24th Mar2020

‘Robin: 80th Anniversary 100-Page Spectacular’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Various | Art by Various | Published by DC Comics

robin-80th-cover

I’ve written elsewhere that I seem to have reviewed a whole lot of these over-sized DC Special’s of late. Not a complaint, mind you, far from it. DC could have quite easily stuck out a load of old reprints and hastily cobbled together inventory stuff and put it out and a lot of people would probably have picked it up anyway. They went the other way though, and have curated a lot of nicely done tales, by a mixture of legendary creators and more recent fan favourites. The recent Flash 80 pager I reviewed was especially good. Scanning down the creator list on this Robin book, straight away names like Marv Wolfman, Devin Grayson, Tom Grummett, Dan Jurgens, and Chuck Dixon jump out. I like the fact DC try to get creators particularly associated with the different incarnations of Robin to recreate their magic. Even Editors are fan boys at heart.

As I alluded to above, this Robin Special actually takes in not just original (and best) Robin Dick Grayson, but also his Nightwing persona, Jason Todd (Robin/ Red Hood), Tim Drake, Damian Wayne, even Stephanie Brown. Robin as a character, and identity, has long since evolved from Batman’s sidekick, which of course was what he was only supposed to be when he first appeared in 1940′s Detective Comics issue 38. Rather fittingly, this is an aspect looked at by Marv Wolfman, Tom Grummett and Scott Hanna in the book opener ‘A Little Nudge’. This is a strong story, taking place at that moment in the early 1980′s when Bruce and Dick’s relationship was breaking down, Dick no longer content to follow Batman’s lead on everything. Dick was torn between loyalty to Bruce but also wanting to express his own voice. What this story shows us is that Bruce deliberately played up the gruff , mean and moody stuff to give Robin that little nudge.

This leads in to the Nightwing persona in ‘Aftershocks’ by Chuck Dixon, Scott McDaniel and Rob Hunter, a story that takes place during the Cataclysm storyline and captures that era perfectly. Dick is up again in the third story, Team Building’, by Devin Grayson, Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund, and this time he has brought friends. Dick’s time with the Titans is only second in importance in his life to that of his relationship with Bruce, and again this story does a perfect job of capturing the essence of that relationship, and of showing the leadership skills Dick possesses. The fourth story is the final Dick Grayson one, as Agent 37 in ‘The Lesson Plan’, by Tim Seeley, Tom King, and Mikel Janin from his Grayson days. Although it jars a little with the classic super heroics that preceded it, this story also shows that Dick can be a teacher as well as a leader and sidekick, and also just how adaptable his character is to differing interpretations.

Jason Todd has had as strange a history as any character you could name. Beginning life as the replacement sassy Robin, he was killed off by The Joker after fans voted to get rid of him. He was then resurrected as The Red Hood, going from villain to hero and back again down the years. Judd Winick does seem to have a genuine affection for the character and in ‘More Time’, with artist Dustin Nguyen, he manages to display both that, and Jason’s complicated feelings for Bruce, in a handful of pages. Lovely stuff. Next up is Tim Drake, the third Robin, in a story by Adam Beechen and Freddie Williams, which is a nice little character piece that gives a nice insight into Tim. I found the art on this a little over stylized for my taste, but loved the writing. Tim’s back again in the next story, this time as Red Robin in ‘Boy Wonders’ by James Tynion and Javier Fernandez. It shows how crossing paths with Nightwing, Red Hood, and Damian Wayne shapes his world view, and is a great look at the interaction between all members of the Robin club.

The last three stories are the ones I was least looking forward to, as I’m not a huge fan of Stephanie Brown or Damian Wayne. First up is Stephanie Brown, as the fourth Robin, by Amy Wolfram and Damion Scott. This does a good job of showing just how different Stephanie’s take on her role as Robin was, and her relationship with Bruce. Finishing out are the two Damian stories, with ‘The Super Sons’, by Peter Tomasi and Jorge Jimenez, first up. Super Sons concentrates on Damian and his friendship with Jon Kent, the son of Superman and Lois Lane. It’s nice enough. The book finishes up with ‘Bat and Mouse’, by Robbie Thompson and Ramon Villagran, a grittier tale that looks at Damian’s relationship with Batman as a partner, and Bruce as a father. It’s surprisingly good. We close out with a fantastic two page spread featuring all the Robins, by Andy Kubert and Brad Anderson.

This was another consistently strong book, with some outstanding writing and art. The peek into all the different era’s was nice, and all the different characters who have contributed to Robin’s history. Not a bad story to be had. My favourite stories were the superb opener, from Wolfman and Grummett, and the nice Titans reunion by Grayson and Jurgens. Classic stuff.

This just goes to prove, even little guys deserve the spotlight sometimes.

****½  3.5/5

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