DC is celebrating 80 years of Robin with a collection of stories from some all-star creative teams! Let’s take a quick look at each one, shall we?
“A Little Nudge” by Marv Wolfman and Tom Grummett kicks things off the right way. The story is short and sweet, showing right out of the gate why Robin has been such an enduring idea in the years since his introduction. It also beautifully contextualizes Batman’s behavior during Dick Grayson’s last days as his sidekick.
“Aftershocks” delivers a quick Nightwing action piece set during the events of “No Man’s Land.” It shows off how quickly Dick thinks during a crisis, but also illustrates how charming the hero can be. There’s a reason people are usually more excited to see him than Batman.
Devin Grayson, Dan Jurgens, and Norm Rapmund follow that story up with “Team Building,” which gives us a taste of Nightwing’s leadership skills during his Titans days. The action feels a little bit static in this story, but that kind of works with the fact that much of it is being shown as a playback for the villains of the piece. The ending of this story is just a little too cutesy for my taste, but it again shows why people respond to Nightwing so well as a character.
The fourth story in the collection, “The Lesson Plan” by Tom King, Tim Seeley, and Mikel Janín, reminds me of why I miss Grayson so much. Seeing Dick Grayson in full-on quippy super-spy mode is always a joy. It’s helped here by showing us a bit more of Dick’s fondness for his mentor, who had recently given him a second lease on life when this series takes place. In the case of this story, it’s kind of great that some of the larger story beats are mostly glossed over. The point of the story isn’t the fighting or the globetrotting mystery, but rather the lessons passed on by Grayson. Also, it’s a total blast to see each scene transition leading to a panel of Agent 37 and Paris in increasingly bonkers situations. “The Lesson Plan” is easily one of the highlights of the collection.
“More Time” by Judd Winick and Dustin Nguyen shows us the oft-overlooked soft side of Jason Todd. He’s an angry young man, but there was a time when he was an idealistic young boy. That humanity is what Batman still sees in the Red Hood, so it’s important to see it represented here. This one will definitely tug at the heartstrings, even if you’re not a Jason Todd fan.
Tim Drake’s history has gotten a bit messy over the years, particularly in the wake of the last few line-wide reboots at DC. That’s why it’s nice to see both Tim-centric stories in the collection addressing what sets him apart from the Robins, including his motivations and how he views the others who have taken on the persona. While I quite enjoyed Adam Beechen and Freddie Williams III’s “Extra Credit,” which gave us a look back at how Tim played aloof in his high school days, the stronger of the two tales might be the following story by James Tynion IV and Javier Fernandez.
That story, “Boy Wonders,” really gets into the relationship between Tim and the other past and present Robins, as well as the wide-eyed optimism that would lead a well-adjusted kid like Tim to follow the heroic path. It also makes an effort to place Tim’s tenure as Robin more succinctly in DC’s current timeline. The effort is appreciated, but it’s the emotional (and occasionally comedic) payoffs to each little vignette that make this story a real winner.
“Fitting In,” the special’s sole Stephanie Brown story, comes to us from Amy Wolfram and Damion Scott. It’s a sweet story that almost doubles as commentary on the fact that Stephanie never quite clicked with many readers, with some viewing her as “the other Robin.” It makes a good case for Stephanie as someone who only ever wanted to be her own Robin and it’s nice to see Stephanie’s tenure represented in such a positive way.
“Best Friend” is the best-case scenario look back at what made the Super Sons such a special team. It’s a wonderfully sweet story, featuring some dynamic artwork and some lovely character beats. It manages to be pretty funny as well, even when featuring such an emotional story.
The final story in the collection, Robbie Thompson and Ramon Villalobos’ “Bat and Mouse,” show us a Batman/Robin team at a major crossroads. It’s an oddly dour story to end on, feeling more like a tease for future storylines than a full story on its own. Still, the emotional component is there and the tension between Bruce and Damian is almost painful to see.
All in all, this is a solid collection of stories celebrating the character. Some of them feel lighter than others, but those also fit the era they’re trying to capture. It’s a blast seeing some of these characters/eras revisited (particularly Grayson). The artwork and colors are solid pretty much across the board, with each story feeling distinct in its presentation and visual style. Robin fans definitely don’t want to pass this one up.