Old Heroes Fall and New Ones Rise in ‘Robin War’ #2

RobinWar2CoverRobin War #2
Written by Tom King
Art by Khary Randolph, Alvaro Martinez and Raul Fernandez, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Steve Pugh, Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens
Colors by Chris Sotomayor, Emilio Lopez, Mat Lopes
Letters by Tom Napolitano
Published by DC Comics

Robin War #2 ends up being about a theme that has permeated the Batman family of books since the beginning of the New 52: family. As Dick Grayson plays the lone martyr battling Lincoln March at the Court of Owls’ HQ and pleading for Damian to leave, the rest of the original Robins, the We Are Robin kids, and even the Gotham PD and Batman band together to score a resounding victory for the Talons. It’s a grand moment that gets cast in the shadow of Dick Grayson’s continual moral compromise as he tries to pull a Batman at the end of “Endgame” and sacrifice everything for Gotham, including his soul.

The political themes that permeated Tom King’s script for Robin War #1 and some of the earlier issues of the crossover are still around with the Gotham PD initially going after the Robins, who just want to protect Gotham from the Court of the Owls and their secret weapon Berserker Talons. This could be a metaphor for police officers killing  or arresting innocent children like Tamir Rice or Ahmed Mohamed instead of corrupt Wall Street bankers, who tend to avoid jail time. But because of an amazing speech from Duke Thomas to the supposed Talon Damian Wayne, sympathy is swayed back to the Robins, and they end up working with the police to win the fight.

However, this victory is rendered hollow in the riveting final pages of the issue drawn by Alvaro Martinez and Raul Fernandez. Martinez and Fernandez have a slow building, almost cinematic art style that is perfect for building suspense with constant cuts between Lincoln and Dick. King’s dialogue is a little overwrought for Lincoln, but he gets the point across that perhaps Dick is closer to being a Talon than a Robin. His old Nightwing mask also makes an impactful appearance. King, Martinez, and Fernandez exercise great storytelling economy with all of seven pages to show Dick Grayson’s hubris and fall. There is also a three page montage drawn by Detective Comics‘ Steve Pugh with an idealistic superhero sheen from colorist Chris Sotomayor showing Batman, Damian Wayne, and everyone kicking ass, smiling and cheering while Lincoln March reveals that he was pulling the strings all along. The event “Robin War” is over, but the Court of the Owls still lives to fight another day on an international scale with a powerful new ally.

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Robin War #2 has a down ending, but King writes some stand-out moments for Duke Thomas, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and even the chubby, playing a video game based on Batman and Robin Eternal We Are Robin member Taylor along the way. He’s more of a symbol than a character, but King and artists Khary Randolph and Carmine Di Giandomenico show his transition from a sedentary kid, who is content to play video games on the couch and let his fellow We Are Robin members suffer by themselves to putting on a Robin mask and kicking a Talon in the face earning the respect of Damian. King uses him as an example of how heroism isn’t just about fighting ability, but about conviction and continuing to fight for what you believe even after a string of defeats.

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He and McDaniel also do this with Duke Thomas, who comes out as the most heroic after Robin War #2. McDaniel and his inker Andy Owens have an art style that resembles Frank Miller’s  focusing on feeling and meaning rather than correct proportions. And Duke’s oversized, almost beaten to a pulp face fits the size of his determination and defiance to keep fighting Damian and the Talons even after Tim and Jason have been knocked out. Carmine di Giandomenico with the help of some powerful reds from colorist Mat Lopes shows his raw emotions even more effectively with his loose art style and some intense back and forth that matches the pitch of their conversation as Damian compares his joining the Owls to Batman choosing to die in “Endgame”. But Duke turns the tables on him by lowering his defenses in a full page spread, ceding the name of Robin to Damian, and watching the tide turn. This beating leads to a discussion of more training in the We Are Robin epilogue, and it will be interesting to see the We Are Robin kids grow and improve after this trial by fire in their own title. Also, he and Damian are sort of friends now.

Robin War #2 has a pretty big plot twist that makes sense and is surprising, takes some risks with the character of Dick Grayson, and has an energetic blend of art styles from the big painted imagery of Khary Randolph to the slow burn storytelling of Alvaro Martinez and Raul Fernandez as well the street level anarchy of Carmine Di Giandomenico, the more traditional superhero work of Steve Pugh, and finally the rough and tough cartooning of Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens. Some of McDaniel’s fight choreography is from awkward angles (E.g. Damian taking down Jason and Tim.), but he and the rest of the Robin War team know when to channel the youthful energy of the Robins and pit it against the stately power of the Court of the Owls. These smart choices along with the connection to real life themes of class privilege and police brutality ensure that Tom King, the earlier mentioned artists, and the colorists Chris Sotomayor, Emilio Lopez, and Mat Lopes stick the landing and impact the status quo of the guy who used to be the heart of the DC Universe and those who emulate him.

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Logan Dalton is a recent college grad. He is addicted to literature, comics, film, TV, and will play the occasional video game if you supply the console. A good day for him is when he can namedrop Joss Whedon, Jean-Paul Sartre, The Odyssey, The Smiths, and Sandman in the same conversation. (It has happened before.) If you want a glimpse into his wacky mindscape or just want to talk about the latest events in the DC or Marvel universes, you can find Logan on Twitter:

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