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Monday, February 1, 2010
Everyone is familiar with Batman: Year One. It is the definitive Batman origin story and was even a basis for the Christopher Nolan films. What many are unfamiliar with, however, is Robin's definitive origin story and early years in the form of the recent Robin: Year One. Hit the jump to find out what I thought of the Boy Wonder's early years of crime fighting!
Today's guest post is by Matthew Perutz, a man without a blog but a passion for comics.
Written by Chuck Dixon and Scott Beaty
Art by Javier Pulido and Marcos Martin
To start, for those wondering, Robin: Year One is not all that much like Batman: Year One. Voice, tone, colours, and character interactions are all different. Think of this as a sort of bat-version of Superman: For All Seasons except with a focus on Robin. Starting with autumn, it cycles through the seasons, showing the perils, quips, and character growth of the Boy Wonder over the course of his first year. There is even a Mr. Freeze winter story.
However, as an origin/early years story for the Boy Wonder, this is actually quite good. Here, it's all about exploring Robin's first year, with different stories and experiences from those you would associate with Batman's Year One tales. As in any origin story, we get some character development and some characterization. Both are done very well. Simply put, the Robin it starts with is very different from the one it ends with due to the growth throughout the course of the story.
As this is Robin, of course Batman appears throughout. He is sort of a father figure/sensei in a lot of ways. Keep in mind there is no, "Be sure to brush your teeth, chum", sorts of moments. He treats Robin like a partner from the onset, which is a pretty well developed dynamic. Robin is capable, with Batman being compassionate in his own vague way. This can all be seen during a car chase scene. As the two are about to crash, Robin braces himself, and Bruce extends an arm to brace Dick as well. I really just loved that detail. Their character interactions are varied, with some superb dialogue. The Bruce/Dick moments are compelling, and the Batman/Robin ones are interesting. Robin himself is a great main character. He has his quotes and moments in this, and there isn't any dialogue, or scenes for that matter, with him that are lacking.
As for the art, it's wonderful to look at. It's the same team of Javier Pulido and Marcos Martin that we've seen in the recent Amazing Spider-Man issues, but with a more cartoony take for this Silver Age throughback to Robin's early days of crime fighting. All of it works well with the writing. I was actually surprised how well the dark parts were handled.
But my favourite story aspect is the villains. Mad Hatter is creepy, and a genuine crazed maniac. His purpose in the story is underplayed, dark, and genius. Two-Face was a down right evil, homicidal man. His origin story is briefly mentioned and he is the main villain, and, rightfully so, is suitably evil. It also plays on the old 'Boy Blunder' and pseudo rivalry between the two. Mr. Freeze's story was great to read, ice puns and all. This book's almost worth getting just for the villains, who seem to really shine in these earlier years more so than they do in their current iterations.
As for negatives, there are a few. Sure, some people might get peeved by the few panels of middle school love drama, but this is Dick Grayson we're talking about, the guy is the definition of playboy with relationships with alien princesses (Starfire), Amazon goddesses (Donna Troy) and everyone in between, so this middle school love drama didn't bother me all that much. A little teeny tiny flaw was how quickly everything went from cartoony and witty to dark and suspenseful. When read in trade format, the transition comes off as jarring, which I saw when I read the part with Two-Face, which was back to back with Batman and Robin's oh-so-slightly-campy car chase with Killer Moth. Nothing that really hurts the overall package or that should dissuade you from reading this great story, but worth noting.
Verdict - Buy It. This is Robin's shining moment. Anyone who likes the Dynamic Duo should read this book in some form. Great story, great art and some fantastic villains help tell a definitive year one story for the Boy Wonder.