This review contains spoilers for Dark Nights: Death Metal Robin King #1.
Armed to the teeth with an assortment of gadgets designed to torture, maim, and kill Earth’s greatest heroes, Robin King has carved a path to his ultimate quarry: DC’s trinity. Although no one remains to appreciate his symphony of destruction, the boy can still feel the eyes of millions gazing upon him. The crowd’s imaginary cheers energize him as he belts out an encore:
“You can kill the old! You can eat their bones! You can burn their world! Do it singing!”
When Tomasi and Rossmo first introduced Robin King within the pages of Dark Nights: Death Metal Legends of the Dark Knights #1, the two creators presented a Bruce Wayne who was born evil. In fact, by killing his own parents, Robin King was already “the bullet” that The Batman Who Laughs desired to become. With this issue, Tomasi allows the reader to witness an evolution in Robin King’s motivation that doesn’t betray his initial appearance.
Ultimately, this evil ten-year-old Bruce’s parricide inspires him to “…kill the ones who call themselves heroes. The old guard. The moms and dads and false idols. Anyone who tries to force him to be good. To care.” Tomasi gives us a Bruce Wayne who is willing to do anything to prevent anyone from stopping his diabolical rampage. He does not want to be forced to follow their rules or code of ethics. More importantly, Robin King wants his actions to serve as inspiration for other children as he ushers in a new generation of evil.
By exploring Robin King’s motivation in Dark Nights: Death Metal Robin King #1, Tomasi gives the reader a better understanding of the character. Although Robin King’s motivation is reminiscent of Kylo Ren circa The Last Jedi, murder aside, it rings true for a child who has become disenfranchised with his parents and the older generations. Moreover, his motivation feels appropriate for a child who is attempting to buck authority and rules that have been established for him. It’s fitting that Robin King would extend his rampage to his world’s heroes, as these characters “…ruined things with their rules, and ideals, and ‘values.’”
Robin King’s disgust with the older generation even extends to The Batman Who Laughs, as evident by his statement, “I say you talk like the rest of them. Setting up rules, forcing everyone to be like you.” Much like the others, The Batman Who Laughs forces all of the Multiverse’s Robins to be just like him by transforming them into his Groblins. As a result, there is some inherent discord between these two characters as The Batman Who Laughs violates all of Robin King’s beliefs.
Even more heinously, The Batman Who Laughs forced Robin King to become a Groblin, exerting his will upon the diabolical ten-year-old. Given The Batman Who Laughs’ betrayal of Robin King’s values, it appears as though the series is setting up an eventual conflict between the two villains. This is merely speculation, but wouldn’t it be something if Robin King was the one to take down The Darkest Knight? Given their history and his penchant for creating devices to kill every hero in the Multiverse, all of the groundwork is there. Maybe Robin King will eventually become this story’s big bad by eliminating the competition.
I think it’s also important to note that with the information that we have been given regarding Future State and new heroes taking over classic mantles, it is easy to see how Dark Nights: Death Metal Robin King #1 is beginning to set the stage between these events. It appears that Robin King’s desire to create a new generation of “heroes” by killing off the old will serve as a thematic connection between the two storylines.
Thankfully, Tony Patrick’s tie-in story, “The Quiet Ones,” presents a brighter take on this theme when The Signal declares to Quietus, “One day this city is gonna slip right out of your hands and into ours. The next generation.” Within this story, we are given a glimpse of the heroes’ take on Robin King’s twisted ideas. The Signal and the rest of the younger generation will honor their mentors’ legacies by continuing their crusades and taking up their mantles. Whereas Robin King dismisses the notion of becoming a bat by saying:
“Wait, wait. You want me to be a bat? Ha! No way, man.”
None of Dark Nights: Death Metal Robin King #1 would work nearly as well without Riley Rossmo or Daniel Sampere’s artwork. Rossmo’s artwork is perfect for this type of story. It creates a perfect juxtaposition of a more cartoonish style against Robin King’s horrific violence and the heroes’ deaths. The cognitive dissonance created by this juxtaposition is excellent, as it can be interpreted as the corruption of Bruce’s origin. Ivan Plascencia’s colors accentuate Rossmo’s work as it perfectly captures the darker nature of this story.
Although there are so many great pages throughout this issue, one of my favorites has to be Robin King kicking a hero’s decapitated head down an alley among the other heroes. In particular, this page encapsulates the perfect marriage between Tomasi’s script and Rossmo’s artwork. Additionally, Sampere’s artwork is perfect for the epic nature of the more traditional superhero story told by Tony Patrick. Adriano Lucas’ colors help give this tie-in story its epic tone by using a more vibrant color palette.
Unfortunately, this story is hurt by a few inconsistencies between itself and Dark Nights: Death Metal: Legends of the Dark Knights #1. In the earlier book, Robin King murders Jim Gordon in Wayne Manor. Here, we find out that the murderous ten-year-old has microwaved Gordon with a twisted version of the bat signal atop police headquarters. It’s a small inconsistency that I’m not sure that I would have noticed had I not re-read the previous issue before Dark Nights: Death Metal Robin King #1. I guess you could say that Jim survived the first encounter. However, even Robin King says he wouldn’t survive that arrow to the neck. Although this problem is small, it stuck with me as I read the rest of the story.
Oozing with more carnage and over-the-top violence than a hockey mask-wearing psychopath can shake a bloody machete at, Dark Nights: Death Metal Robin King #1’s strength lies in its examination of the titular character. However, none of this story would work as well without Riley Rossmo’s artwork. The juxtaposition of Rossmo’s cartoonish style with the horrors that Robin King bestows upon our heroes is perfect, as it serves as a visual representation of the corruption of Batman’s origin. Unfortunately, this issue is hurt by a few inconsistencies between itself and Dark Nights: Death Metal: Legends of the Dark Knights #1.
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