We are Robin #1
Written by: Lee Bermejo
Art by: Jorge Corona, Khary Randolph, Patricia Mulvihill, Emilio Lopez
There’s a standard troupe that exists within the comic book world: the team of teenagers against the world. It’s been popular since Charles Xavier stole five mutants and gave them matching jumpers. There’s something ingrained in readers to root for the rebels, the agitators in society and “We are Robin” capitalizes on that feeling. In the wake of a devastating attack on Gotham, there’s a new team of young heroes who will join together to fight back and make the streets safe once again—well, safe for Gotham so like not super safe because there was a lot of murder before—this is getting carried away, here is “We are Robin” #1.
The book picks up after Batman died—oh sorry, spoiler, Batman died and will be unable to join us for this current venture; please check back in five weeks when he’ll probably be back. Anyway, Joker just got done with his big attack on the city that has left the place quite discombobulated. One of the people most affected by this is Duke Thomas. He’s this bright kid who helped Batman out and in return his parents were Joker-gassed and now missing leaving him in the dubious limbo of the foster care system. So already we have the Batman formula in play here: traumatic childhood, gifted from a young age, and the kicker, no parents. So it was only a matter of time before Bruce Wayne was gonna roll around and make this new orphan his young ward—except Batman is dead so problem. Solution: Be your own Robin.
There’s this cool premise at work in the book, that Robin isn’t a single person it’s an identity, that if you are a kid with talent who wants to make a difference in Gotham now you can. And honestly with the baseball team of Robins already in canon, the next logical step is for all of Gotham’s youth to be Robins. Duke Thomas makes a great addition to the Robins lineage too. It’s shown from the very start that he’s very acrobatic which is a weird thing that the people of Gotham just seem to be born with. Like have we checked that every actor hired to play Spider-Man wasn’t actually born in Gotham? Because Duke shows up on the first page embroiled in a fight with several kids and not only is he really skilled at dodging bows but the kids are strangely skilled at fighting as well. They have a coordination that professional basketball would envy. Perhaps that was Joker’s plan all along, create an entire city of superheroes and watch the chaos unfold. Anyway, it’s clear from how he handles himself in the fight that Duke is destined for greater things. However, the police are quick to show up on the scene and watch as half a dozen white guys attack Duke, a black kid, and do the logical next step—they arrest Duke. So you know, based on real life.
Let me spell this out right now, “We are Robin” is a good book. It has a great high concept, fits perfectly into the new universe DC is trying to create, and the main character is roguish yet likable. There is one warning flag that caught my attention though. I want to bring you back. The year was 2007, Marvel had just finished “Civil War” and was now full swing into the Fifty State Initiative. New Warriors had been dead from the start and yet a new book was put on the shelves with the dubious title “New Warriors”. It was a book about a gaggle of teenagers who banded together to rebuke the world that had caged them in. They had skills, they had attitude, and they had a pedigree with the New Warriors moniker. The stories were great! All of the characters were revealed to be actual members of the Marvel universe and their backstories were laid bare for the reader. And that book bombed. Now, “We are Robin” comes out with a lot of the same premise. I’m not saying this to be cynical and say that it will never work, this is a warning, a call to action. This is clearly the direction we want DC to take their books and it is very entertaining. So we’ve gotta support these books or otherwise it becomes a failed experiment, evidence that comic book readers don’t want this sort of thing. Please, any readers that I have out there, this is a favor I am asking of you. Maybe you don’t listen to me when I say other books are good and let “Batgirl” or “Spider-Gwen” pass by, but please hear me when I say buy this book. I don’t want to go back to New 52 and the only way to stop that is to show DC that a black kid on a team about hope can sell books.