Batman: Robin is also a child. That fact gives these stories more weight and brevity. What better character to take down, essentially, a child molester (Mad Hatter) than a child?
One of the rare things that we get in Robin: Year One that we often do not get to see is the perspective of Batman's butler: Alfred Pennyworth. Writers Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty paint Alfred Pennyworth as an unlikely father figure, keeping a watchful and protective eye over Dick Grayson. Alfred is hoping to avoid the pitfalls that Bruce Wayne fell into when he was young: devoting too much time to his war on crime to ever take a minute to smell the roses and enjoy life for a moment. Alfred hopes young Dick Grayson avoids this. This juxtaposition creates an interesting character dynamic between Robin and Batman's relationship, in addition to the step-dad Alfred Pennyworth and Robin relationship.
Tonally and artistically, Robin: Year One is supposed to take place after the excellent Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale collaboration: 'Dark Victory.' The minimalist art style by Javier Pulido and Robert Campanella is designed to mimic the art of Tim Sale for a more seamless transition. The art of Robin:Year One is a little lighter and more colorful in palette but that is a reflection of Robin being a lighter and less brooding character.
At only four issues in this collection, this is quick read and well worth reading for the deeper development of a firmly established Batman mythos.
© copyright Paul Doyle McGee 2016